Skip to content

Democratic Democracy?

February 7, 2016

Questions arise from time to time regarding the nature and fairness of the manner by which the two major American political parties select their nominees for President of the United States. The selection is made at national conventions after a lengthy process during which each state selects delegates proportionate to their population in a variety of different manners ranging from caucuses to primaries. How “democratic” this process is remains open to interpretation, particularly in the Democratic Party, due to special rules for delegate selection.

Following the 1972 nominating process and the selection of George McGovern as the Democratic nominee to face the re-election bid of President Richard Nixon, the party attempted to make sure that a repeat of that landslide defeat would not happen. One of the safeguards put in place to make it more difficult for an extremist to be nominated was to appoint a certain number of Super-Delegates, primarily party members elected to public office, to participate in the voting at the convention. The thought was that they could balance out any tendencies among voters to select another nominee who was likely to go down to a disastrous defeat, potentially taking down House and Senate candidates of their party with them.

The Super-Delegate issue did rear its head during the 2008 election cycle, as many of them were pledging themselves to Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that the primary/caucus selection processes were heavily tilted in Barack Obama’s direction. The process resolved itself amicably prior to the convention, and the past eight years of the Obama Administration proved that the system could work despite what could have developed into a nasty floor fight.

The Super-Delegates comprise about twenty percent of the total. They could easily become the deciding factor in a close contest, especially if their votes were distributed in a disproportionate fashion. The people’s choice could be subverted by the party establishment. This situation could potentially be a cause for a danger rift in the party this year, with the advent of Senator Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate. Since Sanders comes from outside the ranks of the party (he has been an independent member of the House and Senate for the past 25 years), party establishment delegates, heavily weighted with centrist elected Democrats, could easily negate a lead over the left-leaning populist contender and provide added impetus to select the more moderate Clinton, based to a certain extent on perceived electability in the general election. The idea is to avoid the fate of the GOP, which in recent years lost several key Senate races by nominating Tea Party candidates over establishment moderates and couldn’t swing the general election.

One problem with this is that the inclusion of these delegates adds to the suspicion among many (not without valid reason) that the system is rigged to favor establishment corporate-backed candidates less likely to fight for change to a corrupt system that allowed them a seat at the power table. Recent court decisions increasing the political clout of rich donors and corporations over the average American citizen.  The almost total destruction of campaign finance laws and the rise of Super PACs with hidden funding sources do little to enhance the confidence of most of us that our lone vote even counts and that the elections will be won and lost on the basis of sound truths instead of the amount of money spent on advertising.

The American people deserve to select their preferred candidates to govern in their interest. Gaming the contests to favor one candidate over another or others on the basis of fundraising ability in an economy that already places a vast majority at a distinct disadvantage (because of economic, ethnic, gender, racial or other arbitrary criteria) makes a mockery of the democratic notion of one-person-one-vote. The  nature of some of the electability claims is flimsy at best. Polls definitely have shown no preference of the perceived moderate over the perceived progressive in this race vs. any potential GOP opponent. The idea that this process of giving undue weight to another privileged group allows the people to increase chances of electing a government that better meets all our needs is dubious at best.

The arguments currently being bandied about, primarily but not exclusively by the Clinton campaign, similarly do not justify abandoning democratic principles. Whether Sanders or Clinton is better suited to accomplish any more than the other in terms of passing needed legislation in the morass that is today’s Congress is anyone’s guess – even if we all agree that nobody on the GOP side of the Presidential sweepstakes is anywhere near where they need to be to acceptably perform the duties of President and Commander-in-Chief. However tempting it may be to win at all costs, expecting voters to accept a continuation of policies that have repeatedly failed them because it is impossible to change them (or at least prohibitively too difficult) is not a viable option. We endured the nonsense of trickle-up economics and decreased opportunities for way too long already. Preemptive attacks on new proposed policies as being “unrealistic” or “way too expensive to implement looks to many as unimaginative excuse making. That none of the GOP alternatives is acceptable does not mean we need to choose the Democrat most like them politically just to keep them out of office.

There are many other imperfections in the nominating process. No uniformity exists in who gets to vote in primaries. Being a member of neither party eliminates millions from the process entirely. Vigorous voter suppression efforts disenfranchise millions from even voting in the general election. The process in current state of PA is a closed to all but previously declared party members. My previous state of VT permits voters to vote in the primary of their choosing (one, not both). Caucus states use a different process entirely. Which ends up selecting the best candidates is open to debate, but in my opinion, the method that is inclusive of the most eligible voters possible will do the best job of selecting people who will serve the interests of us all. Get big money out of politics. Bernie has shown it can be done while waging a competitive campaign. Let “boots on the ground” come to mean activists organizing grassroots political campaigns, rather than fighting murderous wars.

Who ultimately become the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees remains to be determined. Both parties need to start doing a better job of addressing the needs of the American people as a whole, while simultaneously decreasing their emphasis on securing undue advantage for the privileged elites. Democracy is a farce when it is used as a sham deceit covering up the exploitation of the many in the pursuit of augmenting the avarice of the few. If they do not do so, the time will come when the number of disenfranchised becomes larger than the combined membership of both. A new, more equitable, power-sharing arrangement must be reached, either involving multiple, more representative parties or which forces the parties which exist to more adequately meet the needs and enable the realization of aspirations of far more people than are currently being served. This must be accomplished at all levels of government, not merely the Chief Executive of the federal government .

Further Suggested Readings:

Bernie Sanders and the Superdelegates

Bernie Sanders is winning with the one group his rivals can’t sway: voters

Clinton Has 45-To-1 ‘Superdelegate’ Advantage Over Sanders

Will the DNC Use Super-Delegates to Steal the Primary Election from Bernie Sanders

Liberals No Longer Amused

To the Oligarchy, Democracy Is Just a Marionette to Be Manipulated

New Hampshire Democrats push for another presidential debate

Superdelegates: Why Bernie Faces an Uphill Battle, No Matter the Polls

"Hillary the Pragmatist vs Bernie the Dreamer" is "Big Lie" Propaganda

Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative

Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem

Clinton Brushes Off Wall Street Ties, But Are Voters Buying It?

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

14 Comments
  1. A great report on the issue! (And it would be nice if we had more than 2 parties represented in Congress.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Most informative article on elections I have read! Thank you. The Super Delegates is something that is totally undemocratic but yet, it still exists within the Democratic party. What does that tell you?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If Sen. George McGovern was an extremist, I’ll eat my iPad. What a silly thing to say. From Mitchell, SD; a War Hero who flew an airplane in WWII? That’s extreme? Did not George h.w. Bush do the same? Oh, Bush left his crew to die, that’s right. . .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What was your Draft number in the Vietnam War? Nixon wasn’t extreme?

    Liked by 1 person

    • McGovern wasn’t extreme, in my view, but then I’m not involved in establishing Democratic Party rules. I also don’t consider Sanders to be extreme. I came of age after Vietnam, so I never got a draft number. Nixon was extremely paranoid, which helped lead to his ultimate downfall.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Americans have no memory of what their parents lived through.

    Like

  6. Americans can’t even be bothered to know what their parents went through.

    Like

  7. Hello, Mr. Cooley: I really like the comments and linked articles you post on Twitter. Here are some of my recently posted thoughts regarding the issue of delegates.

    When are we going to recognize that political parties have no place in the law? They’re just an association of people engaged in a particular activity that became the self-appointed intermediary wedged between the people and THEIR government. They limit participants and obstruct competition. Robert Reich, et al, now wants to petition the Democratic Party to give Senator Sanders the delegates he’s “due.” This is nonsense.

    You may have seen Lawrence Lessig’s article in The Washington Post on Feb. 11th: “Don’t Follow in Barack Obama’s Footsteps.” This is my posted comment:

    C. Davison
    7:12 AM PST
    Professor Lessig has experienced the gauntlet of campaign financing trials, but he has consistently overlooked one alternative that is certifiably legal: taxation. Jurisdiction for taxation and elections lies in the U.S. Congress. The good news is that many members of Congress are so fed up with the demands of fundraising that they may be receptive to freedom from their unwarranted fidelity to Grover Norquist or secretive Super-PACS.

    George Washington hated political parties because he recognized that they would concentrate power in the few. American voters defaulted when we let others fund campaigns. Now we resent that “our” legislators are beholden to those funders. What did you expect? Funders got what they paid for.

    A mere $7.00 per year per individual SSN IRS tax filer accumulates over $4 billion in a four-year federal election cycle. Registered Voters for each jurisdiction decide which candidates may use our money. After the $5,000 FEC enrollment fee, candidates do no more fundraising. They do submit monthly expense reports that demonstrate proficiency in managing public funds, something we haven’t seen in some time. Would Registered Voters who paid and participated in the program vote for the billionaire’s front-man?

    Is your government worth $7.00 a year to you? Please consider http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com, @thefairelection.

    Like

  8. Claudia Davison permalink

    Hello, Mr. Cooley. I really enjoy the comments and linked articles you put on Twitter. Here is something I’ve posted recently regarding the issue of delegates:

    When are we going to recognize that political parties have no place in the law? They’re just an association of people engaged in a particular activity that became the self-appointed intermediary wedged between the people and THEIR government. They limit participants and obstruct competition. Robert Reich, et al, now wants the Democratic Party to give Senator Sanders the delegates he’s “due.” This is nonsense.

    You may have seen Lawrence Lessig’s article in The Washington Post on Feb. 11th: “Don’t Follow in Barack Obama’s Footsteps.” This is my posted comment:

    C. Davison
    7:12 AM PST
    Professor Lessig has experienced the gauntlet of campaign financing trials, but he has consistently overlooked one alternative that is certifiably legal: taxation. Jurisdiction for taxation and elections lies in the U.S. Congress. The good news is that many members of Congress are so fed up with the demands of fundraising that they may be receptive to freedom from their unwarranted fidelity to Grover Norquist or secretive Super-PACS.

    George Washington hated political parties because he recognized that they would concentrate power in the few. American voters defaulted when we let others fund campaigns. Now we resent that “our” legislators are beholden to those funders. What did you expect? Funders got what they paid for.

    A mere $7.00 per year per individual SSN IRS tax filer accumulates over $4 billion in a four-year federal election cycle. Registered Voters for each jurisdiction decide which candidates may use our money. After the $5,000 FEC enrollment fee, candidates do no more fundraising. They do submit monthly expense reports that demonstrate proficiency in managing public funds, something we haven’t seen in some time. Would Registered Voters who paid and participated in the program vote for the billionaire’s front-man?

    Is your government worth $7.00 a year to you? Please consider http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com, @thefairelection.

    Like

  9. Hello, Mr. Cooley: I really enjoy the messages and linked articles you post on Twitter. Here are some of my recent comments regarding political delegates.

    When are we going to recognize that political parties have no place in the law? They’re just an association of people engaged in a particular activity that became the self-appointed intermediary wedged between the people and THEIR government. They limit participants and obstruct competition. Robert Reich, et al, now wants the Democratic Party to give Senator Sanders the delegates he’s “due.” This is nonsense.

    You may have seen Lawrence Lessig’s article in The Washington Post on Feb. 11th: “Don’t Follow in Barack Obama’s Footsteps.” This is my posted comment:

    C. Davison
    7:12 AM PST
    Professor Lessig has experienced the gauntlet of campaign financing trials, but he has consistently overlooked one alternative that is certifiably legal: taxation. Jurisdiction for taxation and elections lies in the U.S. Congress. The good news is that many members of Congress are so fed up with the demands of fundraising that they may be receptive to freedom from their unwarranted fidelity to Grover Norquist or secretive Super-PACS.

    George Washington hated political parties because he recognized that they would concentrate power in the few. American voters defaulted when we let others fund campaigns. Now we resent that “our” legislators are beholden to those funders. What did you expect? Funders got what they paid for.

    A mere $7.00 per year per individual SSN IRS tax filer accumulates over $4 billion in a four-year federal election cycle. Registered Voters for each jurisdiction decide which candidates may use our money. After the $5,000 FEC enrollment fee, candidates do no more fundraising. They do submit monthly expense reports that demonstrate proficiency in managing public funds, something we haven’t seen in some time. Would Registered Voters who paid and participated in the program vote for the billionaire’s front-man?

    Is your government worth $7.00 a year to you? Please consider http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com, @thefairelection.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s appropriate time to make a few plans for the long run and
    it is time to be happy. I have learn this publish and if I may just
    I want to suggest you few interesting issues or suggestions.
    Perhaps you can write subsequent articles relating to this
    article. I want to learn even more things approximately it!

    Like

    • All suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!

      Like

    • All suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!

      Like

    • Claudia Davison permalink

      Jimmy: The system is inherently unfair. Nominee selection is one element in my proposal to repair the existing political system. It’s part of a more extensive e-mail to other reformers:

      “As George Washington anticipated, political parties are just private clubs that have wedged themselves between the People and their government. They enact laws that obstruct competition, isolate disfavored people, empower themselves, and enrich their campaign funders. The current much-publicized “elections” are a public subsidy for the selection of political party delegates who will select candidates that represent the parties, not necessarily, or likely, the People. The ’70’s FEC $3.00 donation to Presidential campaigns and political party conventions facilitated that takeover. Donors had no idea whose money they were supplementing. Thereafter, public subsidies to businesses increased as the wealth and influence of most citizens declined. That is why I am opposed to more “matching” plans.

      “Some suggest campaigns dependent upon small donations. That is 1) insufficient, 2) unpredictable, 3) anonymous, 4) perpetual fundraising, and 5) doesn’t expand citizens’ choices. Vouchers must be funded and may be useless if a voter can’t reinforce their financial investment with an actual vote for their preferred candidate where closed primaries or “top two” general elections act as a restraint on Free Speech. Without funding, a tax credit will generate a “rob Peter to pay Paul” problem. Proper usage of the credit must be verified, and I’d expect the Fed to resist a substantial reduction in its IRS income tax revenue.

      “It is not my place to propose how Americans may reshape their country. This gratis effort is to give candidates and voters a viable, independent voice in their governance. Legislators fed up with fundraising may also want to free themselves from fealty to special interests.”

      see http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com . @thefairelection I haven’t yet learned how to do groups or editing, but more is at http://www.occupy.com/node/24/submission/25896 .

      >

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: