This Presidential election campaign has proven to be one of the most revealing about the true nature of American politics; a time when voters are seeing more clearly than ever how party elites – both Democratic and Republican – view the rank and file. It has also been a window to the political process in the U.S. as a whole. It is likely that the nature of our primaries will be changed forever by the experience. One astute pundit has said that “by 2020, the system will likely reflect either the will of party leaders or the will of party members, with little pretense of trying to serve both.”
Both parties have created a system that provides an illusion of inclusion that masks the true, underlying purpose - maintaining the power of the party elite. To accomplish this, the Democratic National Committee requires that individual states allocate their respective delegates proportionally among the candidates who receive at least 15 percent of the votes. The Party rules also set aside approximately 15 percent of total delegates as "superdelegates," - party loyalists who are able to tip the scales in favor of establishment candidates.
This system mirrors how the Democrats view governance. The Democratic Party is best seen as a coalition of the nation's super-elite, wealthy, professional classes and the nation's most impoverished, uneducated class. The belief of Democratic elites is that the nation is best governed by a system that politically empowers the elitist views for the good of the poor. It is generally understood though, by those astute enough to study the matter that the side effect of Democratic rule is to perpetuate and exacerbate poverty. To keep elite power constant and unassailable by public opinion most Democratic leaders have kept this “side effect” quiet. Cass Sunstein, the former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – Cass Sunstein – who worked for the Obama administration, once wrote a book that advocated adopting regulations to "nudge" people to change their behavior "for their own good."
Unfortunately for the DNC, it is no longer possible to keep their approach under wraps; the cat has been let out of the proverbial bag. The rank and file are now hyper aware that superdelegates are likely to give Hillary Clinton the nomination and at the very least have given her the appearance of being a clear front-runner despite not having arrived there by “earned delegates. This is a classic example of how the will of the party elites prevail over the people and it is not sitting well with disenfranchised progressives in the party who prefer Bernie Saunders. In essence, the use of superdelegates in this election cycle have revealed truths about the manipulation of the process – a manipulation that the DNC has kept quiet for a long timed.
The Republican system is no better. The Republican National Committee's so-called “decentralized process” allows each state party to write their own distinctive delegate allocation rules. The RNC does not reserve superdelegates, but it also keeps the Party bosses in power by using intricate and complex convention rules. This is what has been in the news so much lately about the potential for a “contested convention.” If a candidate fails to secure a majority on the first ballot — an outcome that appears increasingly likely — only those capable of navigating the complexity can achieve success. And when a candidate is not in lock-step with the party bosses’ agenda, the weight of the Party is used to prevent that candidate – in this case Donald Trump – from achieving the necessary number of delegates to get the nomination. It is a built in counterweight to the “will of the people. There is a big disconnect between what the Republican Party projects and the reality of its system. It is, at best, a phony projection of self-image and may be, at worse, a calculated, unfair codification of political rule purposely designed to maintain hegemony.
One fact that highlights the disconnect between what the Party says and what it does can be seen by examining the Republican claim that it is “conservative principle” to promote a decentralized authority. Republicans can say they prefer a simplified home rule but the Code of Federal Regulations grew by nearly 20,000 pages while Bush was in office. Bruce Abramson, a political commentator for CNBC recently summed it up rather well. “Republicans primaries suffer from the same incoherence and inconsistency as our overly complicated regulatory codes: Their goals are vague and their methods embody no theory capable of reasonable resolution.”
While they may like to appear naïve, those who designed the primary system of both sides of the two party sword, know that it cuts off voters from what they perceive as their role in the U.S. – voting in the people’s choice and replaces it with a system where the sole purpose is to select a slate of delegates who in turn control the nominating committee. Some say the American system is more like Parliamentary elections than the winner-take-all-method that Americans have been deluded into believing exists. The political elite have created an illusion of democracy that promotes an undemocratic process that selects convention delegates and party nominees and not the winner selected by majority rule.
The nuts and bolts – the math that illustrates the problem - is as Abramson notes, easily seen because, “the Democrats erred by holding elections in which establishment and upstart candidates compete on unequal terms — a likely sore point among Democratic voters still seething over losing an election despite winning the popular vote sixteen years ago. The Republicans failed to note that when electing a slate rather than an individual, winner-takes-all makes little sense. A state allocating 100 delegates after a 60-40 race should split its convention slate 60-40, not 100-0. There is an entire economic field devoted to the study of voting systems. The current Republican primary system violates all of its key findings.”
“Primaries ‘open’ to independents and members of the opposing party make no sense. The national Democratic and Republican parties are coalitions of factions and interest groups oriented around competing views of the world, society, and governance. Those leading the coalitions are right to seek candidates who reflect those views. A nomination process that party stalwarts dominate, a series of state conventions, or a closed proportional primary in which only pre-registered party members vote, would all serve that goal. Primaries open to non-members, winner-take-all votes, or systems designed to look open while actually remaining closed are prescriptions for disaster,” he added.
It is interesting to see this spin being put on what is happening since the cat has been let out of the bag. Pundits and professional writers, employed by the Parties either directly or indirectly are working overtime to convince voters that there is “nothing wrong with the system,” that it is what we’ve always had – that it’s the “American way” or more disingenuously – “our way.” But for perhaps the first time in our young Nation’s history, everyday people are waking up to the fact that they are being manipulated. There is a revolt underway and while it is starting out relatively quiet it may end with a bang that has the end result of forcing change on the system.
American voters, by and large, see the entire 2016 Primary as a disaster. For the Democrats the continued “positioning” of Hillary Clinton – a widely disliked candidate - as the de facto frontrunner is a slap in the face. On the Republican side, the focus on delegate manipulation y Ted Cruz – who is equally disliked and distrusted despite his “Trust Ted” slogan – has exacerbated the issue, making voters feel the system is rigged. And they’re right for only a biased and unfair system would have seen these two candidates at the forefront of Presidential contenders. Like many issues in this campaign, voters can thank Donald Trump for bringing the issue to the forefront, particularly on the Republican side. He is so hated by the Party elites who view his blunt honesty as destructive to the myth they have so long perpetrated – the myth that voters actually choose their leaders by their vote.
As the entire process is being stripped bare; as Americans are increasingly having their eyes open to how they are duped, it is hard to imagine that the elections of 2020 election will come and go without an overhaul to the primary process by both parties. Without adopting a more transparent system, voter confidence will continue to erode and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will provide America with the effective and accepted Commander in Chief it so desperately needs.
There has to be a convergence; a time when the public and our leaders both believe in the same path forward for our country and that will only transpire when the system that elects those leaders is perceived as fair and responsive. This is what voters deserve. That is what will make America great again.