Davis: A rigged political system


This painfully long national primary season has been an eye opener for anyone who thought that their vote actually means something. Your vote means something sometimes but not all of the time, and sometimes your vote has a relation to what is happening in the political arena and sometimes it doesn't.

If you think that sounds confusing, it is. I have been trying to understand how the state party delegate votes relate to the votes by actual voters and it has proven to be a frustrating and relatively fruitless endeavor. The national Democratic and Republican parties make the rules governing how their delegates to the national convention vote and they are not subject to laws. They are controlled by the will of the most powerful within their parties.

Every four years each party holds a convention at which they eventually nominate the person who will represent them in the national election. Most times that is a done deal before the convention and the work of the delegates is to merely give an official stamp of approval to their candidate.

This election year things may be different and that is why the behind the scenes party machinations have become interesting to a lot of members of the voting public. The media has been holding up the number 2,383 as the magic number for Hillary Clinton to lock her party's nomination. When her campaign first started it appeared that she would sail to victory. But then along came Vermont upstart Sen. Bernie Sanders and the applecart was knocked over.

Sanders has turned this process into a contest and, as a result, more people than usual are paying attention to the convoluted process that is used to anoint a candidate. Looking at how things played out in Vermont is instructive.

Sanders received 86 percent of the primary votes and Clinton received 13 percent. That means that Sanders will get 16 convention delegates who will vote for him on the first ballot, reflecting the will of Vermont voters. But wait, there are 10 Vermont super-delegates who can vote for any candidate they like. Three of those super-delegates, Governor Peter Shumlin, former Governor Howard Dean and Senator Patrick Leahy have said they are voting for Hillary Clinton. The electorate be damned.

Dean and Leahy have been questioned about their choice of candidate and have remained steadfast despite the ire of many of their fellow Vermonters who feel that the super-delegates votes should reflect the will of the people. But Shumlin, Dean and Leahy feel they owe more allegiance to the mainstream party stalwarts who want to make sure that Clinton wins the nomination.

It is hard to understand on one level, but in terms of party politics and the stale status quo it makes perfect sense that prominent Vermont politicians would snub a candidate from their own state. Shumlin, Dean and Leahy have been party stalwarts and they would never consider subverting the will of their party. It tells me that their party loyalty is more important than their loyalty to voting Vermonters.

The more you dig into the weeds of this rigged system the more foul smelling the whole process becomes. Clinton has 476 super-delegates committed to her and Sanders has 33. These are people who have decided they will vote for whomever they damn well please despite the will of voters in their states and this is something that needs to change. Don't hold your breath.

If all of this isn't bad enough consider the fact that after the first ballot at the convention, if there is no clear winner, the party can then change all of the rules. No wonder so many Americans have become disgusted with politics and the political process.

One has to wonder what our individual votes really mean. Why can't the voting public be allowed to elect their candidates based on the actual number of votes? Is that too simple?

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net.


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