Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both scored major endorsements in the last few days, and the probable reasons for the different groups to select their preferred candidates are based on a number of factors.
The Intercept has carried out a detailed analysis of which groups have endorsed either of the Democratic candidate, but more interestingly, the analysis charts out the processes which were employed by those groups to select their candidate.
As it turns out, Hillary Clinton has been endorsed by groups where the decision (of endorsement) was carried out by an elite executive council, or a board of members, while Bernie Sanders appears to have been endorsed by groups where the decision was taken by members further down the hierarchy.
For example, in the last week alone, Clinton has scored endorsements with progressive groups such as Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Campaign, but exactly how the voting transpired in the pro-abortion organization has not yet been fully disclosed, in the latter instance, the decision to select Clinton was taken by the board of directors of Human Rights Campaign.
In fact, at HRC, that decision belonged to a 32-member executive board that includes Mike Berman, the president of a lobbying firm that works for Pfizer, Comcast, and the health insurance lobby. Perhaps it is one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders’ campaign wastes no opportunity to brand Hillary as part of the “political establishment,” and has done so since the beginning of their respective campaigns.
In the last few days, we have seen Hillary Clinton getting back at Sanders, saying that it is in fact the Vermont senator who has spent longer time in Washington, and by consequence, is much more part of the establishment that Clinton herself.
Other organizations, such as the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), all endorsed Hillary Clinton based on a decision taken by their executive board, or a council; but in none of the above, the decision to endorse the candidate was informed by the rank and file of each group.
Another group, Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, a campaign Clinton has repeatedly referred to her in attacks against Sanders, did not respond to how it went about taking the decision to endorse Clinton. But, in this instance, it is fairly obvious and scarce needs more elaboration.
There are other groups such as the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) and League of Conservation Voters which did take decisions informed by all members of the group, but in Clinton’s case, it was an exception rather than the norm.
Now let’s switch over to see how Bernie Sanders was elected by members of the groups which endorsed him. In most cases, the decision to endorse the Vermont senator was taken by most, if not all, members of the respective groups. Organizations such as Democracy for America and MoveOn endorsed Sanders after an open online vote showed overwhelming support for the senator.
Even in groups where open online votes were not held for all members, the decision to endorse Bernie Sanders was informed by an overall consensus, either reached through internal processes like meetings and discussions, or through polls where all members had the right to vote to choose their preferred candidate. Organizations including National Nurses United (NNU) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) reached their decision through such processes.
Katie Nelson of AFSCME Local Council 28 said groups like American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — all of which have gone on to endorse Hillary Clinton — have selected her on a recommendation made only by their respective executive councils. In none of the mentioned groups, lower-ranked members of the organizations were responsible for choosing their preferred Democratic candidate.
“It was an absolute top-down process. If they wanted to claim this was supported by the membership, they should have had a membership vote.”
Anthony Cody, a former member of the National Education Association (a group which endorsed Clinton), was more explicit in his condemnation of the process employed by the group. According to Cody, Hillary Clinton did not make an effort to convince all the members of the NEA to cast their votes in favor of her, and still managed to get their endorsement.
“For either candidate to get real grassroots support from NEA members, an endorsement ought to be the result of an extended dialogue with members. Hillary Clinton has engaged in a few phone calls with NEA leaders, but the membership has been left out.”
Even more remarkable, and perhaps unfortunate, are methods employed by some of the other groups. The American Federation of Teachers, for instance, made its endorsement early last year after Clinton had announced her candidature for the presidency — at a time when most members had not even heard about Bernie Sanders.
The pattern remains pretty much the same in most of the groups that endorsed Clinton.
For Bernie Sanders, however, the story is slightly different. Communications Workers of America, for example, conducted a three-month process that included meetings with members, telephone town halls, and an online polling voting process, finally culminating into an overwhelming support for Sanders.
“We conducted an online membership poll from mid-September to early December,” said CWA spokesperson Candice Johnson. “Tens of thousands of members voted in the poll, with Sanders getting a decisive majority.”
There are, of course, groups like American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and National Nurses United which endorsed Sanders without consulting all members of the respective groups, but in Sanders’ case, such cases have been the exception rather than the norm.
In other cases, Bernie Sanders won nominations with a thumping majority. Seventy-eight percent of MoveOn members chose him, while in the Democracy for America vote, Bernie Sanders won with as astonishing 88 percent support. As for Working Families Party members, 87 percent of them chose Sanders over Clinton.
Although the processes employed by all the groups mentioned in this report do not definitively tilt the balance in the favor of either Democratic candidate, but one conclusion can certainly be drawn: Hillary Clinton might have been endorsed by the elite, but Bernie Sanders scores big with the rank and file.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]