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Monday
Jun062016

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Democracy

In July Democratic Party delegates will meet in Philadelphia to select either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton to be their candidate for president of the United States. Here in Washington, a funny thing happened on the way to selecting the state’s Democratic Party delegates to the national party’s convention. Or, at least it was funny to me, a new comer to the state.

The Democratic Party in Washington held caucuses to decide how to divvy up its delegates between Sanders and Clinton. I went to the caucus for the first time in my life and it was an interesting affair. We were broken up into regions according to our addresses where we tallied the number of votes for Sanders and Clinton, checked to see if anyone wanted to change their vote, selected nominees to be delegates, and then went home. It took less than a half hour. At the point where we were asked if we wanted to change our vote, the floor was open for discussion and debate. Most of the people there were Sanders supporters and I experienced some of the almost worshipful loyalty I’ve heard about in the media. Some spoke up for Clinton. Everyone was pleasant and polite. It was an interesting experience and I was glad I went.

Throughout the state of Washington 26,314 Democrats attended caucuses. There are 3,973,623 registered Democrats in the state. Thus, 5.8 percent of the state’s registered Democrats participated in a caucus. Or, 94 percent of voters did not. Of the 5.8 percent of those who did show up to vote, Sanders got 72.7 percent of the votes (19,159) and Clinton 21.1 percent (7,140). Bernie supports were rightfully happy, but as Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times said: “This also means that Bernie Sanders landslide win was earned with the backing of just 4 percent of our 4 million registered voters. Can you call something a peoples’ revolution with that few people.” 

Some weeks after the caucus I received in the mail a ballad for the Republican and Democratic parties primary in the state – the Republican Party holds a primary, not caucuses. On the form you had to first select whether you were a Republican or Democrat and second, to vote for the candidate of your choice from the appropriate party. I didn’t know what to do with the damn thing, but just in case I ticked Democrat and then voted. Apparently, since the GOP holds a primary the state of Washington also gave Democrats the chance to vote in a primary too. On the last day of voting the Democratic Party in Washington announced it would ignore the results of the primary. It had every right to do that. Political parties are private organizations, not public. They can select their delegates and candidates to various offices any way they want. The Democratic Party chose a caucus system. It has been suggested by some that holding a primary, that cost the taxpayer millions of dollars, where one party has in reality already chosen its candidate and the other party ignored the results was a huge waste. But there you go.  

666,000 registered Democrats voted in the primary. Clinton won 54 percent of the vote and Sanders 46 percent.

The Democratic Party of Washington has assigned 74 delegates to Sanders and 27 delegates to Clinton. The party has 17 superdelegates. I have no idea how the superdelegates will vote, but it is assumed most will go with Clinton.

It has been claimed that Washington is a “Bernie state.” I’m assuming that most Democrats in Washington knew the primary was a waste of time and yet a lot more of them voted then attended a caucus. We don’t know what would have happened if the primary were official and every registered voter had voted. Clinton supporters couldn’t be blamed for thinking Hillary would win, and Sanders supports couldn’t be blamed for saying no one knows. But I think it is safe to say Washington is not a Bernie state through and through.

Some say that the primary results expose how undemocratic the caucus system is (see Seattle Times). Still, Sanders did win the parties official means of assigning delegates, and he won big. As a result, the Sanders supporters are demanding superdelegates join the Sanders “revolution” or face the consequences. Apparently some Bernie supports have started a campaign to challenge any superdelegate who does not support Sanders with an independent at their own coming election (see The Spokesman-Review). On the other hand, some Clinton supporters claim that Washington is actually a Hillary state, given the results of the primary, and that superdelegates should therefore go with Clinton.

Interestingly, even though the caucus system only resulted in 5.8 percent of Democratic registered voters actually voting, no one is protesting, quietly or loudly, about the disenfranchisement of we the people in Washington. Winning is everything and trumps principles every time. So why Sanders supporters are often outraged about the unfair system of selecting a candidate, a system that hurts their man, we have heard no loud protests about undemocratic practices here in Washington. No one is bemoaning the fact that their candidate one a “big mandate” on 4 percent of the vote. As for Clinton supports, I haven’t hear much at all from them. Perhaps they recognize they lost the game as it is officially played at this point in time and thus have no grounds to complain.

However, from this new boy on the block, the whole thing looks like quite the democratic mess. Me, I’d like to see the party go to an official primary system. It seems clear more people would actually participate. And, by the way, that opinion has nothing to do with who I support in the contest. But whoever wins, I’m not going to stay home and sulk on election day if my choice is not the Democratic candidate. I’m going to vote anyway.

Copyright © 2016 Dale Rominger

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