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Hullabaloo


Saturday, April 09, 2016

 

Those corrupt delegates

by Tom Sullivan

Did the 37 states that entered the union after it ratified its constitution become part of a corrupt system?

I ask because two of the biggest brands in the current race for president offer different versions of "purity." Both offer themselves as outsiders untainted by party corruption. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders sell themselves as immune from being bought by big-money interests. Trump because he has billions of his own and Sanders because, you know, $27 and no super PAC. Both offer themselves as political outsiders, although Trump has the better claim to that. Sanders, the independent who has been in Congress since 1991, offers himself as an alternative to party Democrats.

But a recent story about Trump illustrates the downside of that outsider status when mounting a revolt against the status quo. Trump was flummoxed upon learning that despite beating Ted Cruz in Louisiana, Cruz might come out with more delegates.

Here's the crux of it:

Kay Kellogg Katz, a former Louisiana state legislator and Trump supporter who has attended every GOP convention since 1984, told the Wall Street Journal that Cruz’s team out-organized Trump’s. Katz lost her delegate position on a key Republican National Committee Convention panel in a 22-5 vote to political new comer and Cruz supporter Kim Fralick…

Five of the state’s delegates, who were formerly supporting Sen. Marco Rubio are now likely to support Cruz, Louisiana Republicans believe. Additionally, a GOP official told WSJ that the state’s five unbound delegates — who are free to back the candidates of their choice — are likely to back Cruz over Trump.

Following the Louisiana primary, delegates met at a March 12 meeting to decide who would represent the state committee on three key convention committees — rules, credentials and the party platform. The majority of the delegates elected two members to each panel that day. Cruz delegates managed to fill up five of the six available posts.
While Trump was out boasting about winning votes, Team Cruz was lining up delegates. "I’m almost amused when Donald doesn’t know what to do and threatens a lawsuit,” Cruz said. "It's very unfair," says Trump, leading in a process he doesn't understand. Sanders is behind in a process many of his supporters don't understand. Both are crying foul. To those attracted to purity, not understanding how the system works is proof the system is corrupt and that dark forces are allied against them:
While Trump cries foul, Cruz is racking up support from prospective delegates across the country, even in states where Trump dominated the primary. From Louisiana to Georgia to South Carolina — all Trump victories — delegates and delegate candidates are lining up to back Cruz, who’s romped among the Republican activist class that tends to control this part of the process. South Dakota’s delegates and early contests in Iowa also appear to favor Cruz.

“I've been telling the Trump campaign for eight months now that they're making a mistake by not reaching out to [Republican National Committee] members to establish relationships,” said one South Carolina Republican participating in the state’s delegate selection process. “He hasn't done any of that. ... That's usually the kind of thing that presidential candidates do.”

None of this matters much if Trump grabs the 1,237 pledged delegates he’d likely need to win a majority vote on the convention’s first ballot. But if he doesn’t, the convention could go to further rounds of voting where many delegates are free to vote for a candidate of their choosing — and that’s where Trump could run into trouble.
After visiting Washington, D.C. to take Delegate 101 with Reince Priebus, Trump finally hired an experienced delegate manager. Trump knows how to win, remember.

There is a piece from Counterpunch circulating that alleges Hillary Clinton is "buying" Super Delegates who are "defying democracy with their insistent refusal to change their votes to Sanders in spite of a handful of overwhelming Clinton primary losses in their own states." The fact that Clinton is involved in her fourth national campaign (two with her husband and now her second) and her team knows the delegate process inside out proves to some Sanders supporters who (like Trump) don't understand the rules that rules are being broken and that the process is hopelessly corrupt.

Which brings us to Martin Longman's piece at Washington Monthly about the "disconnect between the system as it exists and the people’s expectations for how things ought to be in a sensible and fair world." In "Want a Revolution? Join a Party," he writes:
But delegates are really just like our elected representatives in Congress. Our senators and congressmen are elected by us, but we don’t control their votes once they get to Washington DC. They might promise to vote against a free trade agreement and then be persuaded to support it once they have the opportunity to sit in hearings, question witnesses, introduce and pass amendments that satisfy their concerns, or just get corrupted by big money and lobbyists. We vote for people to represent us, and if we don’t like how we’re represented, we get to vote against them when they stand for reelection. That’s our system.

Delegates to the party conventions are also our representatives, and in states like Pennsylvania, we elect them directly. They may be pledged to vote for Trump or they may not be pledged to anyone. When they get to the convention, some of them will be designated by the whole state delegation to serve on committees where they will craft the platform and set forth the rules that will govern the nomination. We’re electing these people to do these jobs for us, and there’s nothing wrong with that. At least in theory, the only people voting for these delegates will be members of either the Republican or the Democratic Party, and they have a right to expect that members of their party will craft the platform, not independents who have no commitment or skin in the game.
But that's exactly what once-every-four-years voters object to once a candidate comes along that makes them sit up and take notice. Suddenly they want to re-write the rules for organizations they otherwise have no use for. And it's like sitting down at a chess board for the first time in years facing someone who knows the game inside out. Your lack of skill is not proof of their cheating or that the game is rigged. It just seems that way when they hand you your ass.

Longman remarks that the way the press covers these races doesn't help. Eugene Robinson (IIRC) said as much during MSNBC's coverage of Wisconsin's primary. People don't understand that parties in each state run their selection processes differently, and the press is too focused on who is ahead in the horse race to explain the Racing Rules and Regulations:
Think about what it means that Trump can win every delegate in Florida by getting one more vote than the guy in second place, but can get fewer delegates than Cruz in Louisiana despite getting more votes. Why did they split votes proprotionately[sic] in one state, give a big bonus for winning in another, make another winner-take-all, and have another bind only 14 of the 71 available delegates? There absolutely no sense of one-person one-vote in that. But people think their vote should be treated that way.
Longman concludes:
In a general election, the principle of one-person one-vote is vitally important, but that principle doesn’t apply to parties picking their nominees, nor should it. If you want to be an independent, you really shouldn’t complain about what some party you don’t even belong to wants to do. If you want to have a real say, you should do the things that will give you some say, not just sit around bitching that people win nominations in a way that displeases you.

It’s not corrupt that committed party members tend to be the people who run to be delegates, nor that committed party members have a preference for candidates who support their party, work to make it stronger, and generally share its priorities and goals.

If you want a revolution, you have to do it on the ground within the party system, and you have to know how it works.
Or start a real revolution or yet another third party. To experienced hands who understand this stuff, this is obvious. To novices, it's ominous.

Getting back to the original question: Did the 37 states that entered the union after it ratified its constitution become part of a corrupt system?

Sen. Bernie Sanders is from Vermont which gets one U.S. Senator for every 300,000 people. I live in North Carolina where we get one U.S. Senator for every 5,000,000 people. Is that unfair? Perhaps. Is it corrupt?