As California Admits 2 Million Ballots Remain Uncounted, Sanders Pushes for Changing Primary Process

StoryJune 10, 2016
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Larry Cohen

senior adviser to Bernie Sanders and past president of Communications Workers of America. He was the first superdelegate for Bernie Sanders.

Michelle Chan

spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Action. She is working on recommendations for Bill McKibben to bring to the platform committee for the DNC.

On Thursday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said at least 2 million votes cast in California’s presidential primary election have yet to be counted. So far Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by 440,000 votes. We speak to Bernie Sanders superdelegate Larry Cohen on why the Sanders campaign is calling for major changes to how the Democratic Party holds its primaries.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about something Bernie Sanders said, Larry Cohen. Last night at his rally, he said the final result of the California primary is not official yet. On Thursday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said at least 2 million votes have yet to be counted. Hillary Clinton is currently leading by about 440,000 votes. So, California is not a done deal?

LARRY COHEN: Well, I think that our supporters in California are quite adamant that every vote be counted. There have been problems all through the primary and caucus process. One of the issues that we will definitely take to the convention and beyond is the way this whole process has worked. And it has not worked well in state after state, including, as you mentioned, California and, days before, Puerto Rico, which is still not counted. But really, the bigger issue in terms of transparency has been, you know, places like Iowa, at the beginning, where there’s not even a tally of how many people showed up at each precinct. Only the Democratic Party has it. So, we need reform in this process. We need a lot more attention to it. We need the superdelegates out. That’s really one of the main things we will be fighting for.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this. I mean, you are one of those superdelegates. I think you were Bernie Sanders’ first superdelegate. How long have you been a superdelegate? Something like 11 years?

LARRY COHEN: Eleven years. Howard Dean—goes back to that period.


LARRY COHEN: He was head of the DNC, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how it works and why you’re calling for, well, making your position obsolete, essentially.

LARRY COHEN: Yeah, well, so, first of all, the process of how people get on the Democratic National Committee, which then becomes so-called superdelegates, is totally—there’s no transparency at all about it. But, you know, more importantly, we go through this long dramatic process, from Iowa through the District of Columbia, and meanwhile, 15 percent of the delegates who come to the convention in Philadelphia have nothing to do with that process. So even in a state like Washington, where I think Bernie got 72 percent of the votes, we don’t have a single superdelegate. And in some ways more importantly, the Democratic establishment there backs the TPP, when overwhelmingly in this country Democrats are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as are most Republicans. So we have this—we have this disconnect between the financial elite and what they do to the Democratic Party, in terms of the financial control they have, versus the people when they vote. And democracy should be about the people when they vote.

So, the whole superdelegate process is flawed fundamentally. And this—earlier this week, when the Associated Press announces, "Well, now there’s a—new superdelegates have come out. We’re not going to tell you who they are. You know, in confidence, they’ve told us they’re supporting Hillary, so now Hillary has a majority of the convention delegates." That’s, again, not what democracy looks like. It’s just one more in a whole series of roadblocks here along the way that any insurgent candidate faces, including Bernie Sanders.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Michelle Chan, can you talk about the TPP? Are you calling for platform planks that deal with the TPP? Michelle?

MICHELLE CHAN: Hello? Oh, excuse me.

AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Michelle. On the issue of the TPP and the Democratic platform?

MICHELLE CHAN: Well, I would certainly hope that we are able to use this opportunity to essentially get the Democratic Party platform more in line with what the majority of Americans, and certainly the people in the Democratic Party, believe on trade. Currently, I think that the 2012 Democratic platform describes support for free and fair trade. I think that perhaps what we might be able to see is a little bit of scrubbing of the word "free," because what we’ve seen that term mean when it comes to the free trade deals that have been brought before Congress, when it comes to fast track, is deeply flawed, very anti-environmental trade deals that end up threatening not only current environmental decision, policies and regulations, but have a chilling effect on the kinds of environmental regulations that we need to see.

What free trade deals mean now is actually not really trade at all. It means anti-regulation, deregulation. And when environmental and public health regulations themselves are treated as the barriers to trade and therefore need to be taken down, these kinds of deals are absolutely not in the interest of the United States, nor any of the countries that end up signing them, and certainly not in the interest of the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we conclude, I want to talk about Donald Trump. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Donald Trump in a speech Thursday, singling out his repeated claims that a federal judge’s Mexican heritage could make him biased against Trump, which is why he should recuse himself, Trump says.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Donald Trump says Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself. No, Donald, you should be ashamed of yourself. Ashamed. Ashamed for using the megaphone of a presidential campaign to attack a judge’s character and integrity simply because you think you have some God-given right to steal people’s money and get away with it. You shame yourself, and you shame this great country. ... We will not allow a small, insecure, thin-skinned wannabe tyrant or his allies in the Senate to destroy the rule of law in the United States of America. We will not.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Elizabeth Warren on Thursday. On Thursday also, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton engaged in a Twitter war. Trump began it by tweeting, "Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!" Hillary responded by writing, "Delete your account." OK, Larry Cohen, one of the key arguments Bernie Sanders has been making in saying that Trump must be defeated is that he is the one to do it, that national polls show he is the one who comes out ahead of Trump in more polls. Now, yesterday, after coming out of the White House, he said he will be coordinating with Hillary Clinton in defeating Trump and that that’s the most important issue. It sounded like code for he’s, you know, giving in. What do you think?

LARRY COHEN: Bernie is not giving in. I mean, again, we are fighting with a—in the platform drafting committee on all the issues we’ve just discussed. We are pushing for reform of the party. He will be talking more to Hillary Clinton. They talked briefly Tuesday night. He’ll be meeting with her. The meeting with the president, the meeting with Senate leaders, what Bernie is trying to figure out is: Is there a way to have a Democratic Party that’s a populist party, and so that supporters, the more than 10 million voters, can be enthusiastic, not about—not just about the nominee for president, but also about where this party is headed, as opposed to feeling like this is a party where, you know, the voters are taken for granted and it’s controlled by the people who raise the money?

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something. We had Jill Stein on yesterday, who is going to—is hoping to be another woman on the presidential ballot in November. She has called for Bernie Sanders to perhaps join her in running in the Green Party ticket, said maybe even rules could be changed that he could be the presidential candidate of the Green Party, that he should give up on this two-party duopoly in the United States. Your thoughts?

LARRY COHEN: Well, Bernie, as you know, for 25 years in Congress, has run as an independent, on the one hand. On the other hand, he’s been in the Democratic Caucus the whole time. So what he would say is, we are inside and outside the Democratic Party, fighting for democracy, fighting for economic and environmental and racial justice. He’s made a pledge to support the Democratic candidate this year. I believe he’ll stick to that. You know, we think Jill is a wonderful person and champion of economic and social justice, but Bernie’s pledged to support the Democratic nominee.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Chan, there is talk today of a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren—Elizabeth Warren, like Bernie Sanders, holding up the progressive wing’s flag of the Democratic Party. Do you see a war happening now, a battle within the party for which wing will win out? And would you like to see, if Hillary Clinton is the presidential nominee, even if Bernie Sanders were, Elizabeth Warren on the ticket?

MICHELLE CHAN: Well, I think that Elizabeth Warren on the ticket would certainly be exciting for many, many people. I think that a lot of progressives would be—support the vision and views of both candidates and—or, sorry, both people. And so, if that were to occur, I think that a lot of progressives, Friends of the Earth Action, would strongly consider what that would look like and would likely, I think, be excited about that kind of a prospect.

Certainly, I think what Bernie has inspired in people is a vision and a set of values. And I think that he, himself, has been pretty clear that, you know, this political revolution isn’t about a person or one decision, and that in order to see these visions and values lived forth, that it will take many, many different forms, on many, many different political levels, and lots of different kinds of political engagement. And so, I don’t think that Bernie supporters would feel like it is—or many Bernie supporters would feel like if he dropped out of the presidential or VP slot, that they would never, ever consider any other progressive, to put their support behind them.

AMY GOODMAN: Larry Cohen, let me ask you about this. This was Bernie Sanders just last Sunday speaking with Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union. Let’s go to a clip.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships? You don’t have a lot of civil liberties or democratic rights in Saudi Arabia. You don’t have a lot of respect there for opposition points of view, for gay rights, women’s rights. Yeah. Do I have problem with that? Yeah, I do.

JAKE TAPPER: Do you think it creates an appearance of conflict of interest?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah, I do. I do.

AMY GOODMAN: So there is Bernie Sanders saying that Hillary Clinton has a conflict of interest between the Clinton Foundation receiving millions of dollars from corrupt, despotic governments, like Saudi Arabia, and the secretary of state’s work. Are we going to see comments like this anymore? Donald Trump says he’s going to give a major address on the Clintons this week, perhaps as early as Monday. Your thoughts?

LARRY COHEN: Well, I think Bernie, as you heard yesterday, is going to shift more to a focus on Donald Trump, because in elections we have choices, not necessarily the choices we want, so probably not many more of those comments. I do think the campaign has been important in terms of pointing out the differences between Bernie and Secretary Clinton. You know, that’s part of what this campaign was about.

More of it, as Michelle said, has been about, you know, a different vision for America, an inclusive vision that excites young people and people of all ages and from all backgrounds about a new American dream—about growth in the country, as opposed to stagnation; about getting rid of student debt in terms—instead of continuity, let’s just keep things the way they are; talking about workers’ rights and fighting for workers’ rights and environmental justice and ending fracking. That campaign will go on. We’re going to support lots of candidates—for Congress, for state legislature, municipal government—that carry that forward. This has not just been a campaign for the presidency. It’s a campaign for social justice and for social change. This campaign will go on.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Larry Cohen, senior adviser to Bernie Sanders, past president of Communications Workers of America, first superdelegate for Bernie Sanders. And thank you, Michelle Chan, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Action, working on recommendations for Bill McKibben to bring to the Democratic platform drafting committee, that just began meeting in Washington this week.

When we come back, though we’re in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, we’re heading to Louisville, Kentucky, the funeral of Muhammad Ali. Stay with us.

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