This Is a Blog: MSNBC Got Wyoming All Wrong

Monday, April 11, 2016

MSNBC Got Wyoming All Wrong

I'm not surprised. Cable news is more interested in viewers and views and clicks than actual news delivering. I'm dismayed by the number of people treating the Morning Joe crew like they're brave for "standing up" to the DNC. On a day when people clearly need to be educated as to how the Democratic Party allocates their delegates, MSNBC chose instead to hit the outrage nerve. They're saying the DNC is disenfranchising voters, when in fact, they're the ones doing the disenfranchising by sensationalizing a non-story. They are the ones contributing to the feeling Bernie Sanders is being screwed by not properly contextualizing the Wyoming caucus results.

Before I go into details, let me be clear. Bernie supporters have a lot to be frustrated about when it comes to the DNC and the media at large. He is not getting equal treatment by anyone, even now with his recent surge. Unfortunately, the results coming out of Wyoming are not even close to outrageous.

Here's what Joe Scarborough and the gang are freaking out about:

Bernie 56% / Hillary 44%
Bernie 7 delegates / Hillary 11 delegates

On its face, and with zero understanding of how the system works, that would seem like a travesty of democracy. Here are the actual results out of Wyoming:

Pledged Delegates:
Bernie Sanders - 7
Hillary Clinton  - 7
Hillary Clinton - 4

But how did they tie pledged delegates, when Bernie got 56% of the vote?

Let me do MSNBC's job by explaining it to you.

Caucuses are different than primaries, mainly in that caucuses require a commitment of several hours, while in primaries, voters can just show up, vote and leave. To win in a caucus, people actually have to show up and stay there until the voting is done. The idea being that to win in a caucus, you can't just interest people; you have to excite voters enough that they want to stand around all day just to vote for you.

The problem, though, is at the end of a caucus, all the votes are boiled down to just one result. Here's an analogy to illustrate the point. Let's say this is a general election. Candidate 1 wins Vermont with 80% of the vote (roughly 501,000 votes) and Candidate 2 wins Wyoming with 51% (roughly 300,000 votes), candidate 1 does not win by 201,000 votes. They both get 3 electoral votes. That's basically what happened in Wyoming. Even though Sanders got more raw caucus support, he and Hillary both won 4 county delegates. The at-large pledged delegates were then split evenly, in accordance with the results, resulting in both candidates receiving 7 pledged delegates.

That feeling in the pit of your stomach is the understanding that caucuses would seem to defy the basic principle of one person, one vote. Keep in mind, Bernie supporters, Sanders just had a string of successful caucus states, including his biggest wins of the entire election, the Utah and Washington caucuses. The same system that would seem to be stacking the deck against Sanders, has actually, overall, been working overwhelmingly in his favor. It's entirely possible that if the 2016 election featured no caucuses at all, Bernie could, in fact, be doing much worse.

But what about those 4 Superdelegates; shouldn't they have been split evenly too?

Short answer, no.

Short-ish answer, no, and if Bernie wins the national majority of pledged delegates, they will probably flip to his side, as Bill Clinton said he would do in that scenario. And it's the same scenario that happened when Barack Obama won the majority of pledged delegates in 2008.

Long answer requires us to go back to the 18th Century. Seriously.

The very idea of people directly electing the president is fairly new. Originally, the state selected electors, whose job it was to choose the president. It was left up to the states to decide how to choose the electors. There were no primaries and no parties. There were just loose alliances of electors deciding to vote for the same president and vice president. That's how in 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr actually tied. Yes, Aaron Burr was very nearly elected president.

That's how we got the 12th Amendment, separating the election of president and vice president. That's also how Thomas Jefferson, the loudest voice against political parties, became the leader of this country's first organized political party. To be clear, political parties are not in the Constitution, and they are not part of the government. Political parties are under no legal obligation to give a crap what you think.

The first presidential primary was in Oregon, in 1910. Senators weren't even elected by popular vote until 1913, and that took a Constitutional Amendment. When we look at the results of primary elections, keep in mind two ideas at play: the will of the party and the will of the people. Under popular pressure, the party has had to give up a lot of their power. In time, Superdelegates will probably go away completely. In 2016, though, they are still a leftover vestige of old party structure.

We can sit here and have a debate over their relevance, but Superdelegates are a part of how the Democratic Party selects their nominee, and nothing will change that, not in 2016. These are the rules, and they are transparent as hell. Bernie Sanders knows them, and he knew what he was contending with when he entered the race.

Superdelegates always favor the more establishment candidate. That doesn't happen in a vacuum. A lot of the superdelegates are elected officials who support Hillary because she supports them. She spends a lot of time helping other Democrats get elected, and in turn, they help her. That's not quid pro quo. That's not bribery. That's not shady backdoor dealing. That's teamwork.

The four Wyoming superdelegates have been given the authority by the party to vote for whomever they choose. They can vote for Santa Claus, and that is their right. They are not bound by state-wide primary results because that is their function.

Before you get outraged that there is a system in place that doesn't care what you think, imagine if the RNC used superdelegates the same way. They could, right now, step up and declare Donald Trump, despite his electoral success, does not represent the values of the Republican Party, therefore, does not deserve the party's nomination. Like it or not, the parties stand for values, not just the left and right halves of the country. And if a candidate is as far out and scary as Donald Trump, I wish the Republicans had a cleaner way of blocking his path to the White House.

Still outraged? Maybe you should listen to Bernie himself. The Sanders campaign has stated that if Hillary has the majority of pledged delegates but does not reach the 2383 threshold on pledged delegates alone, they plan on courting Superdelegates and convincing them to change their vote. That's right, the Sanders campaign has endorsed a plan wherein Hillary wins the majority of pledged delegates, but Bernie wins the election using Superdelegates. Isn't that the exact kind of back door dealing he's supposed to be against?

I'm not going to read all that crap. What's the point?

Bernie and Hillary split the caucus results evenly; therefore, their pledged delegate count is fairly apportioned. Factoring in Superdelegates is misleading, as they will change in the event it really affects the outcome.

Bernie supporters have a lot to be frustrated about. Historically, candidates like Sanders don't do well. As such, the media and the DNC have not been taking him seriously. Despite real victories against a supposedly strong candidate, they still won't take him seriously. That's a problem. I won't go as far as saying it's a conspiracy, rather a group of people working off their experience. But it is a real, serious problem for a real, serious candidate.

But the Wyoming caucus election results are not even remotely a real problem for the Sanders campaign. By making it seem that way, MSNBC is just trying to get people to tune in by getting people angry about a problem that doesn't exist. Hell, I'm angry, and I've shared that video with everyone I know. Like I said, by turning simple election results into a battle cry, they've made the system seem more rigged than it is, thereby further discouraging Bernie supporters. It's wrong, and it's self-serving, and it's misleading.

But it's cable news. What else did we expect?

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