Monday, October 17, 2016

Insurgencies in the 2016 Presidential Election

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders launched insurgent political campaigns against their respective political parties; Trump against the RNC and Sanders against the DNC. Trump won, and Bernie lost. Trump won because, quite simply, the rules of the Republican Party were "democratic." Bernie lost because the rules of the Democratic Party were not.

Now in both cases, one could argue that the reason things are where they are is more nuanced than that. Okay, but understand this; the GOP and the Democratic Party are non-governmental organizations. They write the rules for how nominees for offices up and down the ticket are chosen. If you don't like those rules, tough. Get involved in party politics and change them. Otherwise, you'll have to live by them.

Bernie Sanders' Failed Insurgency

Bernie Sanders, an independent, launched a bid to grab the Democratic Party by the throat and choke the moderate out of it. Sanders called for economic policies specifically targeted at reducing the gap between the top 1% and the other  99% of Americans -- expand social security, make public college tuition free, provide paid family and medical leave and universal health care, increase the minimum wage, implement a youth jobs program, and, with all the money that's left over, institute a trillion dollar program to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure. Sanders had ways to pay for all of this. They all amounted to essentially the same thing -- tax the rich. So, in political terms, Bernie was trying to hijack the Democratic Party and make it a Social Democratic Party.

Conservatives and even moderate democrats, immediately saw Bernie Sanders' objective for what it was -- a redistribution of wealth. Duh! How does one reduce the gap between really, really rich people, and all the rest of us? You take the land from the rich landowners and you parcel it out to poor farmers. Then you watch as your country goes broke and your people go hungry. Hey, it's politics -- hyperbole is de rigueur. In any case, this is the conservative worldview.

There were a lot of young people who resonated with Bernie Sanders' messianic message and his passion, and his powdery snow hair. The problem was, they hadn't really participated in party politics before "feeling the Bern." Because they hadn't 'infiltrated' the party, their revolution was doomed from the beginning. Had they been in leadership positions in the DNC, they could've eliminated or at least reduced the number of superdelegates. Because, as the Pew Research Center has said, " superdelegates are the embodiment of the institutional Democratic Party – everyone from former presidents, congressional leaders and big-money fundraisers to mayors, labor leaders and longtime local party functionaries." These party faithful didn't want an outsider taking over 'their' party and because they'd prepared for just such a contingency, they were able to prevent it.
The Democratic Party's Superdelegates

Donald J Trump's Successful Insurgency

The GOP has many fewer superdelegates than the Democrats -- 250 or 7% vs the Democratic Party's 713 or 15%. In the Republican Party, the only people who get superdelegate status are the three members of each state's national party. The more important distinction, however, as Seth Millstein has pointed out, is that Republican superdelegates do not have the freedom to vote for whichever candidate they please. The RNC ruled in 2015 that their superdelegates must vote for the candidate that their state voted for. In effect, the GOP is more democratic than the Democratic Party. Is this a good thing?

If the GOP had convened in Cleveland with as many superdelegates as the Democratic Party had, and if the rules permitted them to vote their conscience, and assuming they had such, would Donald Trump have emerged as the Republican Nominee? Hopefully, not.

As Jeff Greenfield wrote,

There are some circumstances where the “will of the voters”—often the will of a plurality of voters—may well put the party on the road to a massive political defeat. Further, it may result in the nomination of a candidate who violates the most fundamental beliefs of that party. Or whose temperament and character might put a dangerous, unfit person into the Oval Office. Under those circumstances, the existence of a bloc of superdelegates means the presence of an “emergency brake,” a last chance to avoid disaster. And while it may be “undemocratic” in the narrowest sense of that term, our political system is replete with “undemocratic” elements that have served us very well.

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight now forecasts the chances of Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election as 12.5%. The same poll forecasts that the GOP has a 72% chance of losing the Senate. What happens to the Republican Party after the election depends on what the Republican Party leadership does now. Republicans cannot have their party and let Trump eat it, too.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate must stop fighting this pusillanimous, rearguard action, and launch a frontal attack against the Trump insurgency. If they don't decisively distance themselves now from 'The Donald,' the Grand Old Party will go the way of the 'Know-Nothings,' a fate they will justly deserve. What the American people won't deserve is what may replace the GOP -- a neo-fascist amalgamation of all the worst elements of Donald Trump's constituency.

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