Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ranting On...the Unfair Convention Process

It goes without saying that "I agree with Donald Trump" is a sentence that I don't get to utter on a regular basis, and I'm deeply proud of that fact.  However, something has come to mind for me in the past few weeks that has started to make me vehemently uncomfortable, and that as a result is making me side with the real estate mogul in a way I haven't before.  Don't get ahead of yourself-I'd rather vote for a damp rag than Trump in an election, but his shining a light upon the primary process, and in particular the way that it is wholly undemocratic, is a conversation that I'm glad is happening.

What I am referring toward is the situation in Louisiana, where Ted Cruz appears likely to, despite losing the popular vote in the state, gain more delegates than Trump when the dust is settled.  This is due in part to five delegates pledged to Marco Rubio who likely are going to end up with Cruz (an unfair, but not exactly avoidable situation), but also due to five unpledged delegates who are not required to support a specific candidate.  As a result, the people of Louisiana, despite voting for Trump, may see their majority denied in delegate counts when it comes to the convention.  This matters more than usual this year as the quest for 1237 and the Republican nomination is so much closer than it usually is for the GOP.

The problem here is that every state has different rules, and the process is challenging, and quite frankly in some respects the Trump campaign got caught sleeping here, focusing entirely on winning elections and not on the complex math behind how some of the delegates are going to the RNC.  There's always a little hubris watching a novice politician that is as much of a blowhard as Trump getting caught behind not following the rules as he so clearly hates the decorum usually afforded a presidential race, but that only lasts so far as the people of Louisiana deserve to have their voices heard at the Republican Convention this fall, and considering they went for Trump, there should be more voices (at least on the first ballot) for the New York businessman than Sen. Cruz.

This actually has been a problem in past elections, though I suspect you might not have noticed because the results of those races were decided in advance and as a result no one probably cared because the end result was as expected.  One particularly egregious example of the voters' will being upended came in 2012 with Ron Paul.  The former Texas congressman never won a single, solitary state, but yet somehow, thanks to arcane rules about what you're actually voting for in a caucus or primary, he still managed to take the majority of the delegates from Nevada, Iowa, and Minnesota, despite those states being won by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum when the populace actually voted.  This is a huge circumvention of the people if, through backroom deals and lobbying of the powers-that-be, you can disregard the will of the majority of the people of a particular state.

The Democrats are not immune to criticism here, either, it's worth noting.  DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has come under fire for her rather misguided defense of the tradition of superdelegates, and really there's no actual reason why a state should have superdelegates at a convention, if we're being totally honest.  They seem to serve as an insurance policy against, say, a Donald Trump (which doesn't feel like the worst idea this season, admittedly), but they are not always elected officials (where one could speciously claim that the people have spoken on having superdelegates attend), and frequently will go in a direction that is different than the state or district that they represent (someone like, say Sen. Jeanne Shaheen will be casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton even though Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire, for example).  That's wrong-we need to get to a system where we reward all delegates of each state proportionally, with no special privileges or backroom deals coming in the way of the people.

Some ways to fix this would be to eliminate the concept of unpledged delegates (at least on the first ballot) and superdelegates, and to eliminate winner-take-all states.  Every single state should be forced, with a threshold intact (like, say, achieving 10% of the populace) to only submit delegates based on which candidates actually won in the states.  This would make sure that the will of the people (regardless of your opinion-we get the government we deserve, after all), is represented in the Republican and Democratic nominees.

I also want to trumpet two other changes I have long espoused as a reminder this time of year.  One, caucuses are deeply undemocratic and are an awful tradition, truly one of the worst celebrated by both parties.  It limits who can attend an election by not having a more open polling process, and how many voices are heard in a primary, and that's awful.  I feel particularly ashamed of Democrats who have continued this tradition, considering we have made ballot box-accessibility a cause celebre over the past decade.

The second is that we need to eliminate a staggered primary.  The reality is that, with the rare exception of this year's GOP race where voting in a late state is just as valuable as voting in an early one, states like Iowa and New Hampshire are given far too much importance at the expense of later states.  It's not inconceivable that, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would have done better had they had other states at the forefront of the conversation.  The reality is that we need one national primary day (preferably one that, like Election Day should be each year, is a federal holiday) where each state votes at once.  This would admittedly give rise to more contested conventions, but it would also ensure that no voter's vote is worth more, or as has been highlighted in Louisiana, worth less, than anyone else's.

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