I’ve seen Sanders supporters here and there demanding to know why Clinton supporters haven’t been talking about the mess that was the Nevada Democratic Convention over this past weekend. I can only answer for myself, though I’ve been a vocal Clinton supporter for several months. In my case, I’ve been quiet for three reasons:
- There hadn’t been much reporting done yet, just claims made.
- The history of claims of maltreatment from Sanders supporters don’t have a great history.
- Pointing out #2 when Sanders is already losing seems like a waste of energy.
Still, if Sanders supporters are going to insist on seeing a conspiracy of silence, I can speak up. Let’s start by talking about caucuses generally, because if you’re going to insist on saying one went wrong, you need to know what it looks like when one goes right.
Going back to basics, caucuses are one of the least-democratic ways a U.S. political party currently chooses its candidates. “Least-democratic” here means the fewest voters are directly represented in the outcome. Some smaller political parties are less democratic in that several states have no input into the national decision, but by and large, the days of backroom decision-making are done. The people who are allowed and able to participate in state contests choose the candidates to some degree. Caucuses are now the low bar.
Primaries, of course, are more democratic than caucuses. Open primaries, where people don’t have to be registered with the party whose candidate they’re choosing, are more democratic than closed primaries. However, they’re also open to being gamed by people who don’t support the party in whose primary they’re voting.
Proportional awarding of delegates to the national convention based on vote tallies is more more democratic than the winner-take-all system used by the Republicans, which turned Trump’s pluralities into a probable majority. Awarding delegates based on which candidate wins a smaller geographic region can also be less democratic than proportional representation, particularly if it follows gerrymandered borders.
All of that is a long way of saying that, if your concern is the will of the people and hearing the masses over party machinery, caucuses are the wrong places to be looking. (Though the assertion that party selection processes should reflect the will of the most people is an open question.) Caucuses are, by definition, about giving the people willing to put in the most effort far more say than anyone else. That makes them less accessible to people with physical limitations, people who don’t speak English well, people who work off hours, and people who can’t afford childcare.
So if you’ve been sharing things that tell me how super important it is that your candidate does well in caucus states, I’m already not terribly sympathetic to arguments that he was robbed and the will of the voters has been undone by machinations. This is particularly true when you’ve also been sharing things telling me how super great it is that your team used this not-very-democratic process to overturn the will of the people who were able to vote in the caucus and gain a disproportionate number of delegates to the state convention. (This is particularly true when the information is misleading to boot, but more on that later.) Inconsistencies like this, on top of all that nonsense about red states–which just happened to be the states with high proportions of non-white voters–only make me think you’re conflating democracy with getting what you, personally, want. Continue reading “On the Nevada Democratic Convention”