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Bernman v Superdelegates: Dawn of Elections

bernmanvsuperdelegatesSo I have some thoughts about superdelegates… If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m kind of an election junkie. I love politics. I find them fascinating. You remember how much you hated social studies in school and how your eyes glazed over when you got p that all the civics bullshit? Not me. I loved it. Because, I’m that kid. That’s probably why I ended up deciding to be Judge of Elections for my polling district (29-8 represent!). That’s right, I’m a politics nerd.

So when I see random political discussions about the election on Facebook and such, I just can’t help jumping in. It’s not so much that I’m trying to shut people down. I’m not even trying to change their minds. My politics are crazy. I get that. I don’t expect anyone to think like me. But I get excited. Most of what excites me these days are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The best thing about the two of them is that, love them or hate them, they have done an absolutely amazing job of getting people interested in the election this season. No matter what their ideas and politics and stances are, the best thing about Bernie and the Donald is that they’ve gotten new people, particularly millennials, invested in the election like no one before them (not even Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who were both amazing at it). Unfortunately, the worst thing about Bernie and the Donald is that they’ve gotten NEW people, particularly millennials, invested in the election like no one before them.

Seriously, this is a very good thing. But there are a lot of problems with it. The one that I keep running into most recently is people misunderstanding the superdelegate system. I’ve tried to explain it about a billion times on people’s random Facebook threads in the last few weeks and I finally decided that I should just write about it on my own blog.

First, let me get one thing straight. I like Bernie Sanders. I like Bernie Sanders a lot, actually. Of the five remaining candidates vying for the nomination of the two major parties, he is totally my favorite. I would love single payer healthcare. I would love free college. I don’t think he’s perfect; actually he’s too damn conservative for my tastes (to be fair, I’m basically an anarchist). He has a couple policy ideas I don’t necessary agree with, his foreign policy experience is… well… not there… and he has too simplistic a worldview on a few other issues that are way more complicated than he likes to pretend they are. But I like him. A lot. He’s the kinda guy that I might vote for. But this isn’t about who I like or who I want to be president. This is about a fundamental misunderstanding of the system.

Now that that’s out of the way, a great number of his supporters completely misunderstand how and why he is losing. Part of that is that the system is confusing. Part of that is deliberate misinformation on his part (and that’s not a bad thing. The man is trying to win an election). But the short form is NO, SUPERDELEGATES ARE NOT STEALING THE ELECTION FROM HIM! Stop saying that. It’s simply not true. It MIGHT be true later (and maybe it should be, more on that in a bit) but it isn’t true right now. Every time you say it, you sound like a whining child who isn’t getting his way. It makes you sound like you don’t understand what you’re talking about to the establishment voters WHO YOU ACTUALLY NEED to convince that Bernie is a better choice, and they take you less and less seriously.

Furthermore, it is not the case (as I got into an argument with someone earlier) that superdelegates don’t normally declare by this time or that they aren’t normally acknowledged by the media. By the end of March 2008, 293 out 825.5 (it was a weird year and not worth explaining for the context of this) superdelegates had declared. Hillary had a slight lead on Obama amongst them: 171-122. Over the course of April and May, Obama had a massive surge and picked up 117 to Clinton’s 42. Then the war started happening with them trying to poach superdelegates from each other. This is why Hillary was able to make it almost all the way to the convention before conceding. If you don’t remember the superdelegates playing a big role in the 2008 Democratic primaries then you weren’t paying enough attention, or just didn’t understand it (understandable really, most people don’t). It is also not always the case that the superdelegates follow the will of the general electorate or that they can’t be overcome. Howard Dean had a big early lead in supers before the first primaries even started in 2004 (not as big as Hillary’s but a lead nonetheless). He ultimately lost to John Kerry. So superdelegates are important and they can (but don’t always) definitely swing the direction of the vote. But none of that matters… yet!

See, first of all Hillary Clinton is winning the pledged delegate count. For everything Sanders supporters like to complain about with the superdelegates “conspiring” against Bernie to steal the election away, none of that remotely matters if Bernie can’t get more delegates than Hillary. Right now he’s behind. He’s behind by a lot. He’s not out of it, but he has a tough road ahead. If you were to ignore superdelegates altogether (which you can’t because they’re part of the count. They always have been. It’s not a special “gotcha” it’s part of the actual target number you need by design) then depending on who’s count you believe Bernie is losing to Hillary by about 230-250 delegates. I’m going to work with the most favorable count for him and go with fivethirtyeight.com which gives her the smallest lead (1267 to 1037). I know that doesn’t sound like much, but we’re almost halfway through the primary season. It’s a lot. It’s not unsurmountable. But it’s really hard. Bernie is currently at about 92% of his projection. This is actually really good because before he had his big night last week he had been stuck in the 80s throughout all the primaries. Since delegate allocation is proportional for the democrats he needs to keep winning really big. He did that this week, but those were all in states where Hillary wasn’t trying. States he was projected to win. He needs to steal states from her or he simply will never catch up.

Now lets talk about superdelegates. Bernie supporters like to say that the media shouldn’t be reporting them because their votes don’t count yet. That’s technically true. Sort of. But technically the pledged delegates votes don’t count yet either. No one’s votes count until the convention. The only difference is that pledged delegates can’t change their mind until after the first vote, unless they are released by the person who won their pledge. Since no one other than Hillary or Bernie has won any pledged delegates for the Democrats that isn’t going to happen (it might on the Republican side since Rubio, Carson and JEB! all have delegates, but it probably won’t). But none of the supers are going to change their votes either. That’s why they’ve declared who they are going to vote for already. They don’t have to.

I think the confusion comes from a couple of things. People don’t really get what superdelegates are. They are party stakeholders whose specific job is to make sure the party mission is resistant to grassroots outsiders. If no one hits the magic number (50%+1 of the delegates… currently 2383 for the Democrats) then ALL delegates are released and the convention becomes contested. All hell breaks loose and we get some good quality television. This is what is becoming more and more likely to happen on the Republican side. The superdelegates job is to stop that. They account for about 15% of the delegates. They aren’t extra, they are included in the 4764 delegates. If the pledged delegate count is close, then the superdelegates are able to steer the ship towards the candidate they feel best fits the parties established mission. That’s specifically what they were implemented for (in 1984). Their job is to stop outsiders from coming in and taking over the party. Outsiders like Bernie Sanders.

Think about it. This is the fundamental backbone of Bernie’s campaign. Every single speech he points out that he’s an outsider. And he is is. He hasn’t even been a democrat for a year. He didn’t officially change his political party until November, six months after he said he was running for president. Bernie is effectively attempting to join a club and saying “now that I’m a member, make me leader.” The superdelegates aren’t doing the wrong thing by trying to stop him. They’re doing exactly the right thing. Exactly what anyone would do. And they should! The only reason Bernie’s supporters are upset about the superdelegates is because they happen to like him. I like him too. But there’s nothing inherently Democrat about him (even he says so). He’s a liberal, yes. But he only joined the party to take it over. And that should be hard. At the end of the day, Bernie Sanders is a charismatic guy who is really good at getting people to follow him and give him money. The fact that I happen to consider him a good guy is irrelevant. What if it was some charismatic guy that the Koch Brothers suddenly gave a lot of money to so he could run for president as a democrat and take over the party? This may sound unlikely, but that’s exactly what they did with the Republicans. The Tea Party didn’t exist before 2008 and now they effectively run the Republicans. Remember, Donald Trump was a Democrat until 2009, and then he was an independent until 2012. He could just as easily be running for the DNC nomination as the RNC. The Democrats want a way to stop that from happening so that they don’t end up in the same mess that the Republicans are in with him now. It’s literally their job to stop the Bernie Sanderses of the world.

Why don’t the superdelegates like him? Well, they don’t hate him. They just like Hillary better. She fits the mission better. And moreover, she doesn’t directly insult them. I think most people who complain about superdelegates don’t actually realize who they are. They’re always called the “party elite” and that makes them sound like a bunch of shadowed figures in backrooms doing some kind of supervillainery. They’re not. I’ve seen a few people even go so far as to suggest that Hillary’s massive lead is because she probably paid them off and that should be investigated. She hasn’t. She doesn’t have to. They’re going to like her better than him naturally. For the most part, they’re elected officials who are in the Democratic party. They’re governors, senators, congressmen, current and former presidents and veeps, members of the Democratic National Committee. In other words, most of them are people exactly like Hillary Clinton. Every time Bernie points out that he’s the one senator who voted against the Iraq war, or that he doesn’t have ties to lobbyists like all the others — that is, every time he says the things he has to say because they’re the reasons most of his supporters like him — he further alienates the superdelegates. Every time he insults Hillary for doing speaking engagements with Wall Street he is by proxy insulting every other senator and governor who does. He wants to change the party away from their personal politics… and away from the politics of the constituents who elected them.

And that’s the last thing a lot of Bernie supporters don’t seem to understand. Hillary isn’t stealing the election away from Bernie. People actually like her. MOST DEMOCRATS ACTUALLY LIKE HER! I know that’s hard to believe if you don’t like her. But they do. I’ve seen a lot of Bernie fans saying that he should be the nominee simply because he’s more popular than her.  He isn’t. If you look at the Internet, it *feels* like Bernie is the most popular man on Earth. But that’s because he’s exceptionally popular with the kinds of Democrats who post a lot to the Internet. Hillary is popular with the kinds of Democrats who don’t. And believe it or not, there’s a lot more of them. The only reason that Bernie is as close to the nomination as he is is because the delegate system, much like the electoral college, is designed to equalize out large population centers and give a little extra oomph to smaller movements and localities. Bernie excels at those. Most of the states he’s winning are the lower delegate count states, but the delegate counts aren’t completely proportional to the populations. Hillary has won about 20% more pledged delegates so far, yes, but in the popular vote Bernie is getting stomped. Hillary, to this point, has 9,101,267 votes cast for her in the primaries. Bernie is at 6,417,488. For comparison, on the Republican side, Trump has pulled in 8,574,796.

I know the poll numbers might look favorable for Bernie in the general, but that’s a post for another time. Right now, Bernie isn’t really running for president. Neither is Hillary. He is running for the DNC nomination. In order to get that, as an outsider, he needs to prove that what he has brought to the party is a lasting power and message that can energize the people who were already there. He simply hasn’t done that yet. I actually kind of hope he can. I doubt he can, but I kind of hope for it. I certainly hope that when he likely fails, the party takes steps to at least move in his ideological direction in order to retain the supporters he has brought in. But if he wants to take over the party — which again, is his stated purpose — then he needs to prove that he has an actual majority WITHOUT superdelegates. And he’s not there yet.

And that is precisely why you want to know where the superdelegates stand before the convention. It tells you how much work you need to do. If you look at only the pledged delegates (1267 to 1037) then it looks like they’re neck and neck, sure. But you need 2383 points to win and there are only 1745 pledged delegates left. That means in order to win without superdelegates, Bernie needs to win 77% of the remaining delegates. With proportional allocation that is all but impossible. Even in his three landslide victories from last week, he only did that in one of the three, and it was Alaska, the smallest delegation. But if you look at the superdelegate numbers (1736 to 1066) you’ll see a more accurate look at the picture. That leaves 2049 remaining delegates including the uncommitted supers. Under the theory that the supers who haven’t committed yet are the ones who aren’t nigh guaranteed to back Hillary, one could assume that Bernie could convince them just like he can potentially convince the voters. Now he only has to win about 65% of the remaining delegates. It’s still hard but it shows a glimmer of hope. But it means he has a LOT of work to do.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about how to interpret polls and why you can’t put any real stake in general election polls before the nominations are set.

74 comments for “Bernman v Superdelegates: Dawn of Elections

  1. avatar
    March 28, 2016 at 4:17 am

    The last I read was 25 confirmed for Hillary, but that was at least 3 weeks ago. What is it up to now the confirmed that is?

  2. avatar
    March 28, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Nice post, I think a lot of people will benefit from reading it.

  3. avatar
    March 28, 2016 at 6:31 am

    This considered explanation is such a relief from other posts. I’d like to sit here and read it some more just to stay out of the fray.

  4. avatar
    March 28, 2016 at 7:33 am

    I was just thinking “I’ve learned a lot from Mav about SDs and primaries…. I wish I could share a write-up by him with the Bernie group I’m apart of, as there’s a LOT of misunderstandings, blame, and victimization going on there…”
    Ask and ye shall receive.
    ….Um, can Bernie please be President? *wink*
    May I share?

  5. avatar
    March 28, 2016 at 10:34 am

    By the way…. I am really sad that no one has mentioned the awesomeness of the featured image I made for this post.

    I put a lot of work into that!!!

  6. avatar
    March 29, 2016 at 5:50 am

    My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the superdelegates have never voted in large enough numbers to override the popular vote.

    Sanders is surging. If he gets more than 50 percent of the pledged delegates, the supers would be risking destroying their own party if they were to vote for Hillary instead either Sanders or abstaining.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 6:07 am

      As for the first part of your question, you are correct, but at the same time saying that you are correct is not a complete answer.

      Since 1984, when superdelegates were introduced, there have only been 8 primary seasons (including 1984 and excluding 2016 because it isn’t over). Of those 8 seasons, 2 didn’t even have primaries (incumbent President).

      Of the remaining 6, 3 of them had only a single candidate by the convention, which means voting was meaningless (and almost certainly ended in acclamation).

      Nobody will ever know how the supers would have voted for 2008, because Clinton conceded during the convention and that ended in acclamation.

      In 1988, 200 superdelegates did vote for Jesse Jackson, but it didn’t matter. Heck if EVERY superdelegate voted for him it would not have swung the primary. He was simply too far behind.

      The only times superdelegates had the opportunity to override the popular vote was in 2008 and 1984. 2008 I already discussed. The opportunity vanished before voting ended.

      So, there is exactly one example on record (1984) where the opportunity existed and they chose not to. That isn’t precedent setting. That is like flipping a coin and getting heads. It doesn’t mean the coin will always come up heads in all future flips.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 6:52 am

      “Risk destroying their party” is a bit much. As Mav said, he’s really popular with Democrats… that post on the Internet. And the people even paying attention now are still only a very small portion of voters.

      If Bernie does pull ahead to the point where the remaining supers get to decide, they will have an interesting choice. Alienating Bernie’s young, exuberant supporters is part of that calculus.

      As for me, I’m probably going to check the national Trump v Clinton and Trump v Sanders numbers (maybe the Cruz v numbers too, depending; and I know general polls are all-but meaningless but you work with what you’ve got) the morning before I go to vote in the primary. The supers are probably going to be doing something similar.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Jason: Yes, technically they have never “voted against the the popular vote”, but Strauss is correct, they’ve never actually had the chance. There was a great fear in 2008 because Hillary and Obama were both “establishment candidates.” This is why there was such pressure on her to drop out at that point. They didn’t want to create the appearance of voting against the the will of the people, so deal were made, and you ended up with Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. So, the only time they really even had the opportunity to was 1984, when there were three candidates by the convention, and they chose the most popular one. But, as Strauss explained, that certainly isn’t enough to set precedent.

      And more importantly, in that particular election, Mondale an Hart were not outsiders to the extent that Sanders is. If anything, the biggest risk would have been supporting Jackson, mostly because of his blackness, but he was in third place, far enough back that superDs weren’t going to help him (He did better in 1988, but still not enough).

      So then it comes to the question of “will it split the party” like Dale said. And the answer appears to be “no, not really.” Again, this is not the case of Hillary and Obama 8 years ago. Bernie is actually LESS popular than Hillary right now, but more importantly he’s LESS of a democrat. And that’s the point. A large proportion of his support comes from other people who aren’t technically democrats. They’re Bernie voters. And frankly, if I’m a hardcore democrat and the news guys who only came in to support one candidate leaves… well… “fuck ’em.”

      Now this would be different if Bernie really were pulling massive numbers into the party. He’s not. He’s not really surging. He won the most recent several states, so he has momentum. But that’s not a surge. His best win last week was in Alaska and only like 500 people voted. That’s not an exaggeration. He literally won 440 voters to 99.

      Now if he were to actually get a surge going and start pulling out 80% wins everywhere, then it gets interesting. If he were able to sustain that for the rest of the season, he’d get 1396 more pledged delegates. That would take him to 2433, which is over the magic number. He’d just be the nominee. Superdelegates wouldn’t matter. This is pretty much impossible. But that’s his best case scenario. Now peal that back a bit. Let’s say he wins 72% of the remaining pledged delegates. That takes him to 2381, two shy of the nomination (I used 2 because he IS a super delegate, and I’m going to presume he is likely going to vote for himself). Hillary would be at 1756. In this situation, Bernie has a pretty compelling case. But, every time he wins less than 72% in a primary from here on out, his potential lead shrinks and his case becomes less and less compelling.

      Let’s say that Bernie wins 60% of the remaining pledges. That takes him to 2064 vs Hillary at 1965. That just isn’t a compelling case. It really isn’t. It is 99 delegates. 2.5%. That really is an effective tie. If that’s the case, then go back to everything I actually said in the post. The job of the superdelegates is to preserve the will of the party. Bernie is an outsider, and he SHOULD fail in that situation. Again, this is literally why they exist. Think about it critically. Ignore which person you like more. This is the Trump scenario. Yes, they’ve never gone against the pledged vote, but they’ve never had to. If they weren’t supposed to be able to, there’d be no reason for them to exist.

      And it really won’t “split” the party for the reasons Dale said. It will alienate some new people. But that’s the risk that one takes in an electorate that close (again, this is where the GOP is now).

      Now, the other thing to remember is that superdelegates aren’t actually a single cohesive voting block. It’s not winner-take-all. It’s just that they happen to like Hillary a lot better than Bernie. In all likelihood, if it came to a vote (and as Strauss pointed out, this is kind of unlikely, since it’s only really happened once), he probably is going to pull some. Not as many as Hillary, for the reasons I discussed. But some. And that’s fine. That’s how it should work. But it’s not really “overriding the popular vote.” They’re just a voting block. It’s more like proportional allocation of any other state. To say that the superdelegates owe their vote would be like saying that any other state owes their vote for going against the will of the previous ones. Hillary won the first one (Iowa). It’s not like New Hampshire was doing anything wrong by voting for Bernie a week later.

      The interesting tests are coming up in the next two weeks. Sanders was supposed to win big last week. And he did. Now what he needs is to be able to win in Wisconsin…. where he’s currently actually projected to lose, but only by about 2 points, and that’s totally margin of error. So that means in all likelihood they’ll both get 45-55% of the delegates. That’s not good enough to make up ground. (His target is 48 and hers is 38, so anything below like 60% is totally a disappointment for him there. Wyoming is just after that, but they only have 14 delegates. He’ll probably win that, but who cares. It means the same as Alaska and he probably won’t win as big.

      Then its New York time. And that’s where the magic is right now. They have 247 delegates. Sanders needs to beat her here… If he can hold her to a 50% tie, that’s a good moral victory for him, but like I said, he needs big numbers. It would just be slowing the bleeding, not fixing the wound. If he wins big, say 60% then, the race is back on. He becomes a serious threat. If he gets that 72%, then his supporters are proven right and the media needs to start considering him a possible presumptive nominee. But right now… he’s technically behind in the polls there by like 30 points. 30 points in New York is basically death for him. (I think he’ll do better than that… but I don’t think he’s going to hit 72%).

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:15 am

      As to Dale’s other point. The problem with pre-nomination general polls is that they almost always slide favorably towards the underdog. Like I said, I may do another post about it later (if I get around to it) but short answer is, there are a lot of people like Jason (in both parties). I the pollster asks “who are you going to vote for with Bernie vs Trump” he’s obviously going to say Bernie. But when they ask “what about Hillary vs. Trump” a lot of underdog supporters will say “I don’t know” even though that isn’t really true. So Bernie’s numbers get slightly inflated. Not a lot, but just enough to make a difference.

      The same thing happens on the other side. Cruz is doing better than Trump in the general polls against both Hillary and Bernie. Kasich is doing even better. And Rubio was doing better than that before he dropped out.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

      Just to be clear, I’ve been registered as a Democrat since 2000. So I’m not sure I’m actually the demographic you’re talking about here.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

      And my assumption was that his better numbers in the general election polls were about independents wanting to vote for an anti-establishment candidate who doesn’t come off batshit insane.

      Hillary’s trustworthiness and favorability numbers are low, especially with independents, so it’s hardly a surprise they have trouble choosing between her and Trump.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:29 am

      It has nothing to do with who you’re registered as. I was talking about support demographics.

      That said, my point is you (well, not you… because I have no idea how you SPECIFICALLY would answer the question…. I mean the general you of #BernieOrBust supporters) are not really going to split the party. There are only two scenarios: Either you are the kind of voter who may prefer Bernie but when Hillary gets the nomination you are going to fall in line because you don’t want Trump/Cruz/Kasich/Romney/whoever. OR you are the kind of voter who is only willing to vote Democrat if you get someone like Bernie, a democrat in name only who doesn’t actually want the party message…. If you’re in the latter group, the superdelegates DON’T want you. I know that seems counterproductive. But that’s how the rise of the Tea Party happened. That’s what superdelegates are designed to avoid.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Where do people get the idea that I’m a Bernie or Bust person when I keep saying I’d vote for Hillary in the general if I had to?

      This is like Bernie Bros. A small radical contingent that acts as an easy straw man for all Bernie supporters. Tiresome.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Actually, I don’t specifically care if you are or not. I’m only using you as the example because you happen to be the one commenting here.

      They get the idea because you use a lot of that rhetoric (whether you mean to or not). That said, you are not even close to the most vitriolic of Bernie supporters on my Facebook feed. You’re just the one who happens to be engaging in this conversation.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:36 am

      For reference, most recent Gallup favorability numbers:
      Clinton: 41/53(-12, 1 “never heard of”)
      Sanders: 45/35(+10, 11nho)
      Trump: 30/63(-33, 2nho)

      Yes, more than 1 in 10 voting-eligible Americans have *literally never heard of Sanders*. And while Clintons netFav is bad, Trump’s is unprecedented.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Ooh. I need to add that to my regular daily number checks. Hit me with a url, Dale.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:38 am

      It’s not daily (I don’t think) but I pulled from http://www.gallup.com/poll/1618/favorability-people-news.aspx

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:39 am

      I understand their rhetoric because I support Bernie.

      That doesn’t mean I’m one of them.

      I like to debate. Always have. Debating a position I don’t necessarily espouse feels like a duty when others are consistently mischaracterizing it to make their points 🙂

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:50 am

      No…. I’m saying you’re an extremely vocal Bernie supporter so you get lumped in.

      in specific, you’re vocal to the level of delusion in a few specific cases. 1) you appear to be convinced that he is currently more popular than she is and that he is “surging.” There is no evidence of that… exactly the contrary. She’s beating him handily. 2) you like to interpret the numbers in a such a way that makes him look better than he is actually doing… specifically “not counting superdelegates” and claiming (on multiple occasions) that the media is trying to fix it for Hillary or that the superDs are “stealing the nomination.” 3) You’ve called several times for Hillary to release her “secret wall street tapes” and implied that she is a fascist because she (like most of congress) voted in the patriot act. 4) you’ve posted a lot of misleading memes. I know you believe them, but they’re misleading and they connect you very strongly with the BernieBros

      That said, I know specifically (because I read more than just people’s headlines) that you ARE willing to support Hillary should she be the nominee.

      But, it’s pretty strong rhetoric and that’s why it gets you lumped in. Plus, like I said, none of the more vitriolic supporters are posting in this thread right now. (For comparison, Dawn, who’s posting below is a massive Bernie supporter, but she comes across as less vitriolic in her rhetoric than you do).

      There’s nothing wrong with vitriol, by the way. I’m all for it. I’m just answering your question of why people react to you the way they do.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Your characterization is a bit heavy handed (I know Hillary has no tapes of her speeches, but she should have transcripts or written notes).

      But yes, I’m a true believer. I didn’t think it was likely he would run at all.

      In order to continue this line of debate without it becoming very frustrating to either of us, I have a few questions:

      Does the Sanders media blackout exist, or did it ever?

      Are any of the election irregularities in the states where we’ve seen them so far deliberate, or could they be?

      Was the debate schedule rigged by the DNC? What about their data breach scandal where the Sanders campaign was denied access to its own data for several days?

      I see things that I don’t want to be seeing. Patterns that shouldn’t exist. I want to be wrong on this stuff, but I don’t think that I am.

      Attempted election fraud has been reported in the last several presidential elections also. And my position is that conspiracy theories aren’t automatically false. I realize that’s a view that tends to get a person labeled “fringe” or “uncritical thinker”, but I’m actually not.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Ok, I’ll try to take them one by one:

      I’m not referring to whether or not they’re tapes on transcripts. It doesn’t matter. I’m saying the very idea that there’s something incriminating or even “untoward” in them is the kind of vain hope that turns off non Sanders supporters. Can she release them… maybe, maybe not… it depends on the particulars of the contract she signed for any specific speaking engagement. They’re closed events. People (not her, the people who hired her) don’t necessarily WANT the speeches getting out, because if they did, why would anyone pay to come to the event. But she’s not unique in this respect. This is true of almost every other politician. Sanders is a likely exception, but in being so, this is the reason superdelegates don’t like him.

      Does a Sanders media blackout exist? No, not really. Seriously, like I said, I’m super liberal here. And I’d love to say that the media is complicit in trying to keep the two party system in place and maintain the establishment status quo. BUT, Bernie Sanders has gotten more coverage than any grassroots candidate in history. By far! Ralph Nader would have killed for the kind of exposure Bernie is getting. Does he have equal footing to Trump? No, but no one does. Trump is a media genius. But he’s gotten proportional to what he deserves with Hillary, probably on par with Cruz and he’s kicking Kasich’s ass.

      Election irregularities: Maybe. I can’t say for sure and neither can you. BUT, I can say (being the person who actually runs these events for PA) that they’re being overstated by the BernieBro contingent. If there are irregularities, that’s troubling and should be investigated. But there just aren’t enough to put him in pace with where he needs to be. If Hillary had that kind of power she’d have been president for the last 8 years. But yes, I will agree with you here… any allegations of voter fraud EVER should be thoroughly investigated.

      Debate schedule rigged: No. Not even a little. Debates are not an automated part of the process. The candidates agree to them. They’re strategic. You’re not required to go to any of them. Trump, in fact, strategically skipped a FoxNews one. It was a gamble, and popular logic was that he would suffer for it, but just the opposite happened. Skipping it actually helped him. It’s like jury selection. She’s not required to agree to any of them and part of effective campaigning is trying to set the schedule and the format in a way that best highlights your strengths. I like Bernie. Believe it or not, I actually kind of DISLIKE Hillary. But in this respect, she’s just better at the game than he is.

      The data breach scandal is like the claim of election irregularities. But honestly, it had very little to do with anything. It’s a bump on the road and should never have happened, but it ultimately affected very little. And she’s had things like that happen too.

      I’m not saying you aren’t being critical. Actually, I think just the opposite. The original post I even made sure to say that I think what Bernie is accomplishing with getting millennials invested in the process is a net good thing, BY FAR! But, I think your analysis is often faulty. And I don’t mean “you” as in Jason. I mean “you” as in Bernie’s internet support system in general. This is why I went so far out of my way to be unbiased here (most of my blog posts are anything but). I wanted to be politically neutral because I think the issue in this specific case needs to be looked at that way. One could do nice long investigations of each issue you mentioned. Some show more merits than others. In this case, I specifically wanted to address the super delegate issue because that’s the one I see getting the most traction. But most people’s thoughts on it are categorically wrong. Most of the posts I’ve seen from you, specifically have been inaccurate, and as I said before, you’re FAR from the most fringe or wrong of what I’ve seen. Yours are based on misunderstandings of the system. Other people’s are often born of outright ignorance of it or sometimes willful misleading statements. That’s what I was addressing here. You still firmly believe in Bernie and you SHOULD. Absolutely. If he’s going to win, he can’t without people like you supporting him. BUT the narrative that much of his support promotes, that he is “actually ahead amongst the popular opinion” or ate “the superdelegates are trying to rig” the system, is just wrong.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 11:30 am

      I’m not Mav, but from my POV:

      I get most of my news from social media, and I’m not seeing a blackout, actually kind of the opposite.

      There have been irregularities but they have nothing to do with the Democratic primary and everything to do with November.

      With Sanders being an outsider, yes, the DNC is favorable to Clinton, and will use any leeway in their rules to swing things her way. “Rigged”? Enh. Point out that the house always wins, and they still make you use their dice instead of your own.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

      I find the idea that Hillary *wouldn’t* advance wildly different economic policies to a group of bankers vs the general public to be hopelessly naive. But I’d prefer to see for myself. That’s why the transcripts of the speeches are so important: there is the appearance of corruption without them being released.

      The data breach scandal happened. Then Sanders supporters later found themselves registered as Independent when they had switched to Democrat in AZ. It could be a coincidence, certainly. But there’s a certain stench about it. Especially if the Sanders campaign were being accused of what the Clinton campaign was actually doing.

      Likewise, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz should have acknowledged she has a conflict of interest where Hillary is concerned, as her former campaign manager. As it is, she decreed there would be six and only six debates, and it was only when all the candidates defied her that she gave up on this decree. Favoritism or not, it still smells like it.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

      The first two issues, even if you are right, are completely and totally separate from the super delegate system, which is what I am addressing here. That said, you are RIGHT to have concerns. That’s what this entire process is about.

      The last issue you are completely WRONG about. That’s my point. Party primaries and conventions are NOT elections in the constitutional sense. Wasserman-Schultz is allowed to have a favorite. In fact, that’s part of what the parties do. That’s why superdelegates exist. For instance, in Pittsburgh, my wife, Stephanie, is an elected member of the Democratic committee. One of the things they do is get together and decide amongst them which candidate they are going to suggest the members vote for in the primary. It’s not a secret or rigging or closed doors. That’s specifically what they do. The party frequently makes explicit endorsements of certain candidates before the primary which is more than what Wasserman-Schultz has ever done. That said, she’s going to have a super delegate vote and she’s probably going to vote for Hillary. Bill Clinton has a super delegate vote and he is almost certainly going to vote for Hillary. Hillary does not currently have one, so she doesn’t get to vote, but Bernie does and you can be assured that he is going to vote for himself.

      So it isn’t impropriety. That’s just how it works. If you don’t like it, then the solution is to push for an independent party. Which, for instance is what Ralph Nader and H. Ross Perot did. Hell, I’m not a registered democrat. I’m independent, on purpose! If you’re an independent voter then you do so with the express understanding that you have a harder road to the election than the Dem and Rep voters. If you decide to be a Dem or a Rep that means playing by their rules.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Yes, we’ve had this disagreement before. Since the rules are deliberately biased against third parties and independents by the two parties – shutting out other voices is something they agree on – the options are to live with it or try to work within the rigged two party system. Or shoot yourself in the foot by working wholly outside it, which is setting yourself up for failure.

      The fact that it’s designed to work the way it does isn’t a counterargument to it being rigged. The house always wins, like Dale said. That’s not illegal, but it is still unfair. This is destructive order at its finest, and I’m all for disrupting it from within if that’s what it takes.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      The election system is NOT specifically designed that way. The design of it predates either party. The parties have just evolved to coopt control of the system as it is designed. That’s what they’re supposed to do. There’s nothing at all that stops another party from coming in and grabbing a foothold. In fact, independents currently outnumber both democrats and republicans. If someone wanted to organize a centrist party and were willing to do the work, they could likely draw from all three pools and become viable. But that’s really really hard. Americans don’t like hard. They want immediate results. BUT that is where the Democrats (in 1828) and the Republicans (in 1854) came from in the first place. And they have worked hard to make it harder for a new party to come up and take a piece of that pie.

      As for the parties specifically. Yes, it’s an unfair system. That’s why they built the parties that way. Why would you ever build a political party (or any organization or club) with the hope that someone from outside might easily come in and take over one day? That’s just dumb.

      But it’s not indefinitely sustainable, as the current fractures on the republican side clearly illustrate.

      The thing is, you’re having a defeatist attitude by saying you must work within the two party system. The only reason the two parties control the system is that they’ve convinced the electorate that there is no other choice. There is. You just have to be willing to lose until you gain enough momentum to win, or you have to wait for a fracture to sociologically occur (which is what is happening with the Republicans).

      If, on the other hand you decide to work within the system (a viable option) that means working WITHIN the system. That’s why you have to take the SuperDelegates seriously. You’re right. They are designed to silence the grassroots uprising. That’s literally what they’re there for. So pretending “they don’t count until you get to the convention because they might change their mind” is misleading and actually damaging to your cause. Which was my point in the first place. It just makes you feel better because the numbers “look closer.”

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Based on the way federal funding of parties operates, this is definitely the case.

      Based on the way the two parties make their candidates sign agreements not to debate with any third party candidate, lest they lose access to the rest of the official debates, this is definitely the case.

      Based on the way the media ignores all but the two parties, this is definitely the case.

      I didn’t say it is a matter of law, but it is a de facto reality.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      And that’s why Sanders ran as a Democrat. Running as an independent he’d barely even have been noticed.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Right. And if he made that choice that means working within the system… i.e., acknowledging the superdelegates… which are there just to stop him.

      Like I said, joining a club with the express purpose of being elected leader is and should be hard. It’s not unfair for them to want to stop him. Anyone would! I don’t see what you don’t get about that.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      A club that calls itself “Democratic” should not have or even consider a system that is designed to undermine the democratic nature of their club. It makes them unworthy of the name.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      then he shouldn’t have joined.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      (also, they’re not really underinming it… as I pointed out repeatedly, he’s not actually winning… not by any metric)

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      But if he were, the superdelegates could prevent it. That’s why they shouldn’t exist.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      NO…. if there were no superdelegates, Bernie wouldn’t be the democratic nominee at all. Donald Trump would be.

      Again, you’re basically saying “it’s not fair because it doesn’t work the way I want it to.” And that only works because you like Bernie. If Trump had decided to run as a democrat instead of a republican, there’s a very high likelihood that he’d be the frontrunner or close.

      If you don’t want the party trying to direct the party message, then there is no point to having a party in the first place. It would be just a stepping stone to the presidency for your own selfish means (that fact that you and I happen to see Bernie’s agenda as altruistic is irrelevant here). Stepping in to stop this and correct to message is smart. It’s why the superdelegates were created. The point of a party is to promote an ideology… one that Bernie, by his own words doesn’t share. So if he wants the nomination, he needs to move the ideology first. If he could do that, the Supers couldn’t stop him.

      The system is working exactly as designed.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      And, as a counterexample, if anything substantial comes of the whole “FBI investigating Clinton” scenario (and, no, so far absolutely nothing substantial has come of it, despite what the pro-Sanders Clinton haters who don’t mind that they’re buying into right-wing propaganda like to claim), and for some reason Clinton decides that it would be a good idea to continue her campaign, the superdelegates would be in a position to protect the party and prevent her from running.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Single-member plurality districts will always tend toward a two-party system. Those parties will always align along some axis, and take up positions at about the quarter-points of public support along that axis. 3rd parties, especially centrists ones, will always be doomed, don’t pretend otherwise as long as we have single-member plurality districts. Try approval voting. /soapbox

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Dale: Oh, absolutely. That’s what I meant by them evolving to coopt the system. As far as voting systems, I much prefer instant run-off.

      That said, there’s nothing that keeps those two parties at the forefront other than inertia and pushing the conversation in their direction. That’s the power of a political party. Which returns us to the super delegate system within the party. They’re designed to be able to quash and unfavorable outsider. I’m not a fan of the system, but in this case, the system is working.

      Also, Jeff makes a great point, and that’s absolutely a reason that Bernie should stay in and keep trying. It’s not going to matter. She’s not going to be indicted and nothing is going to come of it. But there is always that risk and protecting the party from that would be another reason the supersDs need to be there.

      Which returns us to Jason’s point ” if he were, the superdelegates could prevent it. That’s why they shouldn’t exist.” He’s NOT. That’s very important and what people keep missing. He’s not even close. In fact, the only reason he’s even remotely viable is that we’re using a delegate system rather than a popular vote (what most of his supporters are calling for). As I pointed out in my the original post, by actual votes he’s WAY behind. The non-proportionality of the system (what we’re actively arguing against here, including Jason) is the only thing keeping Bernie alive right now. Saying you like one part of the non-proportionality but don’t like the other part is disingenuous.

      And if he were winning, then it’s good to be able to stop him.

      Jason: point blank question for you: Forgetting everything else, if this were Trump would you still be making the arguments you are?

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      I’d be making this argument even if there were no presidential election right now. Superdelegates offend my sense of justice.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Chris Maverick, I have to talk you out of instant-runoff. It doesn’t have to be here though. http://www.electology.org/approval-voting-versus-irv

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Whether I’d abandon that stance should a truly vile person like Trump get the Democratic nomination is a different question that I don’t have a definite answer to.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Jason: That’s fine. But you aren’t really “being a democrat” then which was kind of my point and kind of why they put the system in place in the first place.

      For the record. I’m not adverse to not having superdelegates. I think what the republicans are going through right now is a fascinating exercise in civics and the workings of the process in a two-party state. But doing so doesn’t give Bernie the nomination. In fact, it would likely be bad for him. One of the side effects of superdelegates in general (and delegate selection via primaries which more or less mimics the electoral college – this gets complex and I’m going to not go into details here, but it’s probably relevant in the discussion Dale and I are having that I will split off into it’s own thread in a second.) is that it quashes grassroots uprisings, but it also helps them. It allows someone with a message like Bernie to remain viable. Without the superdelegates it leaves the convention open to multiple viable candidates, as the republicans are seeing now. Bernie would not be able to win such a contest. Webb, Chaffee and O’Malley would likely still be there. BEFORE the super delegate age, conventions usually had like 5 or 6 viable candidates. Someone like Bernie would sink to the bottom because he’s far enough outside the status quo that he could never win in the delegate brokering. Since superdelegates make the possibility of a contested convention highly unlikely, in a way they actually sort of improve Bernie’s chances. Without them, he’d be in the Ben Carson position.

      Of course we could get rid of delegates altogether and go with an actual popular vote. This is what I think you’re arguing for. This would mean that a candidate would need a simple majority rather than a plurality. But contrary to what a lot of voters think, that’s not the only way to do democracy. It’s not inherent in democracy. And that sort of situation actually highly favors a Donald Trump. Like by a lot. Again, remember, Bernie is actually way behind in the popular vote. Hillary is carrying a two-thirds majority here. It would likely be less in a non-debate system but it would favor someone like the Donald running.

      Any of these are viable voting methods. But they’re not the ones in place. They’re not the ones Bernie agreed to. And they wouldn’t actually help him since he’s losing in those scenarios WORST than he is now.

      Again, I’m not being anti-Bernie here. I actually like him. I’m saying the narrative that his supporters (and to a lesser extent him) are using about the superdelegates is inaccurate and at best a distraction from the process and at worst actively harming him.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      But O’Malley, Webb and Chafee didn’t get any pledged or unpledged delegates. So how did the superdelegate system affect their campaigns?

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      A 2/3 majority for Hillary based on what data?

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      based on counting the number of votes she’s gotten and the number he has gotten. I gave you the numbers in the post. 9.1M vs. 6.4M (15.5M votes, of which she has 67%)

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      Sorry. I’m supposed to be working here, so I skim.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      As to your other question, it’s not just the superdelegates. It’s the delegate system which includes supers that made them drop. They dropped because they didn’t have the support to get there. The system constructed as it is made it clear that they were never going to get it.

      Unlike Bernie, who has a strong systematic change agenda, even if he loses, there’s no incentive for them to keep spending money on something that isn’t going to happen. Bernie can be mathematically eliminated from reaching the magic number without superDs (and he’s pretty close to that right now for all realistic purposes) and it’s still worth it for him to run because in doing so he adjusts the direction of the party for future elections.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Full disclosure. I’m working too and I did the math wrong. She’s closer to 60% of the popular vote. Not 67%. She’s still got a commanding lead though.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      That sounds closer to what I expected.

  7. avatar
    March 29, 2016 at 10:24 am

    You’ve commented about bringing people into the party, I saw an article today that said in Pennsylvania at least people are switching from Dem to Rep by a 2:1 ratio which suggests that Trump has more of a get out disenfranchised and apathetic than Sanders does. Data here: http://www.wearecentralpa.com/news/ratio-of-republicans-to-democrats-in-pa Analysis mine.

    You also said that the superdelegates job is to look out for the interest of the party. Part of that interest is in supporting the undercard candidates and how long are Clinton’s or Sanders’ coattails. How many Sanders supporters will vote Sanders and then straight Green or for the Republican who is currently in office.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:26 am

      I wonder if that’s similar to what happened in Ohio…. Dems voted for Kasich to ensure Trump didn’t win the state. I read that many were saying they didn’t care much between Bernie/Hillary so they’d rather use their vote to take down Trump. Similar battleground purple state as of late.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Yeah, I’ve been absolutely amazed at Trump’s ability to bring in supporters. I’ve been saying for a while that he and Bernie are playing the exact same game. Bernie supporters hate that because their politics are disparate, but that isn’t the point. The point is that they are playing on the traditionally disenfranchised demographics. Trump just happens to be better at it.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:34 am

      BLARG! heh

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 10:41 am

      That’s scary, but I agree they are playing the same game in this particular way

  8. avatar
    March 29, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Moving Dale Sheldon-Hess’s comment about Instant Runoff Voting vs Approval Voting here so as to keep the conversations clear:

    http://www.electology.org/approval-voting-versus-irv

    So I actually am working right now, so I’m not going to get as in-depth here as it deserves, but the (relatively) short answer is that I agree with their descriptions but I disagree with the idea that it is “better.”

    My thinking here is that AV favors the two party system in a way that IRV doesn’t. In AV, there’s not even any real reason for a primary (per se). Bernie would never drop out. Webb would never drop out. Hell, Vermin Supreme would still be on the ballot. Same thing on the republican side. It just wouldn’t be worth it to withdraw because “miracles happen”

    But miracles wouldn’t happen. Every staunch democrat would mark their ballot as Hillary and Bernie and likely no one else. Maybe a few might do a token vote to someone they really like… say Stein. And then there would be a few who really distrust Hillary (like Jason, apparently) and would leave her name off. Or a few that really distrust Bernie and would leave his name off. Every staunch Republican would do the same thing. They’d mark Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Kasich, Carson, etc. Maybe a few really distrust Trump so they leave him off.

    The election then becomes about disapproval rather than approval. Who is the major candidate that pisses the fewest people off.

    In IRV the complexity makes that a little more complicated because I have to say who I prefer. Assuming I’m a democrat I have to tell you “I prefer Bernie, but I will accept Hillary” OR I can say “I prefer Stein, I’ll take Bernie as the legitimate electable alternative and I’ll accept Hillary.” That allows for more diverse outcomes. And it lets me actually rank my preferred candidate in a way that AV doesn’t.

    In other words, I feel as though IRV favors a bit of anarchy and choice that I find appealing. I feel as though AV promotes an “anybody but Trump” system which I don’t.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      (that said, I agree with the link’s explanation that IRV is way more complicated, results in way more ties and paradoxes, etc… I just don’t consider that making AV better because i disagree with what “better” means)

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Australia has used IRV for a century and they have a two-party system too. And even if there were still just two parties under an approval voting system (sadly, you can’t say AV, because that’s The Alternative Vote, which is what England calls IRV. RCV and Preferential vote are also also IRV) there a strong argument that the members elected under that system would be drawn more from the center of the electorate than under IRV or plurality. Hard to say in practice, it hasn’t really been used since the Renaissance. But it’s what national societies of mathematicians and statisticians use to vote on their officers, if you trust those types.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      (Not that I, who am pretty far left, want a centrist, but I’d prefer consistency and compromise over dealing with right-wingers every-other eight years.)

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      And one more thing: Vermin Supreme has not dropped out! Lunatics still gonna lune. But, people will have a better idea if who’s actually a likely winner with approval than with plurality or IRV. For instance: Ben Carson had (still has!) the best approval rating of any Republican candidate; but he was doing abysmally under plurality polling, he was a JOKE. People would still drop out (elections are still easiest with just 2 candidates, but approval handles 3 or more better than plurality or IRV) but the RIGHT people would drop out.

    • avatar
      March 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      He’s switched to running as a libertarian now, I thought. (Haven’t read your other comments. On my phone at pub trivia)

  9. avatar
    March 30, 2016 at 4:54 am

    Ok, so it’s a bit biased and and says some things you’ve debunked here… But thought you may like to see this anyway even if just for laughs.
    https://www.facebook.com/Reason.Magazine/videos/10153439558464117/

  10. avatar
    April 14, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Why does the bloomberg delegate tracker show 74 of Washington’s 118 delegates as unassigned though all precincts are reported?
    http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2016-delegate-tracker/

    • avatar
      April 14, 2016 at 1:13 am

      (and many of the delegate counts on bloomberg don’t match those on google via AP)

    • avatar
      April 14, 2016 at 5:50 am

      Washington is stupidly complex as far as delegates go. They have weird soft pledging rules that almost effectively makes them super delegates. But since they are a caucus state and Bernie won it, there aren’t a ton of complaints about it. http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/WA-D shows the rough breakdown.

      But in general delegate rules are very confusing and very hard to pin down because they vary by state. As I have explained in other comments. It’s not really a government so it’s not a “democracy” in the way a lot of voters think it is. It’s more of a club. And really it’s not even that. It’s a loose consortium of like 60 smaller clubs with different rules banding together.

    • avatar
      April 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

      haha i found that greenpapers page in my searching but have no idea what any of it means 😉

    • avatar
      April 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

      oh wait – lucky me it’s all linktified

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