A Question of Loyalty

Chris Matthews had a Sanders campaign grandee on last night, and directly raised the question of the legitimacy of the Democratic Party nominating process. In the response, the outlines of Sanders’s charge against the party were apparent. Phrasing them as questions, we have:

  • Sanders polls better against Trump than does Clinton, so given the fact that Sanders has momentum going into the convention, why doesn’t the party prefer him as their presidential candidate?
  • Sanders polls better among young people. How can the super-delegates ignore that constituency, the future of their party?
  • Sanders polls better among independents, and independents are a growing part of the American electorate. How can the party ignore those voices?

The conclusion drawn starkly by the Sanders grandee was that the preference for Clinton was evidence of old-fogey prejudice.

Matthews was sympathetic, not necessarily to the charge that the party had been unfair to Sanders, but to the goal of making the nominating process more a reflection of the will of the voters. So the question is: do super-delegates represent the will of the voters? On the face of it, the answer is “No!” Sanders has the support of a far smaller percentage of super-delegates than is reflecting in the overall campaign standings.

But to be fair, you have to ask “Which voters?” The voters that were able to show up for a ten-hour caucus, a requirement that biases against the working poor? Superdelegates are not a random collection. They are party “big-wigs” – often candidates elected to state or national office. They were selected by the voters in an actual election. Many have held office over the long term, and so can be considered to have faithfully implemented the will of the voters. Is including the voice of the larger electorate (which includes independents, obviously) through super-delegates truly a form of bias, or a means of including those that cannot participate in a primary?

Sanders also needs to recognize that his success in influencing that national debate was dependent in large part upon the existence of the party. Without it, there would be no persistent voice to counter the irrational and self-serving ranting of the Republican big-money donors. Isn’t it the job of the Democratic Party to represent the will of those that choose the Democratic Party? Sanders, as an independent, sees a vote as a vote. But this is a nominating process for a general election, not the general election itself. If independents really wanted permanent influence in the formation of national policy, they’d form or join a party. Why should they be allowed to come in and pirate the institution nurtured for more than a century with the time, money and passion invested by actual Democrats?

Get a clue, independents: the Democratic Party is the Democratic Party. It represents Democrats.

As a Democrat, my counter to the charge of bias by the Sanders campaign would run like this:

  • If Sanders is so popular among self-proclaimed independents, shouldn’t his campaign motivate more of them to register as Democrats?
  • Why shouldn’t the voice of the working poor be heard in the primary process through the institution of the super-delegate?

And there is a last point, not so fundamentally democratic: our Constitution enshrines a bicameral legislature: a House that represents the will of the people, and a Senate that represents the voice of experience. I see a similar structure in the Democratic nominating process, with the passion of the voters leavened by the seasoned voices of the super delegates. These are people that know how to get things done. They are office-holders that need to be led into the future by the President, and that must support the President if the party’s platform is to have any chance at implementation.

The unanimity of the super delegate support for Clinton indicates that the Democratic Party’s elected office-holders trust Clinton. They have seen her under fire, and admire her tenacity and principle. They have campaigned with her, and trust her commitment to Democratic principles. Clinton has earned their loyalty.

The Sanders campaign, echoing the hippies, characterizes this loyalty as “the Establishment” that must be overthrown by revolution. That is not only uncharitable, but actually, in undermining faith in the Democratic Party, threatens the party’s survival.

As a man that campaigned against the party for more than thirty years, however, you wouldn’t expect Sanders to care.

About Superdelegates

So the news is out that Bernie Sander’s supporters, who won the New Hampshire primaries by 22% but collected only a split on the delegates, want super delegates to conform to the popular vote.

Super delegates are Democratic Party members who have worked over many years to create the infrastructure that the Socialist from Vermont is using to fuel his presidential candidacy. They exist to prevent hot-heads and late-comers from hijacking that infrastructure to undermine the Party’s principles.

So, Sanders supporters, if you want to amend the rules to facilitate an outsider’s candidacy, I suggest that you start your own party. Otherwise, dig in for the long haul and vote Democratic – not just when a fashionable Messiah shows up that you abandon when he can’t deliver against your unreasonable expectations.

As occurred with Obama in 2010, a debacle that we’re going to spend decades digging out from under.

Be a Mom, Hillary

“You know, Senator Sanders, my biggest concern for you is that if you win office, the same thing will happen to you that happened to President Obama. You make promises that you can’t keep to a young sector of the electorate. When President Obama did that, he stepped into the White House with every intention of delivering on his promises. He fought every day of his two terms to accomplish them, investing the energy of his Cabinet in determining what leeway there was to take executive action when the Congress refused to act on climate change and fair pay, and using his veto to frustrate Boehner and McConnell in their attempts to claw back our gains in health care, social justice and taxation.

“But despite all of his efforts – and I believe that history will show that Barack has been one of the great American presidents – when the chips were down in 2010, the people that elected him chose to stay home. Rather than doubling down for President Obama, they handed control of the House, Senate and many state legislatures to a party that has gerrymandered to protect their tenure, that has attacked public and private sector unions to drive down wages, that delayed action on global warming in service to private oil interests, and that held the entire government hostage to secure tax breaks for their wealthy taskmasters.

“You talk about moneyed interests and their power in politics, but the fact remains that President Obama was elected twice against those interests. The American system with its voter protection laws makes it extremely difficult for an informed and active electorate to be cheated of their rights. What my experience with President Obama has shown to me is that your youthful supporters need to get out and vote. They need to walk out of the factories and restaurants and schools on election day and support those that fight for them.

“Senator Sanders, we have fought for the people of America for decades. You describe that as a struggle against moneyed interests, while I highlight the goal of empowering each person. But we can’t do it alone. The American people need to support us in turn. The key to accomplishing our shared goals is not to whip them up in anger, because that hot emotion will just turn to frustration as the road gets steeper. The American people need to make a strong and reasoned commitment to stay the course. They need the wisdom and understanding to confront injustice themselves in city halls and state houses across the nation. But most of all, they need to make their voices heard on election day!”