Tim Meagher is making last-minute preparations for a trip to San Antonio later this week.
As one of 875 Tarrant County Democratic Party delegates attending the Texas Democratic Convention, the Fort Worthian will play an important role in electing his party’s next presidential candidate. Meagher is running for one of three national delegate slots allotted to Tarrant County for presidential hopeful and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. If Meagher is elected by his fellow state delegates, he’ll have the opportunity to vote for Sanders on July 25 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Clinton is allotted 12 national delegate slots from Tarrant County.
State delegates vote on national delegates and can serve on state committees whose members vote on various Texas Democratic Party policies.
The number of Democratic delegates that Tarrant County is allotted is based on the number of Democrats who voted in the 2012 presidential election. Now attending the state convention for the fifth time in a volunteer position, Meagher, with his fellow delegates, had to vote for a Democratic Party candidate in the March 1 Texas primary and then state his interest in becoming a delegate at the March 19 Tarrant County Convention. The finalists were approved by a nominating and credentials committee, said Tarrant County Democratic Party chairwoman Deborah Peoples.
The position, Meagher said, allows him to effect change in a society that is all-too-often homophobic and xenophobic. As the Democratic Party shifts to the right, he claims, there’s more at stake in this election than ever.
But first, Meagher has to vet his fellow Sanders supporters for possible Clinton infiltrators. Meagher has a list of 160 delegates from Senate District 10 who list themselves as Sanders supporters. But according to state Democratic Party guidelines, those supporters aren’t legally bound to stay on one side or the other until the day of the state convention.
To vet Sanders supporters, Meagher scans their social media profiles for pro-Hillary messages. The usual suspects are Sanders supporters who don’t attend delegate meetings or reply to calls and text messages, Meagher said.
“The Clinton supporters refer to themselves as ‘Bernie Bros’ ” to fit in, he said. “That’s a Clintonism. We don’t call each other that.”
The ideological divide between Sanders and Clinton represents a choice between a truly progressive-minded candidate, Meagher said, and one who will guide the Democratic Party more to the right.
The two remaining Democratic Party candidates disagree on several policy stances. Clinton is more hawkish, more supportive of military intervention abroad than her opponent. Sanders supports allowing states to choose whether to legalize marijuana, while Clinton advocates lowering criminal penalties for possession of the drug. Sanders has proposed a single-payer healthcare system, while Clinton supports leaving Obamacare in place.
Peoples downplays the current split between supporters of Clinton and Sanders. She’s been active in politics for decades and has seen her party divided before.
“These are emotional times,” she said. “But go back to 2008 and look at President Obama and Secretary Clinton. There was a huge rift. At those conventions, some people were ready to come to blows. But in the end, we came back together.”
Under her leadership, she added, her office has not endorsed one candidate over the other. Representatives from Clinton’s and Sanders’ camps have made presentations to her staff. Tarrant County Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (65 percent) in the March 1 state primary.
The recent endorsement of Clinton by President Obama and the Associated Press’ estimate that Clinton has the requisite number of national delegates to secure the Democratic Party nomination have not deterred Meagher or other Sanders supporters, Meagher said.
“The movement is going to move on no matter what happens this November,” he said.
Sanders winning the Democratic nomination “is a long shot, but the whole idea of [Sanders] staying is so he can be a negotiator and bring [Clinton] more to the left.”
No matter who is chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate in July, Peoples said, the focus of her party is to ensure Donald Trump does not become president.
“Donald Trump has been a wakeup call to people that no one would be safe under his presidency,” she said. “He has attacked Muslims, women, whom he boils down to looks, Latinos, and disabled Americans. Russian and North Korean [politicians] are saying they like him because they want to destabilize the world. So this is scary.”
The recent rise of Trump and the defeat of Democrat Wendy Davis in the 2014 state gubernatorial election were “wakeup calls” for many Texans, she said. Of the 875 Democratic Party state delegates allotted to Tarrant County, 763 area residents have registered to attend the state convention.
Working through the state and then national conventions, Meagher plans to join other Sanders supporters to eliminate the use of “superdelegates” in presidential elections. The deep-pocketed, unpledged delegates skew the primary elections in favor of establishment candidates, Meagher said.
However the November presidential elections go, Meagher said, American politics may never be the same, as Trump and Sanders give voice to a large swath of voters who are fed up with business as usual in Washington.
The largest political divide, Peoples said, is between the Democrats and Trump and not between members of her party. She credits Sanders with helping grow the left’s base.
“Sanders has been a huge boost to the Democratic Party,” she said. “Texas probably has a lot of moderate Democrats in it, but those are the people who have traditionally gone to vote. What we found with Sen. Sanders is that there are a lot of progressive Democrats who had not been engaged in the process who are now. That’s what has been so great about Sanders’ campaign.”