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Blue-State Bernie and the DNC’s Plutocratic “Victory” Rules

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Hillary Clinton is piecing together a superficially successful campaign on the basis of rotten boroughs in the red former slave states where it is certain that there will not be a single electoral vote cast for a Democrat, plus Superdelegates who have conflicts of interest because they have worked for or been given money by, or are otherwise integrated into the legalized corruption of the Clinton political machine. She has been aided by obvious disinformation about her electability and experience, and other features of a broken presidential run-off system. The money-stream media call this bag of tricks “victory.”

Sanders’ campaign has committed itself, as a consolation prize should it fail to secure the nomination, to make some rules changes at the Convention. Changing the rules should be a condition of participating in the Democratic Convention. Fair rules for nominating a presidential candidate would be an alternative to Philadelphia’s version of 1968 by Millenials saddled with so much debt they were practically born outlaws.   DNC rule changes could determine the presidential candidate by relegating Clinton’s “victories” back to the plutocratic mire where they belong.

The current state-based national run-off system for selecting a president is a hodgepodge of procedures that run the gamut from fair and democratic in some states, like Minnesota which prides itself on clean elections and high turnouts, to easily corruptible and exclusionary in states with low-turnout and unrepresentative results.

Rule changes at the level of the DNC could correct for this original flaw in the lack of minimal national run-off election standards.   Several systemic flaws could be removed by changing Convention rules that are currently designed to tilt the results toward plutocracy.

The reform of DNC rules would address these methods by which plutocrats manipulate a corrupt and venal party to select the least favored and least likely to succeed among two candidates, when one of those two candidates has gained the lead among the general electorate by resolving to overthrow plutocracy.

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Rotten Boroughs

The propagandist mass media is already prepared to concede to Clinton the run-off election to determine who will oppose Donald Trump in November. This is not based on Clinton squeezing out a narrow one pledged delegate victory in the reliably Democratic Massachusetts, but rather on her series of victories in states which for more than a generation have not contributed a single electoral vote to a Democrat who was not resident in the state.

A “rotten borough” is a depopulated election district that retains its original representation though hardly anyone lives there any more. The term was used to describe the English voting system that founders like Thomas Paine rejected as part of the corrupt system that they revolted against. Before the Civil Rights Era, when the Republican and Democratic parties switched positions on Jim Crow, the southern states were well populated with electoral votes for the party of secession and segregation. But starting with Nixon’s opportunistic 1968 Southern Strategy response to the landmark civil rights legislation of the middle 1960’s, and especially after that strategy was further refined by Reagan in 1980 with newly legalized money from plutocrats, there have been effectively no electoral votes for Democrats in the deep South, aside from southern “favorite sons,” Carter and Clinton. Since then, even that tactic has not broken the solid south. In 2000 lame Al Gore couldn’t even borrow an electoral vote from his home state of Tennessee.

Like it or not, Americans select their presidents by an indirect electoral college process specified in the Constitution. You and I don’t vote for president. Electors do. Therefore delegates at nomination conventions are representing electors, for which the rest of us are only proxies, until elections determine those electors.

Most states assign electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. We all know those red states and blue states, where one party has a lock on the electoral votes, and also the few purple states where they do not.   Red and blue states, for purposes of the electoral college, are rotten boroughs for Democrats and Republicans respectively. No blue electors have been found in red states for many years.

Democrats for all practical purposes have exactly zero potential for finding a single electoral vote from all the deepest red states combined. For the last generation, the deep south states of South Carolina, with the Super Tuesday Georgia, Alabama, and Texas have been well-established as deep red. Along with Clintons’ super Tuesday Arkansas and Tennessee, these former slave states are the base on which Clinton is building her supposed (by the plutocratic media) Super Tuesday “major victory” over Sanders giving her “full command” of the race now. In a country that likes to side with winners, this is effective propaganda.

No one explains why delegates from those states should have a vote at the Democratic National Convention when, to a very high degree of certainty based on long experience, all those red-state delegates together will represent not a single vote that will count when the electoral college selects the President. Such red state delegates have been proven by past experience to predictably represent no Democratic constituent in the electoral college, which is the only vote that counts.

It is self-delusion to think that the minority of voters in red states, whose voting strength will predictably be cancelled out by a winner-take-all vote for the electoral college, actually do count for anything. By state law, they do not. Democratic votes in deep red states are no more relevant to the outcome of electing a president than if they were never cast. That is why these states by their own volition constitute a rotten borough. The delusion that they are anything else is based on the false pretense that presidents are elected by the people and denial of the fact they are actually selected by the electoral college whose membership is all that matters. If these southern states want to construct their winner-take-all presidential voting rules (as most states do) to create a Democratic rotten borough, there is nothing at all that requires the blue states to give those rotten boroughs voting rights at their Convention.   The rotten borough contributes no electors and so properly contributes nothing to the decision about the best candidate to produce the number of electors that are necessary to win election.

Rotten boroughs were declared unconstitutional in Baker v Carr, as a violation of the democratic principle of one person one vote. This is often considered one of the great Supreme Court reforms of American democracy. But the rotten borough system lives on in the Democratic Party to dilute the influence of a state like Minnesota at the nominating Convention.

A DNC rule change could very simply abolish this undemocratic, and questionably constitutional, practice. The rule change would discount the votes of rotten borough states on the basis of their historic failure to make a proportionately representative contribution to the Democratic membership of the electoral college. Irrelevant voters who are insufficient in number to support such an elector should not be given power to cancel the voting strength of delegates from states that do reliably send electors to the college. This would end the pretense that, since a nominating Convention necessarily precedes an election, blue state delegates should pretend that red state delegates represent anything but a rotten borough emptied of any remotely potential Democratic electors.

Drafting and enforcing such a rule is simple. The voting strength of red states will be cut by 40% if the state produced no electoral votes in the previous election. The previous election provides the most relevant evidence whether any potential electors are resident there. This weighted voting strength would be reduced a further 15% per election where no electors show up, for a full generation back in time. Voting strength goes to zero if a state has contributed no Democratic electoral vote in the last 20 years – more than the lifetime of the youngest born-bankrupt Millenials. The missing person statute of limitations would thus run on any continuing pretense that prospectives electors are likely to show up in a rotten borough state, therefore must be represented at the next Convention.   This describes the situation with every deep red state named above that Clinton won.   The DNC should stop the pretense Clinton won anything by stripping voting rights from delegates representing these rotten boroughs.

In a democratically organized primary system her “big victory” would thus add up to zero delegates, and she would be concentrating her triumphal celebrations on that one delegate victory in Massachusetts.

To repeat, when the only rational conclusion is that no Democratic electors live in a state, since they have not shown up at the electoral college for a generation, then that state should have no voting delegates at the Convention. Giving voting power for non-existent electors only serves to unfairly dilute the voting power of those states where Democratic electors have resided and voted for more than a generation, or two, like Minnesota.

To give delegates votes where they represent no electors is no different than enfranchising a rotten borough. Aside from being inherently undemocratic, rotten boroughs have always been more prone to corruption and manipulation.

Exclusionary primaries

A principal means by which corrupt political parties rig elections is by keeping tight monopoly control over their ballot access privilege. The United States, more than virtually any other country in the world, is a two party system which structurally marginalizes third parties to the point of irrelevance, or worse. Control over one of the two ballot slots conveys very valuable duopoly political power. This gives rise to a multiplicity of means by which political parties rig primary elections, mainly for the purpose of excluding the participation of independents. In this way the duopoly can consistently provide two bad choices for general election voters, as evidenced by typically American low voter turnout.

Sanders consistently wins the support of Independent voters in exit and other polls. Independents are 40% of the electorate compared to Democrats who barely reach 30%, a number that will likely continue to decline as the party’s election rigging techniques become even more visible this year. Independent voters determine the outcome of general elections. If they get turned off the Democratic Party due to its transparent election rigging, the Democrats will lose in November to Trump who at least keeps a straight face when pretending to be a post-plutocracy plutocrat. Since Independents determine presidential elections, factoring their choices into the run-off process is essential to victory, as it is to Trumps’.

Different approaches to primary elections range from, say, Minnesota’s, which has an entirely open process requiring little more than future voter eligibility and a signature to participate, to a state like Massachusetts which is not so open, to states like New York that are closed. In Minnesota, a solid blue state that has consistently contributed all its electoral votes to Democrats for the two generations since 1976, Sanders accordingly defeated Clinton with a landslide 63-36% on Super Tuesday with a record turnout second only to 2008. This was comparable to Sanders’ landslide in his neighboring New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, by contrast, Sanders ran almost even.   The Super Tuesday states ranged across this spectrum from open to closed, giving their results variable validity in representing the actual preferences of general election voters.

The DNC cannot by itself change this variable discrimination in different states against Independent voters. It was unsuccessful in trying ad hoc discipline of state primary practices in Michigan and Florida in 2008. Discrimination against voters that the party will need to win the general election is usually rooted in state laws which the corrupt parties have created for their own duopolistic benefits. But the DNC rules committee could immediately ameliorate this problem with a rule change demonstrating its commitment to a democratic run-off process. The rule change would compensate for this bias by making an adjustment in delegate voting strength.

Comparable to the proposed remedy for the rotten borough problem, such a rule would handicap each states’ procedures on the spectrum from open to closed. The adjustment would deduct voting strength to the extent a state party chooses to distort voter preferences so as to misstate the relative prospects of different candidates in the general election. Voting delegate strength at the Convention would be adjusted to favor the voting strength of delegates selected by open primary voting over those selected by closed primary voting. This adjustment would attempt to approximate the likely Democratic general election voters’ actual choice for a nominee.

Why should a tightly controlled primary that deliberately misrepresents the actual preferences of voters have the same weight of say, Minnesota, which seeks to allow everyone interested to participate, and thereby more reliably contributes to Democratic electoral votes year in and year out?

Failing to make this rule change would continue to condone election rigging by excluding or deterring the 40% of Independents from helping to build a winning coalition by participating in the run-off process. Manipulating the process to privilege a plutocratic nominee is not a winning strategy in an election year when such political corruption and rigging of the system is foremost in many voters’ minds, especially of the Independents who will decide its outcome.

Disinformation 

Virginia is the only state that is not a deep red state where Clinton has crushed Sanders, nearly two to one, as Sanders crushed Clinton in the blue state of Minnesota by 24% and in the purplish state of New Hampshire by about the same margin. Virginia was previously a red state along with the other former slave states upon which Clinton has built her “major victory.” Virginia shifted to Obama in 2008 and 2012.   It can now be called a purple state on its way to claiming blue status, if the trend continues.

Washington Post exit polls of Virginia voters raise another issue that is more difficult to solve than the other rule changes discussed here. This issue no doubt also affects Clinton’s other delegates, especially from red states where reliable information about national Democratic politics is far more scarce than in blue states. Delegates from the red states would be eliminated by the above “rotten borough” rule change in any event. So the analysis in this section will focus solely on Virginia.

The Virginia exit polls tell us that the 52% of Dem primary voters who expressed a preference for a candidate who “Can win in November” or one who “Has right experience” overwhelmingly voted for Clinton. Meanwhile the 47% of voters who prefer a candidate who “Cares about people like me” or who is “Honest and trustworthy” tend to prefer Sanders by lesser, though still respectable, majorities (56% and 78%, respectively).

One must ask whether the experience of Clinton which is preferred by these voters is that of selling US foreign policy for the benefit of the Clinton Foundation as described by Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash (2015), or the experience of defending herself against an FBI investigation for national security breaches that may or may not be related, or Clinton’s destabilization and warmongering for weapons manufacturers who pay her as described in Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015).

When fending off the accusation that her most significant experience has been in service of the plutocratic Establishment, Clinton admitted Sanders’ superior experience: “He’s been in Congress, he’s been elected to office a lot longer than I have.”   The non-sequitur that experience in office could be considered interchangeable with being a plutocrat is beside the point of her acknowledgment of Sanders’ superior elected experience. Clinton is not even close to Sanders’ long-term experience in public service, including executive experience. This experience advantage relied upon by Clinton’s voters becomes very ephemeral as soon as one tries to pin it down to specific successful experience as opposed to the “blur” of borderline criminality. Clinton Cash 101.

As to the second issue of Clinton voters’ preference for winning in November, every poll since December has shown Sanders defeating every Republican with much higher margins than Clinton, who some polls show actually losing such match-ups. This widespread misperception as to electability, which motivates many Clinton voters, flies in the face of known fact.

Can anything be done about such Democratic voter ignorance on these two themes? It is primarily the consequence of pervasive mass media propaganda which is bought one way or another by plutocrats for their favored candidate. Propaganda cannot be regulated without enacting laws that the Scalia Supreme Court would have ruled unconstitutional. Cf. Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. ___ (2014).

There is an alternative solution which could be applied by a DNC rule change. This proposed change proceeds from an observation about the logic of holding extremely expensive conventions attended by voting delegates from all over the country to determine a nominee, rather than just performing an audit of primary results and tallying them up to determine the nominee. Behind this delegate convention practice is the notion that the delegates are supposed to exercise some form of judgment in selecting a nominee, comparable to elected politicians when performing their delegated duties. Absent that concept, the PR Convention extravaganza could be held on its own, without the pretense of a nomination taking place just to add up votes.

A way for the delegates to exercise their judgment in a way that would add value to the underlying math of the democratic process, so the process can become more than the sum of its parts, would be to expose the delegates to objective relevant reality as a prerequisite to their exercising their discretion on who to nominate. A rule change could introduce a citizens jury process for the national conventions. This is a known technique to overcome the impact of propaganda on public discussion, in the same way that trial jurors make decisions based on an evidentiary process designed to uncover truth, rather than implement jurors’ preconceived biases.

By overcoming the effect of propaganda, exposure to some objective facts about the candidates would only improve the nomination process. This is an innovative idea, of course. But is there a better way to counteract propaganda, other than banning it which is unlikely in any near future? Before the delegates go ahead and commit party-suicide by nominating Hillary Clinton, should they not at least be exposed to a presentation by a neutral pollster on the consistent findings that Sanders is more likely to win in November as well as an honest neutral statement of the two candidates’ thoroughly vetted resumes detailing their actual experience and successes? No moderate sized company would hire a CEO without such due diligence. Is it too much to expect the same from the doorkeepers to the most powerful executive office in the world?

A formal vetting by professionals of a candidate’s resume for claimed experience could be subject to objective standards equally applicable to both candidates. Reporting on polling results can be objectively critiqued. The other two criteria, “Cares about people like me” or is “Honest and trustworthy” are not much susceptible to objective inquiry, barring a John Oliver-style body-slam in extreme cases.

Conflicted Super Delegates and RBC Members

The final problem requires a simple traditional rule to guard against straightforward conflict of interest corruption in the nomination process. To use Minnesota as an example again, its congressional delegation Superdelegates all support Clinton except for Keith Ellison who has endorsed Sanders. Yet their constituents overwhelmingly support Sanders. There is something wrong here.

One solution is a rule binding all super delegates to vote the way their constituents have indicated. This, in effect, would get rid of the Superdelegate remnant of the old party-boss system that the Democratic Party used to select its presidential candidates until it selected Hubert Humphrey in 1968 notwithstanding the fact he had not won a single primary. The Party went into a tailspin from which it never really recovered, due in part to the long term corrupting influence of Nixon’s judicial appointments.

Short of scrapping the Superdelegate practice, those Superdelegates who have a conflict of interest as a result of receiving money or other substantial benefit from a candidate should at least be subject to robust enforcement of recusal rules, both in the Convention and on the important Rules and By-Laws Committee (RBC).

It is the RBC which would decide upon the four rules suggested here. If the RBC were motivated to facilitate a democratically determined nomination that would win in November, rather than one distorted by conflicts of interest to support the worst candidate, they would adopt these rules.

Just one example of a clearly conflicted member of the RBC is Harold M. Ickes, a long-time Clinton advisor and a senior advisor to the independent Ready for Hillary super PAC. Ickes should not be a voting member of any rules committee proceedings that would affect the Clintons. Ickes was known as Bill Clinton’s “garbage man” for running interference on Clintonian corruption. Yet there he sits on the RBC prepared for further duty. When he rejoined the Rules and Bylaws Committee, at least one longtime Democratic strategist raised her eyebrows. Said Donna Brazile, a fellow member of the rules committee: “He predated the Clinton era, but when I saw Harold reappointed to the D.N.C., he surely, in my judgment, symbolizes the return of the Clintons.”   This is the kind of corrupt conflict of interest currently allowed to contaminate a committee that is supposed to make rules designed to fairly yield the best, most democratic and potentially successful choice, not the choice of those favored by obviously conflicted interests and their hopes of sharing in further spoils.

In response to just such overt Democratic Party corruption the Republican National Committee Chairman has publicized his party’s rejection of the undemocratic practice of Superdelegates. He could accurately claim his Party to be “unlike on the Democratic side where they have Superdelegates and could give a darn about what the grassroots are telling the party. That’s not how we operate our party on our side.”

This idea that the Republican Party is more democratic and less corrupt than the Democratic Party apparatus will make a powerful message to Independents looking for the least corrupt party in 2016.

 

(The original version of this article was published by Egberto.)

 

Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.

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