I Don’t Understand Why the Delegates Haven’t Chosen My Candidate

As the primary season wears on, it is surprising that there are still so many questions about the basics of how the process works. What is not surprising is the plethora of soundbites stirring up the base with partial information. Understand that the media’s job is not to inform you. It is to get ratings so they can charge for advertising. They are paid to sensationalize, dramatize and conflagrate a story, any story, to maximize ratings. That is not a judgment on them, it is merely a reality since television is driven by ratings, not facts.

I have been asked many questions about super delegates vs. popular vote, open and closed primaries, the difference between caucuses and primaries and what effect the number of states won has on the election. Most people know at least part of the process but there is so much confusion and misinformation it is sometimes hard to keep up with it. Throw in a few online trolls, conspiracy theories and riled up constituents and it becomes what is affectionately known as “crazy season.”

This article is a quick primer on the basics so everyone is on the same page. It is not a detailed version of each topic, but it will allow you to wade through the hype and keep your sanity while crazy season winds to a close.

What is happening now is called “Primary Season”. Most people I speak to confuse this with Election Season. What is the difference between Primary Season and Election Season? Those of you who are familiar with talent shows would call Primary Season the audition shows. Anyone can come on, show us what they’ve got. The 21 people that started the Republican primary process are proof that anyone can audition, even if they are not ready for prime time. Convention Season is like “the finalists” in a talent show. The prize is being chosen as the Candidate that will represent the party for “Election Season.” No one is actually officially running for President yet.

Each party has a nominating process to determine what person will be chosen to represent the party as the candidate running for President. There are similarities between the processes, but each has a slightly different way of choosing their nominee.

Contenders don’t have to choose a party, they can choose to run as an Independent, but the Independent Party has no convention, no structure, no money, no base of operations, no ground game. It is not impossible to run as an Independent, but it is difficult. Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader have run on an non-party ticket in recent years. Bernie has been an Independent all of his life. He admitted in an interview he thought about running as an Independent, but he needed the money, exposure and advertising of the Democrats so he chose to run under the Democrat Party rules.

Each party has a big convention this summer that chooses who the candidate to run in Election Season will be. Each party hasdelegates that go to the party convention and cast a vote for a nominee. If enough people agree, that nominee will become the candidate. To automatically become the nominee, Republican contenders must get 1,237 delegates before their convention. For Democrats, the automatic number is 2,383 delegates before their convention. If no contender for the party has the magic number of delegates before the convention, the delegates for that party must nominate someone and cast ballots at the convention to choose a Candidate.

As of right now, Trump is the “presumptive nominee” for the Republicans. That does not mean he is the “actual” nominee or that he will be the final Republican candidate to run during Election Season. It just means, for now, no one else is running against him. The Republicans can still pull off a coup at the convention in July.

There are 2 basic ways each party has chosen to try to get to the magic number before the convention. The contenders can compete in a primary or caucus. The state decides if it will be a primary or caucus and whether it will be open, closed or a hybrid. There are 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 US Territories. Not every state or every territory holds a Primary or a Caucus. For example, according to the GOP map, North Dakota does not hold either a primary or a caucus for the Republican nominee.

Caucuses are loosely organized voting precincts. Voting can be done by raising one’s hand, writing a name on a piece of paper, voice vote, etc. A Primary is a closed ballot system in which each voter casts a secret ballot. The ballots are counted just like in a general election and the totals are reported to an authority like a Supervisor of Elections or Secretary of State.

Closed means only registered Republicans vote for Republicans and registered Democrats vote for Democrats, and registered Independents and other parties don’t get to vote. Open means anyone can vote for anyone in either party. Mixed includes semi-open and semi-closed. (These are really confusing and this article is not designed to go into great detail, just give the basics.)

For the Democrats, many people have heard of “super delegates”. These individuals were initially sensationalized by MSNBC as some form of demon spawn created by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz as a back door trick of the Democratic Party “establishment.” In the weeks that followed, there were dozens of conspiracy theories about Clinton “cheating,” “stacking the deck” etc. Today, super delegates are Sanders’ last best option of becoming the nominee if he can “flip” them to voting for him at the convention.

Who are the super delegates? They are high ranking party democrats like governors, senators, house members, party officials, former Presidents, etc. These votes are not committed to any candidate until the convention. They don’t mean much yet, but they sure do give the pundits plenty of grenades to hurl into the democratic primaries to rile up the left and keep the 24/7 soundbites going.

Several people have asked about popular vote and asked how Clinton can claim she has millions more votes than Sanders if Sanders is winning. The reason that Clinton is so far ahead in popular votes is that Sanders wins caucuses which are usually small; and he wins in states that don’t have huge populations that vote for Democrats. For example, in Wyoming, Sanders won 58% of the votes. Sounds awesome. Sounds like a big win. But, there were a total of 278 votes cast in the entire state. By comparison, in states where Clinton won 58% of the vote in Arizona and New York. Arizona had almost 400 thousand votes and New York had nearly 2 million votes cast.

It is the media narrative that confuses this issue. When Clinton won 5 of 5 she “did as expected.” When she won 4 out of 5 she “slowed Sanders’ momentum.” When she won 9 of the last 12 she “has an enthusiasm gap” and “people just don’t like her.” I wrote another article showing the popular votes, delegates, super delegates and percentages laying all the information in charts here.

Another area I have seen confusion is where the media raved about Sanders’ “9 straight wins” and lauded him as “crushing Clinton.” If you are “feeling the Bern” it would be easy to believe these 2 statements. Real numbers show Clinton has won 26 races and Sanders has won 18. There are 12 races left before the convention. To satisfy the narrative of the pundits, Sanders would have to win 11 of the last 12 races to beat Clinton by only 1 state in the end. If she wins any other contest, the best he can hope for is a tie. Still possible, but it does not give his supporters the same warm fuzzy feeling as “9 straight wins,” “momentum” and “running away with the primaries.”

One more thing. Whoever loses the nomination can still run as an Independent if he or she satisfies the filing requirements for each State. Anyone can be a write-in candidate without a party affiliation. But that is Election Season and we are not there yet. Wait until we start talking about “Electors”.

Portions of articles used by permission from ValientDragon on Daily Kos. Original Article: Armageddon Cometh here and Super Delegate Circus Comes to Town here.

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