What The Heck Happened At Nevada’s Democratic Convention On Saturday?
You may have heard the news — or heard some news — out of Saturday’s Nevada Democratic convention, which ran late into the night on Saturday and was punctuated by booing from the crowd, pleas for calm from the stage, a “minority report” on what should constitute an eligible delegate, and ultimately, the security team at the Paris Las Vegas hotel urging everyone to go home immediately, first by asking over the hotel’s speaker system and then by literally shutting off the lights in the convention hall.
Most important: Of the 12 delegates up for grabs on Saturday, Hillary Clinton won seven to Bernie Sanders’ five. At the start of Saturday’s proceedings, both camps had expected the opposite — but the entire fracas ended up occurring over a difference of two delegates.
The Nevada Democratic Party sends more than 12 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. They send 43: in addition to the 12 chosen on Saturday, another 23 were assigned on February 20, when Nevada held its Democratic caucuses. Clinton won those delegates 13 to 10. Another eight are “superdelegates,” who remain officially uncommitted until the actual convention, but of whom delegate counting site The Green Papers estimates four for Clinton, one for Sanders, and three more who are “available.”
The latest drama in Nevada started in early April, when delegates to the state convention were chosen at county conventions. Sanders, after a successful local organizing operation, flooded county conventions with supporters, and ultimately sent a substantially larger delegation to the state convention than Clinton: 2,124 for him versus 1,722 for her.
That’s why a preliminary report from the delegate credentials committee — which included both Sanders and Clinton supporters — at the state convention Saturday morning angered so many of the Sanders camp in attendance: it counted more Clinton delegates than Sanders delegates.
It’s not unusual for the numbers to switch at a state convention, however. After all, the preliminary count included elected “alternate ” delegates for both camps in attendance — because many elected delegates simply didn’t show up at all.
After the preliminary report, which garnered plenty of booing from what seems in retrospect to have been a Sanders delegation prepared to contest the convention’s procedures, the rules committee introduced a set of temporary rules that would ultimately pass by a close voice vote. Though a Sanders supporter on the rules committee had seconded the proposed rules, the Sanders crowd in attendance objected to what seemed to them like a purposeful dodge of the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, the standard system for organizing conventions such as this one.
Booing and yelling ensued. The convention dragged on. Speakers from both sides took the stage, including prominent Sanders supporter Nina Turner and Clinton supporter Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.
Then, the final list of eligible delegate voters emerged: 1695 for Clinton, 1662 for Sanders.
The difference was enough to break the tie for Clinton in the two consequential votes of the day, both to decide the alignment of delegates going to the national convention. Clinton won three of five PLEO delegates (Party Leader and Elected Officials), and four of seven at-large delegates. Those numbers remained the same for the rest of the night. At final count, Clinton will take seven of Saturday’s 12 delegates to the national convention, despite expectations from the Sanders camp going into the convention that he would earn the four-delegate upper hand.
The Clinton victory came down to a decision by the rules committee not to recognize 58 Sanders supporters — and eight Clinton supporters — as delegates, due their failure to produce proper identifying documents, or because they weren’t registered Democrats as of May 1, or because, again, they simply didn’t show up.
Whatever the reason, the state convention’s credentials committee refused to hear from those delegates whom they had disqualified from voting, which the eventual Sanders-aligned “minority repot” pointed out in a statement read from the stage, to confused applause.
After a drawn out and contentious discussion of the party platform — you can bet there was yelling about “Government Ethics,” a section which was ultimately discarded — convention organizers were apparently told by hotel staff that the event had run way over time. I’ll let Medium user “MamaJeanB,” who describes herself as “a proud Delegate for Hillary Clinton to the State Democratic Convention,” take it from here:
“Moments later, just before 11pm, it all ends quickly. Chair Lange took the podium and motioned for us to vote on the decision to allow the campaigns to pick the slates. Seconded in a hurry. Passed with a flurry. A motion to adjourn. Seconded in a nanosecond. Call for vote. Chaos of Ayes and Nays that ran into each other. Convention adjourned. Gavel down. Clinton staff telling us all to leave as quickly as possible. Sanders supporters going beserk [sic] (video readily available) and the stage being taken over by security who announce that it is time to go or risk being arrested.”
And so it goes. After a few close voice votes, Clinton leaves Nevada four delegates richer than she expected in April. Clinton’s pledged delegate lead extended to 282 as a result. Had Sanders’ supporters gotten everything they wanted, Clinton’s lead would be 278.
In short, Saturday’s Nevada Democratic convention played up both sides’ fears and resentments about this Democratic nominating process: Sanders folks entered with a grassroots fervor and slight numerical advantage only to leave defeated — though more symbolically than actually. Those four votes wouldn’t have decided the nominee — not unless Sanders wins the remaining contests by close to a two-thirds delegate majority in every state.
And Clinton supporters stared into the face of what has become an increasingly real possibility: that Sanders supporters, antagonized by what they see as a rigged party system, could disengage altogether from a Clinton-led Democratic Party, handing the nuclear launch codes and multiple Supreme Court vacancies to a 69-year-old toddler and the Heritage Foundation, respectively.
Photo: A Sanders supporter holds up a campaign sign after police and hotel security were brought in to break up the Nevada Democratic convention in Las Vegas early Sunday. Griffin de Luce via Medium user Yvonne C. Claes.