*Update: While my original post focused on how a mandarin class in our society has rigged the electoral game, this post focuses on how the concept of representative democracy itself has some inherent flaws and weaknesses. None can deny that the electorate is complicit in the development of the current mess. After all, pitchfork parades and tar and feathers are still options. And far too many voters think they’re “sending a message” by voting for candidate X, when in fact they don’t know candidate X’s actual record or stated positions. In other words, they’re voting by emotion, not fact and reason:
…as noted above, many people vote as an expressive act. The typical Obama voter knew nothing of his policies, but wanted to be “part” of “something”. There are all sorts of cultural and emotional connotations associated with Team Pepsi, and people want to affiliate themselves with those signals. Team Coke is no better: many Republican voters are in favor of a culture of God, Flag, and Apple Pie, and cast a vote for the GOP as an expressive act, without knowing or caring the actual positions of the candidates they vote for. ((This, too, figures into the Rise of Trump, since many of his supporters see him as a chance to wave a middle finger at the mandarins, but haven’t taken the time to actually parse what he’s said. — Jemison))
After the final vote count in Nevada, Hillary Clinton has 52 pledged delegates and Bernie Sanders 51 — delegates required to vote for them at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. All were acquired in state primaries and caucuses as a result of a vote of the people.
So Clinton and Sanders are virtually tied, right?
Wrong. Clinton is leagues ahead of Sanders in the overall delegate count, 503-70. This is because of “superdelegate” rules that allow 712 Democratic Party insiders to decide on their own whom to support at the convention.
The Democratic Party’s superdelegate rules, devised after George McGovern’s 1972 defeat, are not particularly democratic, reflecting an era when party officials were reluctant to lose control of the presidential nominating process.
The Republicans are little better:
That rule was fortified by amendments made at the Republican convention of 2012, ironically to handicap insurgent candidates in the future. It was a response to the phenomenon of Texas Rep. Ron Paul winning nearly all of the delegates in states like Maine, Minnesota and Nevada, in spite of losing wider initial contests in those states.
What point is there to elections if Elephant and Donkey insiders always get to pick the candidates? We’re stirred up to resent the influence of “big money” in elections, but Big Political Party shenanigans constrain our ‘choices’ as much or more than does donor activity. Is it any wonder our government’s policies are so out of line with what the people want? The bi-factional ruling class makes sure the only “choices” the public perceives are slight variations around a tightly controlled mean. That way they continue to do what they want, public wishes be damned. The best explanation for Trump’s meteoric rise is that so many people think he represents a means to say “up yours” to the insiders rigging this game. (He doesn’t; he merely represents another facet of that rigged game — the face that’s shown when the electorate needs to blow off a particularly large head of steam, as it does this year. The real function elections seems to serve in our country is pacifying the electorate with the illusion they have some input into what Washington does.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I have no idea where this is going, but I’m pretty sure we won’t like the destination. Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul were “insurgent candidates,” to use the term in the article above. Agree with them or not, they had a developed view of how they would approach governance. Perot self-destructed, but the other two were deliberately (and in the case of Ron Paul, frantically) marginalized by the party apparatus — and the electorate let them do it.
So, having passed those off ramps, the course our nation is on has led to The Donald and his yuuuuuge ego, Bernie Sanders and the usual “hey kid, want some free stuff?” come on of socialism, and Her Hillariness, who promises to do for Washington what she did for information security at the State Department. At this point I’m tempted to just write in “George Washington” this November. I don’t think it would make my vote count any less.
Wake me when it’s time to rebuild from the ashes.