Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Democratic Party process balances out all the weirdness

UPDATE:  As I noted here March 23 in the post The undemocratic Democratic Party caucus system - outdated and unfair the various state Democratic Party Caucus systems, and particularly that of Washington State, are inherently undemocratic, a fact that encourages demagogues. A peculiarity in Washington State, however, is that the state holds a primary election. As noted by The Atlantic today in An Awkward Reality in the Democratic Primary:
Washington voters delivered a bit of bad news for Bernie Sanders’s political revolution on Tuesday. Hillary Clinton won the state’s Democratic primary, symbolically reversing the outcome of the state’s Democratic caucus in March where Sanders prevailed as the victor. The primary result won’t count for much since delegates have already been awarded based on the caucus. (Sanders won 74 delegates, while Clinton won only 27.) But Clinton’s victory nevertheless puts Sanders in an awkward position.

Sanders has styled himself as a populist candidate intent on giving a voice to voters in a political system in which, as he describes it, party elites and wealthy special-interest groups exert too much control. As the primary election nears its end, Sanders has railed against Democratic leaders for unfairly intervening in the process, a claim he made in the aftermath of the contentious Nevada Democratic convention earlier this month. He has also criticized superdelegates—elected officials and party leaders who can support whichever candidate they chose—for effectively coronating Clinton.

As Sanders makes those arguments, he runs up against a few inconvenient realities. He trails Clinton in the popular-vote count and has performed well in caucuses, which consistently witness depressed voter turnout relative to primary elections. What happened in Washington is a painful reminder of this for the campaign: Far more voters took part in Washington’s Democratic primary than its state caucus, preliminary counts indicate.
In fact, here is what the comparison looks like:

The reality is that the majority of Democratic voters of Washington State would, if given the chance, nominate Hillary Clinton. But a bunch of  "independent" voters who had the right Saturday free gave 73% of the delegates to the appealing demagogue Bernie Sanders.

In a democratic system, Hillary should be getting about 36 more delegates from Washington State.

It's clear that the caucuses are a "weirdness" in the system that should be eliminated. And until the various "weirdnesses" are eliminated, the so-called Superdelegates should be continued to balance things out.

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Bernie Sanders did not win Oregon nor did Hillary Clinton win Kentucky. Bernie won more elected delegates than Hillary in Oregon, Hillary won more elected delegates in Kentucky than Bernie. In thinking about the Democratic Party nomination process, you have to understand that nobody wins or loses a state, they win or don't win some delegates.

Caucuses, primaries, - open, closed, modified - PLEO's (Superdelegates), unpledged, pledged, statewide, Congressional District - it's all very complicated, like life. Here's how the California Democratic Party explains it:

Click on the image to see a larger version!

And yet, the constantly complaining Bernie Sanders campaign notwithstanding, this system seems to turn out to be pretty "small-d" democratic despite its systemic weirdness. Here's an analysis of the voters ballots cast and Convention delegate status from the states that have held their contests as of today:

Click on the image to see a larger version!

For whatever reason "Superdelegate" is a wrongly pejorative term that arose in the 1970's to describe the Party Leaders and Elected Official (PLEO) delegates who attend and vote in that national party convention. The Democratic Party established the PLEO delegate system partly in response to the 1972 nomination of George McGovern. Handicapped by limited support from his own party "down ticket" candidates and the fact that many voters viewed him as a left-wing extremist, in the General Election McGovern won only one state and had only 37.5% of the popular vote against Richard Nixon.

Most current PLEO delegates hold "down ticket" elected positions. Their reelection is somewhat dependent upon having an effective Presidential candidate or President. Most of them collectively in Congress and state offices determine what government policies get adopted which makes the success of the Presidency dependent upon them. As delegates they are free to cast their Convention vote for the candidate they feel will provide strong "down ticket" support and will support policies the voters elected them to put in place.

Understand that unlike the press, in the chart I don't include in the number of total delegates for a candidate the PLEO delegates from states that haven't held their primaries or caucuses. The fact is that if the results of the June primary in New Mexico showed 95% of the voters were for Sanders, in the Convention those 6 PLEO delegates who so far have indicated support for Hillary Clinton would not vote for her. The system encourages the press to engage in too much speculation.

The chart does include in the "All Delegates" numbers the PLEO delegates from states that have held their primaries or caucuses (though they still could change their minds).

Here's what the chart tells us as of today.

Hillary Clinton has won 55.6% of the votes of those voters participating in the caucuses and primaries, Bernie Sanders 42.7%.

Because of the distortion of the caucuses, Hillary only has 54.1% of the elected delegates or 1.5% too few. But when the PLEO delegates from all the states that have held contests to date are factored in, Clinton has 56.8% of all the delegates or 1.2% too many.

At this point in time, from the states that have held contests to date Hillary Clinton has 49 fewer elected delegates than her share of the votes cast should have given her. This is offset by the PLEO delegates from the states that have held contests, delegates who have indicated they will vote for Clinton which raises the total to 47 too many for Clinton.

The numbers "49 too few "and "47 too many" are not statistically significant to be calling the process "small-d" undemocratic, but it is important to know why these numbers exist.

The too few elected delegates for Clinton is because of the distorting results of 13 caucus states of which 10 were won by Sanders.  An average of 11.2% of the voters who voted for Obama in 2012 participated in those caucuses as compared to 53.3% in the primaries. In looking for "small-d" democratic values, the caucuses are generally undemocratic. But political parties are private organizations and some states refuse to sanction or pay for their operating processes such as holding primary elections. Caucuses were a traditional way to nominate candidates to run for multiple offices in a state General Election and are still used.

The too many total delegates for Clinton is because the Clinton is viewed by "down ticket" elected officials as likely to help them get elected while Sanders is too "left" for many constituencies and has not provided significant election financial help to others. In looking for "small-d" democratic values, the PLEO delegates are generally undemocratic. But political parties are private organizations that have much broader concerns than just electing a member to be President.

This year the two "undemocratic" elements of the Presidential nomination process which are the results of complex decisions made within the Democratic Party tend to balance each other out.

If you are a losing candidate, a time-honored tradition is to whine about the system. But most certainly this year it is working.

It is also a time-honored tradition that the losing candidates have their delegates cast their ballots for the winning candidate in the final Convention vote as a show of unity and support.

Right now Bernie Sanders would have to get 99.6% of the delegates from the states and territories that will hold their primaries or caucuses in June. Absent some unexpected event, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee as the result of a process that is "small-d" democratic, more or less.

Hopefully, Sanders delegates, as members of the "big-D" Democratic Party, will cast their ballots for Clinton in the final Convention vote as a show of unity and support.

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