A longstanding proverb says that “Hindsight is 20-20.”
In this current election cycle, there is no other place where that truism resonates more than with the GOP’s plight with Donald J. Trump as its nominee for President of the United States of America. Somewhere, party elders, aka the Republican establishment regret not having adopted the Democrats’ superdelegate system that gave Hillary Clinton, not Senator Bernie Sanders, the nod.
After his sobering loss to Clinton during their hard fought — somewhere between amiable and contentious at times — Democratic Primary, the socialist senator and his staunch “Bernie or Bust” supporters championed efforts to nix the superdelegate system. The rationale centered on the unfair advantage a “Washington” outsider (Sanders) has against an “establishment” candidate (Clinton).
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In a June post, Politico described the controversial process.
“The 714 superdelegates — members of Congress, governors, state party chairs and other Democratic elites — are meant to give battle-hardened Democrats a steadying hand on the selection process, as a bulwark against a candidate who might rouse the grass roots and romp to the nomination but end up being a poor general election standard-bearer.”
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (formally a potential candidate for Clinton’s VP shortlist), weighed in on the status quo.
“I want Bernie in the fold, I want him enthusiastic. I’m fine with whatever they negotiate; I just don’t care about superdelegates. I don’t care about the whole thing.”
Ostensibly, because the former First Lady had more pre-committed delegates (45 to 1 in November last year, according to NPR) than the Vermont senator, his campaign was doomed right from the start. I’d argue that Sanders didn’t help his cause by calling out the Clinton voting machine and — in no uncertain terms — vigorously setting himself apart from the system that could have worked in his favor long enough to win the party nomination.
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In short, Bernie Sanders — post-campaign suspension — moved to reform the Democratic Party in such a way that the “will” of the people is preserved, not exploited to ones’ advantage. On the other hand, I can’t help considering what the outcome would have been had the party of Lincoln embraced the process of selection.
In an atmosphere characterized by post-factual languor and dodgy campaign rhetoric, perhaps a superdelegate voting process would have served as a powerful tool for the likes of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and — to a lesser degree — Ted Cruz.
For Sanders, the Republican Party is symbolic of what he envisions for a fair and balanced means of consecrating a party’s nominee. Summarily, it is more democratic, if you will. Contrarily, the Democratic Party uses a system that is based on a proportion of voting delegates by state and is largely consistent from state-to-state in a winner-take-all fashion.
The downside to other would-be establishment candidates, party leaders were powerless to stop the emergence and momentum of Donald Trump. The real estate magnate, the complete antithesis to Hillary Clinton, proved to be a conundrum, one that potentially threatened party ideology and landmark decisions in the United States Supreme Court. Somehow, Bush, the odds-on favorite, and his understudy Florida senator were lost in the fog of campaigning.
In reading through the Constitution, one could infer that the Founders, notably George Washington, would have argued against any rise of a party system. However, inscribed in the governing document are laws that protect against tyranny and concentration of powers.
Political parties are private organizations, which create its systems of laws rooted in an adopted platform. While Sanders ran a grassroots campaign, it’s difficult to say for sure if the result would have been different in the absence of superdelegates.
Still, the GOP has to be wondering if it was its own worst enemy.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]