Biden’s Best VP Pick: It’s About Science & Humanity

Dr. Helene D. Gayle, MD, CEO.

Over the past three years, I posited a wide-range of potential Democratic national tickets that would be the strongest team to not only crush Donald Trump, but to sweep in a Democratic Senate and keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

Throughout 2017 and early 2018, I floated the idea of a Cuomo/Klobuchar ticket (in either order), before Andrew Cuomo became the proactive poster boy of COVID-19 public officials, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone.

Long a progressive, Warren Democrat, I favored the all female 2016 ticket of Clinton/Warren. With Warren declaring for President in 2020, I thought a Warren/Cory Booker ticket would be a powerhouse, especially since Hillary’s loss exposed the weakness of a Democratic National ticket without a strong, African American candidate.  

When neither Booker’s, nor Kamala Harris’ national campaigns took off, and Biden began to look like the practical alternative to defeat Trump, many Democratic activists began trading the names of VP picks, as if we were assembling fantasy baseball teams.  Biden’s announcement that he wanted a woman on the ticket, narrowed that field, even though we occasionally entertained the notion of a Biden/Booker, Biden/Cuomo or Biden/Barack Obama as a powerful one-two punch.

As Biden narrows down his Vice-Presidential field of dreams to a select group of women, I believe that it must be a woman of color, for many sound political reasons, particularly to energize voter turnout among the Democrats most reliable voting block—women, and specifically Black women.  While the first, and most politically potent, choice of many might be Michelle Obama, the former First Lady has repeatedly said she’s not interested.  Good, strong second choices abound, with Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Val Demings, and even Senator Tammy Duckworth (an Asian/Pacific Islander) leading the field.

Yet, the calamitous consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic may have picked the most powerful, and obvious, running mate of all for us. The best choice for Biden has been crusading for public health for decades, tackling epidemics like HIV/AIDS, TB, and health and economic inequality.   Her name is Dr. Helene D. Gayle.  Google Dr. Gayle, and you’ll be blown away.

Trained and board-certified in Pediatric Medicine  (her MD from University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and her Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health), Dr. Gayle worked at the CDC for 20 years, directing the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.  

Helene’s heroic work in HIV/AIDS was recognized by Bill & Melinda Gates, when they hired her away from the CDC to run their Foundation’s HIV, TB & Reproductive Health Program, which she did for 5 years, expanding her expertise to help those in greatest need globally.   There were still ‘mountains beyond mountains’ for Dr. Gayle to climb and in 2005, her talent was tapped by one of the world’s premier international relief and development organizations, CARE, USA, with programs that help more than 80 million people in 93 countries, and over 10,000 employees spread across the globe.  CARE is now dedicated to stopping the spread of the Corona Virus Emergency. (www.care.org).  

Dr. Gayle served as President and CEO of CARE, for 10 years, “helping millions of people recover from natural disasters and other acute emergencies, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and gain access to healthcare, nutrition, education, economic opportunity, safe water and improved sanitation.”  A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Public Health Association, and the National Academy of Medicine, Helene Gayle was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world, and by Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 “Global Thinkers.”  She has more high-level Administrative accomplishments than all other possible female candidates for VP, combined.

Dr.Helene D. Gayle, MD, CEO

Like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has won over the American public through his straightforward, medical-science based information, Helene Gale was also born in New York State and has dedicated her professional life to improving public health.  One of five children raised in a Buffalo, N.Y, family that revered education, she was educated at Columbia University’s Barnard College, before attending Medical School.   Dr. Gayle has chaired President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and launched a McKinsey Social Initiative (now, McKinsey.org) that builds public/private partnerships for social impact.  

Helene Gayle, articulate and charismatic, was among the very first global public health officials to recognize, early on, that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was taking a heavy toll upon the Black, Latino and poor communities in the United States.  When I served as CEO of Cable Positive, the AIDS action and education organization of the Cable & Telecommunications industry, I was fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Gayle on several HIV/AIDS education projects during the early 2000’s, including producing a series of Public Service Announcements and documentaries aimed at communities of color.  In 2008, the entire industry gave Helene Gayle the only Humanitarian Award it has ever bestowed upon any individual.  Extraordinary.

Three years ago, Dr. Gayle moved to Chicago to head one of nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, the Chicago Community Trust, focusing sharply on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago area. The move extended her first hand experience and fact-based problem-solving approach into every region of the nation, from both coasts, to the South—where she lived for decades—and now to the nation’s heartland.  She is the personification of a global, caring, experienced and highly capable citizen.  Like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Gayle is a consummate medical and public health professional, not a politician. She has run vast national and international non-profit, public service organizations on the strength of science, fairness and humanity.

And, for Joe Biden, and all Americans, Dr. Helene Gayle is the most outstanding, highly qualified candidate for Vice-President, during the greatest public health crisis in over 100 years.  It’s all about the science, and humanity.

Tony Fauci: Margaret Heckler in Drag?

Former President Ronald Reagan (r.) and his HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler.

Is Tony Fauci just Margaret Heckler in drag?

At the only White House photo op this week in the Oval Office— strategically scheduled while the Stock Market was still open, unlike all the other Corona Virus briefings–I watched on TV as Dr. Anthony Fauci, sitting comfortably on a fancy couch and flanked by Dr. Deobrah Birx in her Hermes scarf–commanded the attention of the cameras in the room.

Fauci was pushed forward by his boss, Donald Trump, at precisely the very moment the number of deaths from COVID 19 passed 60,000 Americans in a less than 60 days, the GDP recorded the biggest quarterly plunge since the Great Recession of 2008, and the demand for widespread Corona Virus testing was exploding.   Fauci did a fancy flim-flam, announcing “ the early results of a federal trial (his own, at NIAID) with Remdesivir, an experimental anti-retroviral drug, “ as a potential treatment for COVID 19.

 With a COVID-crazed nation desperate for any shred of good news, Fauci, playing the role of Trump’s fluffer, called the preliminary, non-peer reviewed results of his findings a “very important proof of concept, that has proven a drug can block the virus.”  He added, almost sotto voce, that the new data needed to be further analyzed and subjected to the medical & scientific peer review process.   Fauci’s fandango had Trump’s desired effect upon the stock market, driving the Dow Jones Industrial Averages up over 500 points, overshadowing the gnarly GDP numbers, and knocking the gruesome and growing number of COVID deaths out of the headlines. 

“Some scientists were unsettled by the way in which the findings were reported,” Dr. Steven Nissen, of the Cleveland Clinic who has conducted dozens of clinical trials, told the New York Times.  “ The disclosure of trial results in a political setting before peer review or publication is highly unusual.  Where are the data?  This is too important to be handled in such a sloppy fashion.”

Additionally, as Gina Kolata—a renowned expert on pandemics– Peter Baker and Noah Weiland reported in their Times story, “Remdesivir Shows Modest Benefits in Corona Virus Trial,”  the Fauci announcement upstaged a more thorough, peer-reviewed, data-controlled study which found exactly the opposite result and was published in the highly respected Medical Journal The Lancet on the very same day.

To make matters worse, and to lean on his long-time involvement with HIV/ AIDS, a straight-faced Fauci compared the early results for Rendesivir to the early results for AZT as a first-step treatment for AIDS—without mentioning  AZT’s damage to many patients, along with the impossibility of acquiring the drug treatment for people without money or connections.

Fauci finished by abandoning his scientist’s seriousness, and went full-frontal Trump salesman: “ I can guarantee you, as more people, more companies, more investigators get involved, it is going to get better and better.”

Fauci’s breathless briefing looked familiar.  My mind darted back 36 years, to another day in late April, when, with trumpets blaring, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of HHS, Margaret Heckler, held a press conference at her HHS Offices in Washington, DC to, as Laurie Garrett wrote in  The Coming Plague,  “announce discovery of the virus that caused AIDS.”   Reagan, in the final year of the first term of his Presidency, still had not mentioned the word AIDS, and wouldn’t do so for another 3 years.

Foreshadowing Fauci’s tap-dance for Trump on COVID-19, Heckler “declared victory for her agency’s National Cancer Institute, announcing, ‘Today we add another miracle to the long honor roll of American medicine and science…Today’s discovery represents the triumph of science over a dreadful disease.”  Then Heckler boldly forecast the “development of an AIDS vaccine within five years,” according to The Coming Plague.    That was in 1984; an AIDS vaccine has still not been discovered.

Sean Strub, writing in his book Body Counts, observed that “the (Heckler) press conference seemed contrived, like it was held to assuage the public’s fear.”  

The fear, or the “new wave of AIDS hysteria,” which Strub referred to was, ironically, stirred by Dr. Anthony Fauci , then with the NIH, who published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier in 1983, raising the possibility that “routine close contact, as within a family household, can spread the disease.”

“AIDS takes on an entirely new dimension (and if) the possibility that nonsexual, non-blood borne transmission is possible, the scope of the syndrome is enormous, “ wrote Dr. Fauci.     

Despite the CDC’s sternly rebuffing Fauci’s false findings, the public hysteria, Strub writes,  “pushed the government to do something about AIDS” with Congress authorizing $12 million for AIDS Research.  Fortuitously for Fauci, who started the whole brouhaha, he was appointed to head the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he still heads to this day.

That’s why I found Fauci’s premature announcement in front of his fabulating boss, about another potential magic treatment for COVID-19 (not bleach, disinfectants or an anti-malarial drug) to be so odd, in addition to breaking every scientific protocol, as other researchers have observed.  Fauci had followed this road before.   He watched Margaret Heckler make a fool of herself in front of the world, when she promised an AIDS vaccine by the end of Reagan’s presidency.

Fauci knew what it was like to flack for the fact-denying, magical thinking Reagan Administration that overpromised on treatments for another virus in another epidemic.  To Fauci & Heckler’s credit, at least they didn’t call the quest for an AIDS Vaccine, “Operation Warp Speed,” a deceptive and dangerous way to brand the careful, methodical process of vaccine research, especially with anti-Vaxxers (many of whom are Trump supporters) eager to savage any process that’s less than airtight.   

 Dr. Fauci’s flimsy and suspiciously timed “findings” regarding Remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID 19, revived the vision of Reagan’s HHS Secretary Maggie Heckler, dressed professionally and proper, casting aside her credibility to declare victory over a virus, newly identified,  that had barely begun to destroy millions of lives. 

COVID Claims Etty’s Life, Not Her Endless Love.

Carol Jacobson Villano (left) congratulates our family’s matriarch, Ethel Jacobson Hamburger (r.) on the 8th Annual Wellness Run which she successfully organized.

A little less than three years ago, Carol Jacobson Villano and I were walking around downtown San Francisco when my cellphone rang. 

The number that appeared was that of our 89-year old cousin, Ethel Hamburger — the matriarch of Carol’s family — calling from Philadelphia.

We were scheduled to see her soon for an annual non-profit fundraiser she organized, coupled with my book tour that would take us up and down the East Coast. Etty had arranged for me to speak about my book at the congregate care facility in which she lived, just outside of Philly. I would be speaking to a group of residents — ages 80 through 100 — who were interested in learning how to write their memoirs. When I saw Etty’s phone number appear, I thought something had happened.

“Hi Etty, it’s Steve. Everything OK?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, everything is fine. How’s Carol and Matthew and his family? ,” she said, always sure to mention the most important things first.

“They are all very well, thanks, Etty. Did you get my book yet? “ I said. We had just mailed her a copy of my own memoir “Tightrope,” out to her, so she could have it in plenty of time for the book reading event she arranged.

“GET IT?” she said, shouting into the phone. “I already READ it. I loved it.”

Etty, who had known me for more than 40 years, went on to say what she liked about the book, and how much she enjoyed the writing and wanted to tell everyone about it.

“But, listen” she said, getting to the point. “We’ve got to market this book. I’ve put together a list of many of the Jewish publications in and around Philadelphia and I think it would be advantageous for you to contact them before you come down here.”

I laughed. “Etty, I love this idea. Plus, I may be the only new author with an 89-year old Jewish grandmother for my press agent.”

Delighted, Etty paused and than corrected me. “Great grandmother,” she said.

It was vintage Ethel Hamburger. Loving and precise; gentle and caring, and always looking to do whatever she could to help. I fell head over heels in love with Etty the first time I was introduced to her, 46 years ago.

Carol and I had just moved down to Washington, DC, one week before Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency. We were barely married two years, knew no one, and were instantly welcomed into the Washington wing of the Jacobson family.

When Rosh Hashanah came the following month, Etty invited us to join her and her husband Irvin, their four children and a few friends and neighbors for the Jewish Holiday. They lived on a quiet, leafy street in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in a big house that never ended, just like their love.

We were given a seat at their table, with the rest of the family and friends, and always felt as if the chairs had been waiting there for us, all along. Although not yet a Jew, I was touched by how warmly Irv and Etty welcomed me, and how patient and understanding they were with my questions and quizzical looks.

I observed closely how comfortably faith fit this family, and how easily their envelope of love was expanded to include all comers. Nothing was a big deal; no one was a stranger. It was my first introduction to a living, thriving, comfortable form of Judaism, and I found it exhilarating.

Over the course of our next year in Washington, Etty’s effervescence made us an essential ingredient to family gatherings, especially after the birth of our son, Matthew. Etty’s children craved cradling this crinkly little cousin, and they were first to offer to babysit, giving us an occasional night out, before “date nights” were a thing.

The following Spring, when our son was less than 6 months old, we moved into a townhouse in Crofton, Maryland during the middle of Passover. Undaunted, Ettie came bearing gifts of Matzoh Ball Soup, to make a special Seder for us in our new home. My mother, a devout Catholic, who was visiting us, joined in Etty’s traveling Passover meal, experiencing generous portions of her caring, joy and ecumenical love. It was a gesture of genuine kindness that my mother talked of with admiration for years, even on her deathbed in 2007 at the age of 92.

A few years later, I began contemplating converting to Judaism. As I studied, I kept visualizing the effortless way Etty & Irv and their warm family ladled out large scoops of love with faith, without condescension nor attempts at conversion. They had taken an ancient religion and culture, and made it contemporary; had perfected a set of precepts into the practical realities of everyday life; had crafted an art-form of family and love, using faith and food, compassion and intelligence, respect and reflection, and taught indelible lessons of life, love and learning.

Etty’s ease of educating and embracing us into their family, were powerful catalysts behind my becoming a Jew, and raising our son in the faith as well. We were the embodiment of musician Paul Simon’s “one and one-half wandering Jews,” and were welcomed into the tent.

Now, more than four decades after Ethel Hamburger expanded her family, and her already big heart, to include Carol, Matthew and me, this beautiful human’s life was claimed by COVID 19.

 She lived to reach her 92nd birthday, as my mother did. And, just like my mother, Etty’s indefatigable thirst for life, and generosity with her love took many forms: in her cherubic smile; her schoolgirl innocence; her bright, dancing eyes; her cooking, and teaching, and writing — always writing.

For her 90th birthday in 2018, a book of Etty’s poems — created over many years — was published by her children. The book is packed with photos and stories of family members from every generation, and tales of Etty’s childhood, growing up as a Jacobson outside of Chicago, Illinois.

Essentially Etty, at her 90th Birthday Party.

Entitled “Essentially Etty,” it is a living, breathing 136-page ode to love and life and family, impossible to read without hearing Etty’s lilting and uplifting voice. I’ve read and re-read her poem “Living and Loving” (see below) and each time I do, I see those eyes and that sweet, warm smile, welcoming us into her cozy home, to share life, and love and learning.

I will not live an unloved life

As I will live, I will love.

To have the capabilities of all my senses

To wake up each morning

Ready to experience anew

Whatever life has to offer.

I love to encounter new adventures

I love to be with people

I love the opportunity to help others

To share their joy when personal needs are met.

I love to learn new things,

To expand my knowledge and capabilities.

I love to greet each new oncoming season

The fresh buds and flowers of springtime

The warm sun on my shoulders and walking barefoot at the water’s edge;

The majestic colors of fall

The heavenly beauty after a white snowfall.

We live in a great, magnificent wonderful world

I love being alive.

You still are, Etty; and to me, you’ll always be

Healthcare Heroes: Fighting AIDS & COVID-19.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s fierce and focused fight to find enough hospital beds to combat the Corona Virus pandemic ripping through NYC and State, is not the first time a Governor of NY named Cuomo became a healthcare hero, grappling with a great public health crisis.

“I don’t want the hallways of hospitals to be overflowing with COVID-19 patients on gurneys,” Andrew Cuomo said, at an Albany press briefing last week, describing the nightmare medical scenario we experienced with AIDS patients in the 1980’s when his father, Mario Cuomo was NY’s Governor.

With the HIV virus that caused AIDS being discovered only four years earlier, I walked the hallways of public hospitals in NYC with Mario Cuomo and his State Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod in 1985, to see first hand just how bad things were. Gurney after gurney was gridlocked, one behind the other like shopping carts waiting for Costco to open during these days of COVID-19. Each portable hospital bed on wheels was occupied by a gaunt, gay man, curled in a fetal position, bedsheet pulled tightly under his chin. When a nurse or doctor came through, we had to move sideways to create enough space for all of us.

Dr. Axelrod, a Harvard-educated infectious disease scientist who worked at the National Institutes of Health before coming to NYS’ Health Department in 1968 to head the State’s Infectious Disease Center, led us down toward a special section of the Pediatrics floor. There, babies who were born HIV-positive were kept, apart from their mothers. In the days before anti-retroviral drugs could be given to pregnant HIV positive woman to prevent the passage of the virus onto the newborn, these were the Children of the Epidemic, born prematurely, many to drug-addicted mothers infected by using a dirty hypodermic needle. The babies’ emaciated bodies were so tiny, they could fit into Mario Cuomo’s large hands.

We left the hospital and headed out into the waiting, unmarked State Police car, with Dr. Axelrod and me climbing into the backseat. Mario Cuomo was silent for several minutes, numbed by what we just witnessed. Finally, he turned around from the front passenger seat, and looked at his Health Commissioner, whom he affectionately referred to as “The People’s Doctor.”

“These hospitals don’t have enough beds, David,” Mario Cuomo said. “We’ve got to get those patients out of the hallways, off those gurneys and into a room where they can get properly cared for. Where do we find more beds?” The corridors of carnage we just came out of had shaken Cuomo.

“Well, Governor, “ said Axelrod, the son and grandson of Orthodox rabbis, “ the only places where there are empty hospital beds are in the Catholic Hospitals.”

The Governor grimaced. A devout Catholic, but not a favorite of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in New York because of his Notre Dame speech on Abortion the previous year, Cuomo followed the French Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin’s prescription for service to others as defined in The Divine Milieu (Harper & Row, English translation, 1960). It was a deep spirituality, anchored in concrete acts, and the Governor was determined and bound by a powerful sense of practical and moral duty to do more.

Catholic hospitals and their Church, in denial of the issues of sex and sexuality, and unaccepting of gay men, were, just like Ronald Reagan, silent on the matter of HIV/AIDS. If it was happening in a community they didn’t recognize existed, then it wasn’t happening at all. Following the lead of their new and imperious Cardinal John J. O’Connor, New York’s Catholic hospitals resisted accepting AIDS patients, most of whom, at the time, were young, gay men. O’Connor was an outspoken opponent of homosexuality and impervious to the enormous suffering being inflicted upon NYC’s gay community by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Dr. Axelrod reminded the Governor that the Catholic Church had vast tax-exempt landholdings throughout New York City and State.

“All you have to do, Governor, is remind Cardinal O’Connor of that, “ Axelrod smiled impishly, “and tell him of the State’s critical needs for more hospital beds for people with advanced AIDS-related illnesses.”

Cuomo’s eyes twinkled with delight. There was no one in public life Mario Cuomo admired more than Dr. Axelrod, whom he also dubbed “Dr. Disaster,” making him Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Disaster Preparedness, essentially the State’s Czar in dealing with matters of public health or safety.

As New York State’s Public Health Commissioner under two Governors, Axelrod was one of the few public officials in the nation who immediately grasped the immensity of the AIDS Epidemic. Over the next 35 years, 675,000 Americans would die from AIDS-related illnesses, 100,000 of them New Yorkers.

The first wave of illnesses and deaths crashed into New York during Mario Cuomo’s first term as Governor, and Axelrod wasted no time in responding, organizing the NYS AIDS Institute and AIDS Advisory Council, just months after Cuomo took office in 1983. Dr. Axelrod instituted a full-court press against the AIDS epidemic: immediately supporting widespread testing and public education; pushing confidentiality protections for people with HIV and legal protections against Insurance or workplace discrimination; and advancing universal precautions against the transmission of infection.

But for now, the issue of the most urgency was the availability of hospital beds — the same critical issue which Andrew Cuomo instinctively knew he had to quickly resolve when the Corona Virus walloped New York 35 years later.

Mario Cuomo seized upon the solution offered by his Health Commissioner and the message was communicated to Cardinal O’Conner that the Catholic Church could best serve the interests of public health, and the Church’s own, by opening up their hundreds of hospital beds to people with AIDS.

Miraculously, within days, O’Connor announced to great fanfare that the City’s Catholic hospitals would be opening their doors to all AIDS patients. The Cardinal, crowing about his humanitarian “decision,” reminded anyone who would listen that the Church could embrace the sinner, but not the sin.

New York State’s first Governor Cuomo and his extraordinary Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod — who would propose universal health care for all New Yorkers in 1989 — were fearless in forcing open hundreds of unused hospital beds, scoring a life and death victory for public heath and HIV/AIDS care in the teeth of a terrifying new plague, as well as an epidemic of ignorance and discrimination.

A full generation later, as the Corona Virus pandemic spreads like wildfire, another Governor Cuomo from New York has teamed up with top public health professionals like his own Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A, Zucker, and Northwell Health System’s CEO Michael J. Dowling, in a relentless hunt for hospital beds, ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment, and more healthcare workers to battle this new terror around the clock.

Like their superb predecessors in public service in the 1980’s, and the activists who battled the AIDS epidemic, these public health warriors will not rest until testing is widespread, patient care is under control, work on a treatment for COVID-19 patients is underway, and a vaccine is available to save lives. For these healthcare heroes and thousands like them, there is no other option.

Yes, Andrew Cuomo Can Be Nominated for President in 2020.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo surrounded by his father and former NYS Governor Mario M. Cuomo, and his mother, Matilda R. Cuomo.

James Larocca, a former colleague from the first Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo of New York in the mid-1980’s, writing in the Long Island newspaper, Newsday (March 26, 2020), questioned whether the Democratic National Committee could nominate Andrew Cuomo for President this year.

Larocca, a former State Transportation Commission, candidate for Governor himself, and current Village Trustee in the Suffolk County village of Sag Harbor, made a straightforward case for Cuomo, contrasting the New York governor’s leadership against the utter failure of Donald Trump, and the lack of command of the crisis coming from either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders:

“Contrast this with Cuomo’s management of the coronavirus emergency in New York. He has been clear-headed and clear-voiced, and that has been comforting. As a result, New Yorkers and their families understand what they must do to survive. And the governor is out there managing the state’s response, relentlessly foraging for critical medical supplies and equipment, and pushing the Trump administration and the federal bureaucracy to make better decisions.

Can the Democratic Party nominate a candidate in its convention other than one who has come through the primary process? No one apparently knows for sure. But if a nominee is not chosen on a first ballot at the convention, primary-chosen delegates can be released and the convention can open up to other candidates.”

The answer to the procedural question raised by Jim Larocca is a resounding, YES!

If Democrats want to win the war vs. the continuing Corona Virus both immediately and in the long-term, we should be pushing for the first deadlocked — or contested — Democratic National Convention since 1952. While Joe Biden has a sizeable lead in elected delegates as of today, with the majority of delegates yet to be decided in a peculiar primary year, nothing is a foregone conclusion. Biden has a 300+ delegate lead over Sanders — 1,215 over 910 — but is still some 776 delegates short of clinching the nomination.

Nate Silver’s 538 is projecting that if all of the remaining primaries are held between now and early June — a big “IF” — considering the accelerating pace of the Corona Virus around the nation and ESPECIALLY in New York, where the Democratic Presidential Primary was scheduled for April 28, 2020 — Biden is on track to win more than the 1,991 Delegates needed for nomination. But those political calculations may become moot, if the apocalyptic progress of the pandemic ends the primary season NOW, and puts the decision in the hands of the Democratic National Committee.

There is no historical precedent for what we find ourselves experiencing at this very moment. It may come down to an appeal by Democratic leaders, including former President Obama, to either Joe Biden, to release his delegates in favor of Andrew Cuomo, or to the 766 Super Delegates (Members of Congress, Governors) to back Biden, and put him over the top. It’s hard to see Democratic public officials — up for re-election — flocking to support Biden — who only appeared from his basement once via television during the COVID-19 crisis — when they’ve seen what a powerful difference a compelling candidate like Cuomo can make.

Alternatively, DNC leadership could declare the primary process complete, and immediately plan for an electronic or by-mail first ballot vote in July, allowing States which have not yet decided, to hold their primaries by mail-vote, or simply permit the State Party organizations to select who will represent their State at an in-person, or virtual, national convention. Some of these changes may require emergency State legislation.

The only example Democrats can look back to for a small measure of instruction is the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, when State Party organization’s did choose their national delegates. That was the last time any major party convention went past the first ballot to select a nominee. One dramatic change between that Convention 68 years ago, and today, has made a contested convention more likely. In 2018, Democrats, for the first time in modern history, passed a rule change preventing 766 so-called “super-delegates,” — DNC Members, Members of Congress, Senators and Governors, and “distinguished party members like ex-Presidents or Vice-Presidents — from casting their votes on the first ballot. This change alone could guarantee that no candidate will have enough delegates to win the Democratic Nomination on the first ballot.

Despite having Harry Truman as an incumbent President, Democrats entered the 1952 election cycle deeply divided with Truman supported by only 36% of Democrats nationwide, according to a Gallup Poll. In the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Democratic Primary in February, 1952, Truman was toppled by semi-progressive Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, who was then conducting televised Senate investigations into organized crime, and surfing a wave of public support.

Just as Lyndon B. Johnson would do 16 years later, Truman interpreted his weak New Hampshire primary showing as a message to not seek re-election. With Truman out, Kefauver became the front-runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and he was locked in a tough battle with Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, a staunch segregationist, and the liberal Averell Harriman of New York, who served as President Truman’s Secretary of Commerce, and later became Governor of New York. No one arrived at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year with anywhere near the 616 delegates needed to win the nomination.

The Convention opened with a welcoming speech by the Governor of Illinois, Adlai E. Stevenson II, whose grandfather by the same name served as Vice President under President Grover Cleveland. Young Adlai’s speech was so well received, it began a boomlet for him to seek the nomination — something he had steadfastly resisted until that moment. Truman, who fought hard to integrate the Armed Services forcing segregationists like Strom Thurmond into their own Dixiecrat Party in 1948, was adamantly opposed to having an anti-integrationist like Russell as the Party’s standard bearer. President Truman threw his backing behind Stevenson, persuading Averell Harriman to pledge his 121 delegates to the Illinois Governor after the second ballot. With strong support from Harriman and Truman, Stevenson stormed past the two Southern Senators on the Convention’s third ballot, tallying 617 votes to the combined total of 540 for Kefauver and Russell.

While the political circumstances in 2020 are far different than those in 1952, the mechanics could work in a similar fashion, if Democratic party officials determine that because of the pandemic-shortened primary season, they need to have open balloting to pick the party’s Presidential candidate.

If Biden goes into the first ballot with his 1,215 committed delegates, Sanders with his 915, and Bloomberg, Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar with their approximate total of 130 delegates, that would set up a second ballot showdown — when not only are all committed delegates free to vote their conscience, but the 766 Super Delegates — elected officials — are unleashed to vote for the candidate of their choice.

With some 1,900+ delegates needed for a first ballot victory, it’s possible that no single candidate will have enough to win. Enter Andrew Cuomo.

A fresh, new Democratic ticket — a result of a consensus, led, most likely by Nancy Pelosi who would hold sway over some 230 Congressional Democrats with an acute interest in who will head the Democratic ticket, could play a powerful role in deciding who will head the ticket that could determine control of Congress. Based upon his outstanding leadership in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis in New York, it’s easy to foresee someone — especially from the New York State delegation — putting Andrew Cuomo’s name in nomination.

Conceivably, it could take a second, third or even fourth ballot for one candidate to aggregate enough support to win the nomination, the way Adlai Stevenson did after three ballots in 1952, but it’s highly likely that if Cuomo were drafted to be nominated, after the first ballot, he would win the Democratic Nomination by acclamation.

Cuomo has clearly demonstrated that even from his position of Governor of New York, history has its eyes on him to become the wartime president this pandemic-pummeled nation is demanding.

Not even the Democratic Party could resist that call.

I’m Voting for Joe Biden, Democrat.

I’m voting for Joe Biden in the March 3, California Super Tuesday primary.

I’ve held onto my ballot until the last possible moment, because — despite working hard knocking on doors and making phone calls for Mike Bloomberg, as the candidate I thought had the best chance of beating Donald Trump, all that has changed — especially in California.

After a full-year of contributing to and supporting Elizabeth Warren, whom I met a decade ago and agree with on most issues, the chaotic Iowa Caucus convinced me that it was time to take some drastic action. The Democratic Party apparatus and its ineffectual leader Tom Perez, failed miserably, shocking party activists across the country, about how thoroughly unprepared we were as national Democrats to take on the Trump juggernaut. Iowa became a flashing red light: something dramatic had to be done and fast, if we were going to save the country from the lawless, soulless Trump and his fellow White Supremacists. With Mike Bloomberg offering to finance and build a shadow infrastructure for the Democratic Party to support candidates for the Senate, House and Presidency, the choice to me was compelling. Amateur hour was over. It was time for a well-financed candidate with pockets deeper than the GOP’s to take on Trump.

Warren’s already-weakened candidacy began to wobble even more after floundering finishes in Iowa, and New Hampshire, two states she was once expected to win. I was willing to abandon the candidate of my heart to support a much more pragmatic person like Bloomberg, for whom I’d crossed party lines to vote for as NYC Mayor 15 years ago. Bloomberg did a superb job rebuilding NYC after 9/11, and had the vast resources to resuscitate a comatose Democratic social media presence, and spend billions of dollars to dump Trump and go-toe-to-toe with the GOP in every Senatorial and House race in the nation.

But, in a mere two weeks, Bloomberg’s campaign flopped, despite a terrific, well-run operation in our local town of Napa, California. His overly centralized campaign brain-trust, made a fatal mistake at the outset by agreeing to have Bloomberg appear in the Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate, after the dumb DNC had denied Cory Booker — a superb candidate — a place on the debate stage. Bloomberg’s top staff had the perfect reason to refuse any debates until after Super Tuesday: If the DNC wouldn’t change the rules for Cory Booker, Bloomberg’s staff should have argued that they did not want Tom Perez to change the rules for Mike. Bloomberg could have entered the Presidential race on the high road, demanding fairness for the last standing candidate of color to remain on the debate stage. In fact, because he committed to use his billions to build the Party, Bloomberg could have insisted that Booker be included in the next debate. Booker wasn’t, and Bloomberg was, a tone-deaf and tactically terrible action which backfired.

Instead, the Bloomberg team, not only made the ill-informed decision to throw Mike Bloomberg into the Debate — after San Francisco’s former Mayor and California’s former House Speaker Willie Brown had advised them what a bad political move that would be — but then, Bloomberg top-staffer Howard Wolfson admitted to the New York Times that he had failed to properly prepare Bloomberg for his first high-stakes debate in 11 years. Not only had the Bloomberg boys (and they were all men) bungled the decision about having Mike participate in the debate, but they confessed that they hadn’t thoroughly prepared him for what to expect. Why that team wasn’t fired the following day for such a consequential blunder….I’m still shaking my head.

Despite the deep damage that was done to Bloomberg’s on-the-ground campaign — with dozens of volunteers quitting after his Nevada debate debacle — I soldiered on, making hundreds of calls and knocking on dozens of doors. I believed that a national Democratic ticket headed by Sanders would hand Trump re-election, rob us of our best chance in a generation to take back the US Senate, and cost us the Supreme Court for the rest of my lifetime.

The courageous Democratic Senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, the tough prosecutor of the KKK members who murdered the four little Black girls in a Birmingham Church in 1963, would be in real danger of holding onto his Senate seat this year, if he had to defend Bernie’s bizarre political history, and his $60 trillion spending plan. Despite the delusions of the Sandernistas, there’s no way on Alabama’s Camelia-blooming-earth that Bernie helps Doug Jones win re-election. And, a Sanders-led ticket would have a reverse-coattail effect for Mark Kelly in Arizona, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, Amy McGrath in Kentucky, Sara Gideon in Maine, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, M.J. Hegar in Texas, Barbar Bollier in Kansas, or Jaime Harrison in South Carolina — all locked in tight US Senate races that could flip the Senate.

Clarity came in the form of James Clyburn, the long-time South Carolina Congressman, who answered the call of his ancestors to save the nation. Revered across his state, Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden and in Biden’s own words, “carried me home on his shoulders,” as well as the entire National Democratic Party. Biden’s blow-out victory among a highly diverse electorate — and with turnout that nearly matched the Obama record of 2008 — brought his own campaign back to life, and lighted up the path to victory for the Democrats in November.

Equally important was the turnout from Joe Cunningham’s Congressional District in Charleston, SC, — heavily for Biden — underscoring a strong desire for someone at the head of the ticket to preserve Democratic Members of Congress in swing districts. Biden’s smart shout-out to Jaime Harrison, the determined Democrat locked in a dead-heat with Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race, was also extraordinarily important.

As we watched the historic results coming in from South Carolina, my wife Carol and I, discussed what we would do with our Super Tuesday ballots. What would have the greatest effect of reducing Bernie Sanders’ California Delegate total, help elect the eventual Democratic nominee and defeat Trump and the Republicans? Carol was fluctuating between Warren and Klobuchar, but their poor performances in South Carolina had knocked them out of consideration. The fundamental question we faced was this: who, other than Sanders, would have the best chance of crossing the 15% threshold in California to win some delegates of their own? Who could we support?

I checked several California-based polls which reinforced what I learned while working on the Bloomberg campaign: Bloomberg was topping out in California at 12%, with both Biden and Warren having the best chance to slow a Sanders’ stampede. Neither one of us could see Warren — who hurt herself badly in the South Carolina debate — going all the way to the White House. I informed the local Bloomberg campaign officials that I could not, in good conscience, ask Democrats to vote for Mike Bloomberg any longer, when I believed, after South Carolina, my vote would have more value for Biden, who could cut significantly into Sanders’ delegate haul, with every point over 15% he received on Super Tuesday. If Warren did that too — even better.

And, since Biden needs money, staff and campaign infrastructure as Rep. Clyburn bluntly told him, the best way Bloomberg could now defeat Donald Trump — his initial rationale for entering the Presidential race — would be to endorse Biden after Super Tuesday, and commit money and staff to Biden and the National Democratic Party to crush Trump and the GOP. It’s why I backed Bloomberg in the first place, and it is, in my judgement, the best way to invest his billions to save the country.

So, I’m voting for Joe Biden on Super Tuesday, and I urge Mike Bloomberg to make the next day, Super Wednesday, by backing Biden as well.