The Bernie Sanders campaign and progressives across the nation expressed mixtures of frustration and contempt Monday night after major news outlets—following declarations by the Associated Press and NBC News—ignored the explicit instructions about how primary delegates should be tallied and declared that Hillary Clinton had won the nomination of the Democratic Party.
“It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgement, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer.” —Michael Briggs, Sanders campaignIt was feared this would happen—and news outlets were repeatedly warned they would be reporting the results inaccurately if they counted so-called “superdelegates” in their totals before next month’s national convention—but they did it any way.
The AP reported that newly captured “commitments” from superdelegates—current and former party insiders who are allowed to declare their support and ultimately cast a vote of their choice at the convention—gave Clinton on Monday enough total delegates to win the nomination. According to the prominent news agency’s count:
The move by AP, which critics slammed as a blatant and despicable attempt to undermine the electoral process by suppressing voter turnout, came on the eve of six primaries on Tuesday, including the crucial state of California. The Sanders campaign responded by saying the reporting was not only poorly timed, but wholly inaccurate.
“The decisive edifice of super-delegates is itself anti-democratic and inherently corrupt: designed to prevent actual voters from making choices that the party establishment dislikes. But for a party run by insiders and funded by corporate interests, it’s only fitting that their nomination process ends with such an ignominious, awkward and undemocratic sputter.” —Glenn Greenwald
“It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgement, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer,” said campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs in a statement. “Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination. She will be dependent on superdelegates who do not vote until July 25 and who can change their minds between now and then. They include more than 400 superdelegates who endorsed Secretary Clinton 10 months before the first caucuses and primaries and long before any other candidate was in the race.”
Critics charge that by adding the superdelegates to their total count—something Democratic National Committee communications director Luis Miranda specifically told CNN‘s Jake Tapper on April 28 that media outlets should not do—news outlets are giving potential voters an intentionally misleading understanding of how close the race actually is and suppressing potential turnout among those who think their votes will mean little in terms of closing such a large gap.
What Sanders will try to do from now until the convention, said Briggs in his statement, “is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.” As the campaign has repeatedly noted, poll after poll shows Sanders doing remarkably better against the GOP nominee Donald Trump than Clinton does.
Briggs also joined MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow shortly after the news broke to reiterate and expand on those arguments:
Outside observers, meanwhile—including journalists and commentators who have covered the race closely and progressive supporters of Sanders—expressed various forms of outrage for the announcements by AP, NBC News, and the countless other outlets which subsequently parroted their headlines.
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald described the media’s decision to run these stories “the perfect symbolic ending to the Democratic Party primary.” He specifically criticized outlets for allowing superdelegates to retain anonymity, even as their actions hold such monumental significance.
“The nomination is consecrated by a media organization, on a day when nobody voted, based on secret discussions with anonymous establishment insiders and donors whose identity the media organization – incredibly – conceals. The decisive edifice of super-delegates is itself anti-democratic and inherently corrupt: designed to prevent actual voters from making choices that the party establishment dislikes. But for a party run by insiders and funded by corporate interests, it’s only fitting that their nomination process ends with such an ignominious, awkward and undemocratic sputter.”
The timing of the declarations were seen by many as a deplorable, given the stakes of Tuesday’s primary, especially in California.
“It’s crazy,” said anti-fracking activist and documentary filmmaker Josh Fox during an interview on San Francisco’s KPFK Monday night. “I want this to fire up Sanders supporters,” he added, while expressing hope that people would react to the media’s behavior by feeling even more compelled to go to the polls on Tuesday. He encouraged people to bring even more voters along. His contempt for AP was made plain in a series of earlier tweets:
Media critic and political commentator Adam Johnson, as well as political journalist Doug Henwood, added their thoughts:
Even as millions of people get ready to vote in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota on Tuesday, the AP made clear it was the pronouncements of a handful of individuals like Nancy Worley, a superdelegate who chairs Alabama’s Democratic Party, who helped “put Clinton over the top” by confirming to the news agency that she would be backing the former secretary of state. “We really need to bring a close to this primary process and get on to defeating Donald Trump,” she told the AP.
Meanwhile, the anger (and energy) was spreading: