You have to play the game to win

Hillary won the nomination, as was always expected. I wanted Bernie but hey, Obama was the only time the candidate I supported in the primaries actually got the nomination. I’m used to not always getting my first choice. hillary2

Some Bernie supporters are not taking this well. Some of their complaints are indeed legitimate — there were some irregularities in voting in some of the contests that are suspicious — but those things still wouldn’t have changed the ultimate result. After all, Hillary did get more delegates and more votes.

And that’s not counting the superdelegates. Some Bernie supporters spent the entire campaign complaining about them, saying that they were thwarting the “will of the people.” These same people are now saying that the superdelegates should ignore the “will of the people” and cast their votes for Bernie instead. Come now, how can you commend Bernie for having a consistent set of policies that don’t change based on poll numbers while arguing this?

Politics is a game, and it helps to know the rules of the game. Hillary plays the game well, and she has been preparing for this day for a dozen years or more. Those superdelegates were there the whole time, and Bernie could have been playing that same game to get them on his side all those years, but he didn’t. You can’t complain about the rules of the game if you don’t play.

And let’s face it, is this a bad thing? Isn’t that what politics is about — getting people on your side, making deals, compromising to get what you want? Isn’t that a skill we want our President to have?

I congratulate Bernie on his successful campaign. He originally announced that he was running to raise the issues he felt important, and he did. People are really talking about income equality now. He also accomplished two other goals: He showed that it is possible to run for President and raise money without having to appeal to the standard Big Money interests; and he showed that you can move to the left and even call yourself a socialist and still get significant support. Those are huge things that no political scientist would have predicted a year ago (including me, here on this blog).

The important thing now is to defeat Trump. If I were a betting man, I’d place my bets on Hillary winning this for a lot of reasons, but it’s certainly not a sure thing. Those Trump supporters are rabid and fanatic, and they will vote.  We Democrats have the problem of sitting at home on election day despite the fact that there are more of us than them, and despite the fact that polls show our views are the majority ones.

And when you don’t play the game, you lose.



Why the primary rules won’t change (and may get more restrictive)

Imagine you have a club.  The Star Trek fan club. You’ve been around for fifty years or so and have been fairly successful.

It’s time for your club to elect a new leader. Suddenly, a new member joins and says, “I want to be your group’s leader, but I really think we should be talking about Star Wars, too.”

“Well, that’s fine,” you say. “Welcome. We can do that, too…”

The new member then brings in a whole bunch of other new members, all of whom prefer Star Wars over Star Trek, but they discover that the rules concerning electing a new leader are quite complicated. Further, they discover that the other person running for leader has been a member of the organization for years and has lots of supporters within the organization, almost all of whom have pledged to support her.

“That’s not fair!” the new guy says. “You should change the rules to prevent that.”

“Well, we have a process for changing the rules,” you say. “It takes some time. If you had joined a few years ago, you could have asked to be on the committee — ”

“That’s illegal!” the new guy says.

Well, no, it’s not. It’s how the private organization runs things. They could, if they wish, prevent new members from voting or get rid of voting completely.

And that’s why you’re not going to see many changes in the way the parties choose their candidates. They’re specifically written by the party to prevent what has happened with both Bernie and Trump — where an outsider comes in and tries to take things over.

The Republicans wish they had superdelegates and other methods that could have prevented Trump from hijacking their party. You can bet that once they lose in November, they will have meetings to discuss how to make getting the party’s nomination more difficult.

The Democrats are not in such a precarious position (since both Bernie and Hillary are generally well-liked among party leaders and, unlike Trump, both are qualified), but the complaints from the Bernie people still resonate among some members.

The problem is that many of Bernie people* don’t get what this is all about. They complain about Hillary courting superdelegates and getting supporters to encourage him to drop out — basically, they’re saying “How dare Hillary use politics to advance her political career!”

Well, this is politics. The fact that she has played it better than Bernie doesn’t mean she has done anything wrong. Let’s face it, gathering supporters around you and making deals is what being a leader is all about. It’s how politicians accomplish their goals and get bills passed. It’s not a bad thing to be able to do this well.

Anyway, don’t expect the rules to become more inclusive over time. If anything, this election has shown the party leaders that they have to make the game more difficult, to prevent outsiders from coming in and taking over.

Whether that is a good thing or not is a discussion for another day.

*Before you criticize me, keep in mind that I am a Bernie supporter. There are valid things to criticize Hillary over. Playing the game by the rules as they currently exist is not a “valid thing”.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superdelegate!

Oh no, it’s a rerun.

Eight years ago, a bunch of Obama supporters were bitching all over the internet because even though Obama was doing well in the primaries, Hillary got more delegates. This is because the Democratic party has a provision for “superdelegates” composed of elected and appointed officials who automatically get to go to the convention and help pick the candidate.superdelegate

This was a provision set up over thirty years ago. And in the eight years since Obama’s election, there has been no serious movement to change these rules.

Now the Bernie people have discovered this rule and they are bitching just as loudly as the Obama people back then, claiming it’s unfair, undemocratic, illegal and “fraud.”

Well, no. You can dislike this rule, but it’s not illegal, it’s not fraud, and there’s nothing you can do about it now. Bernie was well aware of the rules of the game when he started playing. Maybe if he didn’t like these rules, he could have joined the Democratic party 30 years ago and done something about it, hm?

Mind you, I’m a Bernie supporter. But these complaints I am reading from other supporters doesn’t make me go “Yeah! The Man is keeping us down! It’s treason!” — instead it only makes us look like uneducated childish whiners.

The purpose of the Superdelegate was to prevent some demagogue like Donald Trump from coming in and grabbing the nomination away from legitimate Democrats. And in many ways, to the Democratic insiders, that definition fits Bernie, who was an independent up till now.

The rules are working exactly as they were designed.

People need to remember that primaries (and caucuses) are not Constitutional elections; they’re private rules the party uses to pick their candidate. The party could decide to get rid of primaries completely and choose the candidate in smoke-filled rooms like they used to do in the old days. You don’t have a “right” to demand anything from the Democrats any more than you have the right to demand a say in how the local Boy Scout troop picks its scoutmaster. It’s a private organization.

Now, there are a lot of changes I’d make in the primary process — for instance, let’s not let two states filled with people who do not represent a cross-section of Americans be the first two to vote — but the bottom line is that the parties can set their own rules for how they choose their candidates.

Go ahead and lead a fight to change the rules, but don’t go bitching because you don’t like the rules that currently exist when you have never done a thing in the past to try to change them.