Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Reasons Bernie Bros Are Mad, And Why They Shouldn't Be

The system is rigged. If you're a Bernie Sanders supporter, you already know that. How could one of the most liberal states vote for Hillary Clinton, that Republican in Democrat's clothing? Voters were disenfranchised! Independents couldn't vote! 126,000 Democratic voters were wiped from the rolls just before the primary! The will of the people was subverted! The fix was in!

I hate to interrupt this stream of outrage. But lets get real. This has nothing to do with the system. It has to do with people who rarely vote suddenly being surprised that they don't understand how primaries work.

1. Superdelegates are anti-democratic!

They're not meant to be democratic. They're meant to prevent terrible mistakes like Donald Trump from taking over the party and changing its core principles. If the Republicans had superdelegates, Trump wouldn't be an issue. Superdelegates are not hand-picked friends of Hillary Clinton. They're committed Democratic party loyalists--Democratic congressmen, senators, state officials, you know, people that Democrats have voted into office time and time again. These guys and gals have been in the political trenches for a long time, fighting for Democratic values against the Republicans. They're responsible for the Democratic party's platform for women's rights, the rights of minorities, the support of labor and education. They're here to make sure the party sticks to Democratic principles. They have an interest in making sure the Democratic candidate can win the general election and represent Democratic party values.

Superdelegates are not robots. If Bernie won the popular vote, and the most pledged delegates, it would be abundantly clear that the party base had shifted and the Democratic party would be wise to follow the will of its members. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED in 2008, when superdelegates recognized that Barak Obama, not Hillary Clinton, had the support of the Democratic majority. They shifted their alliances, and Hillary herself, for the good of the party, released those delegates sworn to her of their obligations.

Bernie does not lead in the popular vote. He does not lead in pledged delegates. In fact, there's no chance he will change this by the time of the convention. Before, when he had a chance, he argued that the superdelegates should follow the will of the people. Now, he says they should go against it.

2. The primaries should be open!

Primaries should not be open. That allows raiding from the opposing political party. Republicans seeking to go against a softer opponent could pack the Democratic Party ballot boxes. More importantly, why should we allow those not invested enough in a political party to have a say in that party's candidate? Primaries are designed to help a political party choose its candidate. Only those committed to the party should make that choice. If you want a different candidate, make your own party. Pick your candidate from a spinning wheel or by throwing darts. You can do that. But if you want a say in who the Republicans or Democrats choose, you should be a Republican or a Democrat. Otherwise organize, raise money, support a real third party run. If you're not a Democrat, then why should you get to choose who the Democrats nominate? It would be like UNC choosing which players Villanova gets to start in the NCAA championship game.

Elections decide who leads the country. We're all part of the country, so we all get to decide who leads it. Primaries, on the other hand, decide who leads the party. If you're not part of the party, then why should you get to choose the leader? If you don't like either candidate the two major parties have chosen, you have three choices. Don't vote, support a third party candidate, or pick a side and seek to influence its policies through your primary votes and level of involvement. Don't complain because you've registered as an independent and therefore can't vote in the Democratic primary. That was your choice!

3. Hillary's goons purged Bernie voters from the voting rolls! They switched votes!

Voter fraud is not a problem. It simply isn't. Many have made a big deal out of the 126,000 Democratic voters purged from the voting rolls prior to the election. As if somehow, all these were determined to be Bernie voters last fall.

The truth? It's a mix of bureaucracy and confused people. According to Board of Elections executive director Michael Ryan, 12,000 had moved out of borough, and 44,000 had been placed in an inactive file after mailings to their homes bounced back. An additional 70,000 were already inactive and hadn't voted in two successive federal elections or responded to cancellation notices. It wasn't all this year that suddenly 126,000 became ineligible to vote--this number has added up in the 4 years since 2012, the last time Brooklyn cleared their system of ineligible voters. In a place where people move in and out as often as Brooklyn, this number isn't out of the ordinary.

Were you ineligible? It was likely your fault. Take Jessica Sager. She wrote for the New York Post that she was purged from the voting rolls and became a ghost. But it's very clear from her own words why this happened. Jessica, who was registered as an Independent in New Jersey, just moved to the city in July of last year. It's not clear when, or if, she changed her address officially and obtained a NYC driver's license or proof of residency, but by her own admission, she missed the deadline for a registered voter to switch parties. March 25th was for new voters, not previously registered ones. That would be in October. From Bernie's own website:
What is this Oct 9 deadline I keep hearing about?Oct 9 2015 was the last day for switching party affiliation in time to vote in the Primary Elections in New York in April 2016. This deadline only applied to existing voters who wanted to change party in time to vote in that party’s primary (eg independents switching to Democrat to vote for Bernie in the Democratic primary!). It DOES NOT apply to new voters.
Jessica was not a new voter. She was registered in New Jersey. She voted before, as she says, in the 2008 and 2012 elections. So the March deadline to switch parties didn't apply to her. The October one did. Her printed and mailed registration form came several months too late to participate as a Democrat in this primary election.

I don't fault Jessica for being confused. The system is far from being perfectly clear. But she's being disingenuous to imply that this had nothing to do with her own ignorance of the process. If you change addresses and switch districts, its your responsibility to make sure you update your registration.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I voted for Obama in 2008 in New Jersey, despite spending more of my time in New York. I hadn't yet changed my address officially--I still had a New Jersey license and listed my parents' address as my permanent address. Imagine if I had shown up in New York to vote, expecting no problems. Instead, I recognized that I'd been lazy about changing my address. My parents were able to forward me the mailer that told me where my designated polling place was. Even though it was more than an hour away, it was important for me to vote, so I took the train and did it at the polling place assigned to me.

I've seen Bernie supporters irate that they can't tell whether their vote was accurately counted. They just can't believe their neighborhood would vote for Hillary. This is another example of ignorance. There is no way to verify a vote was recorded correctly. Only that you voted. This is by design. A secret ballot is meant to stay secret to avoid vote selling. If you could verify that your vote was for a certain candidate, then that would promote vote selling or coercive behavior. As long as the vote is secret and there's no way to tell, no one can force you to vote for a candidate. This is a bedrock principle of our voting system. It seems odd that some Bernie supporters aren't aware of it.

I understand all the frustration from people who feel like they've been excluded from the process. But many of them don't understand that in order to really change things, you need to be involved in that process more than just showing up for a primary vote or on election day. "Independent" is not a party. It has no platform. It has no plan. You could be a skinhead racist and be a registered "Independent." You could be a communist who believes in a fully socialized state, and be a registered "independent."

If you're unhappy with the two parties and what they represent, you have two main options. Organize with others to create a third party. This is not unprecedented in American history. Some have done quite well. If your party grows enough and makes enough noise, and falls to one side of the ideological line, then the competing party with the most to lose will be forced to cave and accept your agenda into its platform. If your party falls in the middle and makes enough of a splash, then both parties will be forced to moderate their platforms to fall closer to the center. If you manage to really capture the populace, you might even drain enough support from the closest competitor that they're forced to fold completely. Unlikely, but it has happened in the past.

Then there's option two-- changing the party from the inside. In order to do this, you can't be an Independent. You need to choose the side you're trying to change, and become a member. Then you have voting power within the party. We all saw how Tea Partiers were able to rip the Republican party sharply to the right, even getting them to give up on immigration reform. They created a powerful voting bloc within the party that threatened to become a third party-- the only way for the Republicans to win was to accommodate them. If Bernie's supporters want to change the Democratic party... they need to be involved members of the Democratic party. Indeed, Bernie supporters within the party have already forced Hillary to move her views further to the left.

You can still be "independent" and be a member of a party. Plenty of Republicans and Democrats have crossed party lines to vote in elections. But if you register that way, you need to be aware that you've chosen not to join a club. You don't get to say what the club does. And you can't say the system is rigged if you've never taken the time to understand it in the first place.

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