Super Delegate Math or Myth?

As the primary season continues to unfold, the DNC and their affiliated main stream media remains insistent on counting Super Delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton among her actual, earned delegates for the convention in Philadelphia this summer.  And, while the social media networks are abuzz with chatter about how these Super Delegates will actually vote, what is not addressed accurately is just how they are already influencing the primary process. 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on record, having defined the purpose of the Super Delegates as a means by which the party will not be held accountable to a “grass roots insurgency.”  In other words, the voting block that is the Super Delegates is there to turn the tables on the will of the voters, should that will not reflect in lock step the will of the party elders.  So it is that by the outset of the primary season, the Super Delegates pledged in support of Hillary Clinton gave her the illusion of having far outdistanced her opponents and of having already started the process of running away with the election.  Strategically, this remains a key component of the Clinton campaign.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.   The function of the Super Delegates is twofold.  First, they can serve as a tie breaker in the event that neither candidate arrives at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright, and that after the second ballot and the attendant “horse trading” between the candidates, the balloting is perceived as hopelessly deadlocked.  Second, they can serve the function of adding authority to the delegate totals of a winning nominee who managed to win by less than convincing numbers.  Such was the case in 1984, when the Super Delegates chose Walter Mondale over Gary Hart for the nomination.  Neither of the candidates had arrived with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, but Mondale had about 500 more than Hart and the addition of the Super Delegates put him over the top and did so in a way that made his victory appear more decisive.

1984 was also the first and last time that the Super Delegates even voted in any meaningful way.  In subsequent elections, the candidate either arrived with enough delegates earned in the primary balloting to claim the nomination or, horse trading after the first ballot was cast broke the deadlock and the nominee emerged.  In the former instance, the Super Delegates served as a cheering section which put their weight behind the nominee, to show support  for the people’s choice.  The latter case was exemplified in 2008 when Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, allowing Barrack Obama to go through as the nominee.  Trailing Obama in a close race, the Super Delegates could have been used to swing the election to Clinton.  But, had they done so, it would have meant overturning the will of the electorate, and would certainly have had major repercussions in the general election.  Instead, back room negotiations secured the Secretary of State post for Hillary and she agreed to bide her time on the presidency.

Now, in 2016, the looming presence of the Super Delegates is again suggesting that the will of the electorate may be undone at the convention.  As in 2008, this would be disastrous for the Democratic party.  Today, in terms of earned delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, Hillary stands at 1243 and Bernie Sanders at 980.  Only 263 earned delegates separate the two candidates, with seventeen states yet to vote and a cloud hanging over the election in Arizona which may yet rain on Hillary’s parade.  Over two thousand delegates are still available, spread across those seventeen states, and the voting trend recently has significantly favored the Sanders campaign.  There is a very strong likelihood that Senator Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Secretary Clinton.

Will the Super Delegates overturn the will of the people and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton?  If their concern is genuinely with the general election, they will assuredly not disenfranchise half of their base.  This has been a tight race so far and will quite possibly remain so.  The two candidates could arrive in Philadelphia with a fairly even split of the delegates and a lot of bitterness between their two camps.  But, if the Super Delegates are required to break the deadlock, they would be well advised to side with whomever arrives with the most earned delegates.  If not, and if they choose Hillary as most say they will, Bernie Sanders’ supporters will possibly exit the party en masse. 

To arrive at that conclusion, we have to look at just who his supporters are.  They represent the progressive wing of what was once a progressive party, a group of Democratic lifers who already feel that they have been abandoned by the DNC.  His supporters are also Independents and their voting block will be key to the election.  Independent voters now represent about 40% of the electorate and if they come to the conclusion that their votes were nullified by the DNC, their lack of a  lifelong commitment to the party will manifest itself in a mass exodus.  They will sit on their hands in November and look for another party entirely come 2020.  His voters are also young people, the voting block which will grow and age with the party over time.  If the Democrats lose them now, they may never get them back.

So why is such a fuss being made over the Super Delegates, who have not even voted yet, may never vote at all, and almost certainly would not vote to overturn the will of the electorate?  The truth is that what the Super Delegates do best, is to suppress the vote.  Their function is to convince the grass roots voters that their candidate hasn’t a chance, to give up and just stay home.  If they are successful in doing that, then the grass roots movement dies on the vine and the establishment candidate goes through without the Super Delegates ever needing to cast a deciding vote.  The problem this year is those pesky progressives, independents and young people.  They have had enough of establishment politics, enough of DNC posturing, and enough of Hillary Clinton’s promises of incremental change.  They are staying the course, staying true to Bernie Sanders, and are becoming more entrenched in their own beliefs with each successive instance of election rigging. 

To date, every single instance of that rigging has benefitted Secretary Clinton.  Most recently, the misadventure that was the primary in Arizona combined election fraud which forced voters to stand on line for five and six hours, with an election result which was called with only one percent of the vote in.  When you have created in the mind of the voter the idea that Hillary is already within reach of the nomination due to her backing from the Super Delegates, announce that a given primary has already been decided, and force voters to choose between voting and possibly losing their jobs, it is no wonder that many voters broke from the ranks of the ballot lines and went home. 

While no one can say definitively that Hillary was behind it, she is the one who benefited from it.  That is enough.  And, in what is perhaps the most telling aspect of the election fraud, the scope of it is rising as it becomes more obvious that the electorate is not willing to be  buffaloed by the promises of the Super Delegates.  This has been made abundantly clear by the protests of the voters in Arizona, who refuse to be denied their rights.  They have their candidate, they followed the rules and their votes were not counted.  The blame lies with the DNC and local officials who have clearly conspired to rig the process.  But Sanders’ supporters have remained firm and have taken to the streets.  Rather than staying home, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are essentially drawing a line in the sand and daring the DNC and the Super Delegates to step across it.

The Super Delegates though, remain firm in their vocal support of Hillary, even in instances where the primary results in their own states favored Sanders by over 70%.  Why?  It goes back to whether or not the focus is on winning the general election.  It is possible (though doubtful) that the Democratic party leadership would prefer to lose the election rather than adjust their mode of operation to support a Bernie Sanders presidency.  Remember, campaigns and parties run on the fuel that is money.  Lots of it.  Many of the Super Delegates are themselves elected officials.  They will need to run for re-election, or may have aspirations of moving up the elected office ladder.  This too, will require lots of money.  Hillary represents the establishment, the status quo, and with that, lobbyists and Super Pacs and lots of soft money to fuel campaigns and buy media outlets.  Bernie is committed to removing the influence of big money from electing our representatives to Washington.  Without that big money, without the backing of the main stream media, many incumbents will soon be out of jobs.

In the end, the actions of the Super Delegates will tell us everything we need to know about the Democratic party for at least the next generation.  If Bernie Sanders arrives in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Hillary Clinton and the Super Delegates rise in support of him, it will validate and welcome the progressives, the independents and the young voters to the fold, solidify the base, and quite likely prove overwhelming to the Republican candidate.  If they decide instead to pull the rug out from under Bernie and his supporters, the backlash will cripple the Democratic party, cost them the general election and, in all likelihood, cement the hold the Republicans have on the House of Representatives.  Imagine what a president like Trump or Cruz might accomplish.

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Shall We Live What We Learn?

Today, it is time to take a step back, time to take a broader view.  The election cycle demands of us that we continually focus our attention on the nitty gritty of campaigns, sorting through the rhetoric, filtering out the lies and half truths.  But today, today it is time to look more broadly at what we have learned and ask how we shall choose to live in light of it.

We have learned that while there are quite a few bad apples out there, there are a hell of a lot of good and decent people, who want to be involved and want to make a difference.  This time, it seems as though the demarcation line between the two sides is somehow clearer; we have been encouraged to define it as establishment against outsider, but in the end, it has nothing to do with our politics.  This is about our priorities. 

One the one hand, we have the institutions that value money and power.  On the other, people and the planet.  It could not be more clear.  This is not about Democrats and Republicans; each side has its good and its bad people.  Equally, this is not just about the candidates; this is about the people whom they attract as supporters and the actions taken by those supporters to advance the cause.

On one hand, we could express this as the year that pitted hope against hate.  It troubles me, as it troubles so many that the level of vitriol expressed against immigrants, muslims and people of different political persuasions, owes nothing to reality and everything to fear.  It is sorrowful for the country to acknowledge that some candidates made the conscious decision to garner support by catering to that hate and fear.  The good news is that they are losing ground.  In the end, it is much harder to hold onto your hate than it is to hold onto your hope.  Hate burns you up and burns you out.  Hope is sustaining.  I believe that in November, the country will choose hope.

We have also witnessed a pitting of two dimensional vs. three dimensional characters.  A novelist could not create a work of fiction with Donald Trump as the main character and hope to win the Booker Prize.  He has no depth.  There is no there there. 

And it is those same characters, the ones drawn expressly for the six second sound bite on the main stream media, that have allowed the rest of us to see just how much the media has become complicit in the problem.  Calling elections with 1% of the vote in is just the most recent and egregious example.  Not giving equal time to all candidates, creating pundits out of campaign flunkies, and above all else, refusing to report on the real issues facing the country, have shown us the degradation of the Fifth Estate.  The news media was supposed to stand up for us, to speak truth to power, to use our freedom of speech to represent us against the wrongdoings of our own government.  Instead, they have become self-appointed kingmakers.

When the real story is one of voter suppression and election fraud on not just a grand, but growing scale, they choose to present tabloid reports regarding candidates’ wives, purportedly insurmountable delegate leads and Super Delegates who have pledged votes but not actually voted.  Similarly, it is somehow not newsworthy that voters arrive to polling stations after standing in line for five and six hours, only to be handed a provisional ballot which will likely not be counted, because their party affiliation has mysteriously changed since they last voted.  We also seem to not need to know that the votes have actually come in from two caucus states, because the media chooses not to announce the winner until it is late enough that most folks have gone to bed.  But, we have to thank them, because now we see them for what they are.  In showing their true colors, they have done all of us a favor.  We can now consign them to their rightful place as background chatter, the white noise of society.

We have learned that to many, the governance of our country is just a game.  Winner take all, to be sure, but just a game.  For the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, doing the job they have been elected and sworn in to perform takes a back seat to the gamesmanship of obstructing the process, grinding everything to a halt lest it be perceived that the other side has actually achieved something.  And Mr. Mitch is not the only one.  The gamesmanship extends to the campaign trail, where Bill Clinton defined the Obama presidency as “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” but only after the African American vote was secured in the primaries of the southern states.  We have witnessed the efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the election process, from denying Bernie Sanders access to the voting lists, to scheduling debates for times when no one is watching, and making sure that there are never enough ballots for the voters who show up to exercise their civic duty. 

But I find something interesting here, too.  All of these people are looking mighty old.  There is a Picture of Dorian Gray component to this.  The corruption, degeneracy and wickedness of these thieves who would steal the country from its own people, has crept upon their faces like lines on Gray’s portrait.  And all of the spray tan in China can not varnish it away.

Largely, that distinction is now visible because we have learned that there are so many good people, standing up and standing together in opposition to the establishment, the forces of darkness, the forces of same as it ever was.  From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, Bill Moyers to Cornel West, Robert Reich to Spike Lee, Asher Edelman to Danny Glover, there is a vitality among the forces of change and hope that grows stronger by the day. 

The pairing though, that shines most clearly is that of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Two distinctly different generations, two distinctly different experiences of life.  But between them, fire and focus, wisdom and compassion, and most of all, continuity.  What we have learned is that there is a movement, a revolution, that has been going on in this country since the early 1960’s.  It comes back to that mindset of hope.  It hinges on the priority of doing what is right for the planet and for our fellow human beings. 

It has been suppressed, to be sure, for many years.  So much so, that many of us thought we were alone.  We are not.  When the enthusiasm in one county’s voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 rises by half a million voters, we are not alone.  When those people stand in line for five and six hours because they will not be denied their right to participate in the process, we are not alone.  When a candidate takes in over five million separate donations averaging less than thirty dollars a piece, from real working men and women, not the $27,000 a plate crowd, we are not alone.

The single most exciting piece of news during this cycle has to do with the involvement in the process of so many people, young and old, who thought previously that they did not have a voice.  It was not that they had no voice; it’s just that no one was listening.  Now, we have learned that those combined voices can change the world.  The same as it ever was crowd is frightened, as well they should be.  They are circling the wagons and sending out volleys through their super pacs and media cronies, in a last ditch effort to stem the tide of change, to convince us that we need to be pragmatic, that we need not expect too much, that we can not win against that which is inevitable. 

They are trying to negotiate a truce for fear that hope will sweep them from the field. 

In the end, we have learned that you will fail to galvanize a nation around hatred, but succeed when you do so around hope.  You can send out dinner invites with a $27,000 a plate RSVP or you can throw open the doors to the entire neighborhood.  You can deny people their voices in the process with rigged elections, or you can trust the goodness in their hearts to make the right call.  You can believe what you hear or you can shine light on the lie.  As we used to say, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.  It is for each of us to choose how we shall live from what we have learned.

Increasingly, we are learning that it is the solution that is becoming inevitable.

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Are We Willing to Pay the Price for Our Freedom?

As the election process inches forward, we are once again faced with allegations of election fraud and voter suppression.  The primary yesterday in Arizona was an outright disgrace.  A state in which one county (Maricopa) had witnessed 300,000 people come out to vote at 200 polling stations during the 2008 election cycle, was unprepared to handle the estimated 800,000 who came out yesterday to only 60 polling stations.  Voters stood for five and six hours on line, only to find that once again, insufficient numbers of ballots were on hand.  Once again, registered voters found that their political affiliation had mysteriously changed or that they had been dropped from voter rolls altogether.  Once again, provisional ballots were handed out though it was indicated to voters that these ballots would not be counted.  And the Media called the election by 10:00p.m. eastern time, with just 1% of the vote in,  while voters were still lined up for blocks at 1:30a.m.

These are the same problems which plagued the primaries in Florida (where some thirteen precincts had run out of ballots by noon), North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Missouri, Massachusetts, and just about every state the Clinton campaign has notched as a victory.  Oddly enough, a large proportion of Hillary’s supporters have been instructed to vote early, by mail, and avoid the entire precinct voting process.

But there have been instances of Republican election rigging as well, namely Ted Cruz’s efforts to convince voters in Iowa that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.  Yesterday, in Mormon Utah, a Super Pac supporting Ted Cruz ran an ad featuring a nude Melania Trump with the tag-line, “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady.  Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”  I have absolutely no love for Donald Trump, but attacking someone’s family in this manner is gutless, classless, despicable and cowardly.  And whether or not it was authorized by him, Ted Cruz will have to own that characterization from here on out.

One interesting element to the dirty politics we are seeing from both sides, is that it has originated with the establishment candidates.  Neither Sanders’ nor Trump’s campaigns have been accused of attempting to rig the elections.  The DNC, on the other hand, has been complicit in nearly every effort to suppress the vote of Democrats who would largely be supporting Bernie Sanders (if Hillary’s supporters have voted early and in enough numbers, you could suppress everyone on election day and almost guarantee a win for the Clintons).  The RNC has openly suggested that they might need to run a third party candidate to stop Trump, and has dragged Mitt Romney out of mothballs to do their dirty work.

How should we read this?  To express the conditions surrounding our current election process in their simplest terms, the Establishment on both sides is actively working to suppress the will of the people to make a change in the status quo of our government.  The Establishment is utterly out of touch with the voters of this country.  When Trump and Sanders began their campaigns, each was scoffed at by their respective party elders.  Each was seen as something of a joke.  But Sanders and Trump are engaged with their base; they know their supporters.  Each, for his own reasons, reflects the will of the voting makeup of his party.  And now, the Establishment finds itself with only one card left to play; make sure that those votes don’t count.

Like him or not, Donald Trump is bringing voters out of the woodwork.  His rallies are enormous and his supporters passionate (for all of the wrong reasons, I would add).  The other night, Sanders held a rally in Washington State which drew 35,000 people.  Hillary, meanwhile, held her “rally” in a living room where attendees paid $27,000 apiece to get in and $50,000 if they wanted to meet and speak with her.  This is not lost on the American voting public.

Middle and working class people in America may not really be able to comprehend just how much money $170 billion dollars in increased earnings by the top fifteen people in America is, but we know when we are getting screwed.  We know that when Washington tells us the economy is improving, it isn’t improving for us.  Our wallets are still just as empty.  Our credit cards still carry large balances.  Our bank accounts still have no buffer.  Our jobs pay less, our health care costs more.  Our retirement savings won’t be enough and a trip to the hospital could be one cost too much.  We may be able to remember a past full of promise, but we now fear that our children will have no future.

“At least,” we may have thought, “we still have a voice.”  We have been taught since we first entered school that the greatness of America lies in the process by which we, the people, elect representatives to speak on our behalf in Washington and in the State Assemblies. Each November, we learned, the people get to vote so that the government represents our needs, our desires and our principles.   That, we now must concede, was a lie. 

The middle and working class people of this country did not arrive here overnight.  We can now look back on nearly half a century of legislation which has allowed corporate America to line its pockets while sending our jobs and our futures overseas, legislation that keeps us in debt to big health care corporations when the rest of the industrialized world provides better health care as a right to its people.  We have been dragged into twenty odd years of endless and pointless war, run up a national debt that is somewhere in the vicinity of nineteen trillion dollars, and found that a large chunk of the debt for which we are responsible, is held by the Chinese.  The people on both sides of the aisle, playing politics in Washington, have doomed at least once generation of us to penury.  And now, the RNC and the DNC have informed us that we no longer even have a voice of complaint in the process.  Our votes, if it looks like they will cause injury to the Establishment, don’t count.

In the title of this article, the question was asked, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom?”  We often hear that our nation’s soldiers have paid that price for us, guaranteeing with their lives the freedoms which we enjoy.  But now we have to ask whether we are free at all.  One need not feel the bars to be trapped in a cage.  When limitations are placed on our abilities to grow as a society or as individuals within it, we are not free.  When a corrupt economic system keeps the vast majority of us enslaved to the next paycheck, we are not free.  And when our political leadership looks us in the eye and says that our voices do not matter, we are not free.

It is now nearly forty eight years since the summer of 1968, two generations, a single life lived almost to its mid-line.  It was in 1968 that the people, for one brief, shining moment, found their voice.  The assassination of JFK in 1963 marked the first time that the majority of American people believed that their own government could not be trusted.  By 1968, with the war raging in southeast Asia and middle and working class American kids being drafted and sent to fight for nothing more than the nightly body count, that voice rose as one to shout down the Establishment. 

While the respective parties gave us establishment candidates in the form of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the grass roots gave rise to Eugene McCarthy and, later in the campaign, Robert Kennedy.  McCarthy’s early primary lead chased incumbent president Lyndon Johnson out of the race and lured RFK in.  In time, the voice of the young people in America, desperate to end the war and to heal the wounds at home between white and black Americans, coalesced behind RFK.  McCarthy’s ill advised remarks on opting for a Communist coalition in Vietnam and relocating black youth out of urban areas to quell urban problems ultimately doomed his campaign. 

So, with the Doors’ song, “Five to One” as a backdrop, the young people of this country began to see that it was true that “they have the guns but we’ve got the numbers.”  And politics, after all, is a numbers game.  Everything was coming together for a political revolution.   And then it was gone.  Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis on April 4th and RFK was assassinated in Los Angeles two months later.  By late August and the Democratic convention in Chicago, the sense that the fix was in was palpable.  During the primaries, some 80% of the votes cast were in favor of anti-war candidates, but at the convention, the DNC pushed Hubert Humphrey through, despite the fact that he had not entered a single primary.  The “riots in the streets” to which Donald Trump alluded last week when considering what might happen if he is denied the nomination, were exactly what played out in Chicago.

In hindsight, 1968 saw this country on the verge of a massive political shift, away from establishment politics, away from a war that no one outside of government wanted, away from hatred and divisiveness at home.  The chance was there and the voting public seemed ready to seize it.  But the promise went unfulfilled.  Now, nearly half a century later, the chance has once again arisen.  This time. however, it is not a “lone nut gun-man” who has his crosshairs on our opportunity.  It is the establishment itself, bold as brass.

Perhaps it takes a leader like RFK or maybe Bernie Sanders, to galvanize the people of our republic behind an image of all that is good about us, an image of the potential for greatness that still lies in America.  Or, could it be that Donald Trump has revealed something about ourselves that we have kept hidden, but which could once again push us to the top of the world stage?  Truly, those leaders come along only once in a lifetime.  So the question is reframed, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom to elect the leadership we choose for ourselves?”  If the people put their support behind a candidate whom the parties seek to undo, are we willing to destroy the parties in return?

This journal does not endorse Donald Trump.  Other articles here have in no uncertain terms pointed out just how bad a choice he would be for the country.  But if Hillary Clinton is to get the nomination, are we, the people, willing to pay the price of electing her and continuing the ownership of this country by the ruling class?  If the supporters of Bernie Sanders “sit on their hands” in protest, refusing to vote for a candidate who is the antithesis of all that they believe, Trump will win, regardless of what the Republican party does to stop him.  The next four years will be disastrous, for trade, for human rights, for maintaining allegiances throughout the world.  But should we elect Clinton, the very first order of business for the DNC will be to make sure that no grass roots candidate ever again threatens the party’s plan.  The next Bernie Sanders, maybe fifty years from now, will have it that much harder.

Do we resign ourselves to business as usual or do we break the machine and build anew?

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  George Carlin used to say about the relationship between the working people of this country and the owners of the country (and of our government) that, “it is a big club and you and I ain’t in it.”  The old Fram Oil Filter ad warned us that, “you can pay me now or pay me later.”  If we don’t stop the cycle of selling our freedom now, we consign our children and our grandchildren to the debtor’s prison of paying later.  Thirty pieces of silver now could damn us for generations to come.  I, for one, am not willing to pay that price.

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