This Is a Blog: Numbers Time: Contested Conventions

Friday, April 29, 2016

Numbers Time: Contested Conventions

Thank you, Internet for keeping me motivated to write. A friend of mine once told me the Internet is all about conflicting ideas working in tandem to keep both sides feeding on the other's anger. In an attempt to stave off anger (my default position), I'm merely going to fight assertions with facts. This week in "Shit People Actually Believe" is Contested Conventions. I will also talk about Superdelegates as a side note.

As I have said, I am not against people believing in Bernie Sanders. Berners are optimistic and idealistic, and that is good for democracy, and good for the country. I also think Bernie should keep fighting all the way to the convention. He has the support, and he needs to keep pulling Hillary to the left. On the other hand, Bernie only has the smallest chances of winning the nomination, and a contested convention isn't one of them.

Myth #1: If Hillary Doesn't hit the 2,384 mark on Pledged Delegates alone, there should be, in all fairness, a contested convention.

I'm going to discuss other parts of this in myths below, but let's start off with the assertion that Hillary must hit the goal line on Pledged Delegates alone. The total number of Democratic delegates, pledged and super, is 4,766. Half of that is 2,383, so you need half the delegates plus one to win. That sounds fair. In fact, that's how democracy works. All you need to win is be a fraction above 50%.

Of the 4,766 total delegates, 4,051 are Pledged Delegates. That means if you believe Myth #1, you believe in order to be "fairly" called the winner, Hillary needs to win 58.8% of the vote. Last time I checked, two wrongs don't make a right, and if you're going to rail against the unfairness of the system, you can't turn around and say majority rules isn't enough.

Or fine, believe that, but then you also can't complain the Senate needs 60 votes (to filibuster-proof it), not 51 to pass a bill.

Myth #2: There have been contested conventions in the past, so there's precedent, so it will happen because the people are demanding it

Yes, contested conventions used to happen all the time. That was before primary elections. Delegates used to show up to the convention with no locked-in plan for how to vote. It used to be that delegates themselves were elected or appointed by the party to show up to the convention and vote. Everyone went in with a fairly clear idea of who they were going to vote for, and the point of the convention was to sway them. There could be a dozen candidates throwing their hats in the ring. Slowly, the less popular ones would drop out, and it would be up to the remaining candidates to court those now stray delegates.

That's how we got compromise candidates or dark horse candidates. When it came down to 3-4 candidates, sometimes you'd have to go to someone who was no one's favorite, but everyone could agree on. That's how James K. Polk was elected, but that's also how the southern delegation walked out of the 1860 convention and formed their own party. Come to think of it, that's how the parties used to re-align themselves. (Note to self: Is there a connection between the rise of primaries and the entrenchment of the two-party system?)

Primaries are fairly new, and the idea that primary elections are the main way we pick our candidates is REALLY new. If you want a contested convention, that means you also want to back to the old days when we didn't directly elect our candidates.

Myth #3: But a contested convention is absolutely still possible.

The whole point of having a threshold, like the Democrats' 2,384 is to make it clear that if one candidate has over 50% of the vote, they have won. A contested convention only happens if one candidate doesn't cross the line. Right now, Hillary has the lead in pledged delegates, Superdelegates, and popular vote. She will absolutely cross the line with pledged delegates and Superdelegates.

On the Republican side, this may happen because more than two candidates hold delegates. Short of one specific scenario (which I will get to in a minute) this is really the only way to a contested convention. It is only possible for a front-runner to hold less than 50% of the delegates if there is more than one person holding more than the other 50%. They need 1,237 to win, and if Cruz and Kasich split the remainder of the contests, he could be the front-runner and only have 1,200 delegates.

If Martin O'Malley had dropped out of the democratic race later, and he held maybe 10 delegates, you could make the argument for a contested convention. And since there is an even number of Democratic Delegates, it is possible for a specific number of Superdelegates to flip to give both Bernie and Hillary 2,383. In that case, there would be a contested convention. Hillary currently holds a nearly 500 Superdelegate lead. If that many Superdelegates jumped ship, you wouldn't have a contested convention, Bernie would just win.

And since Hillary holds the lead in pledged delegates, popular vote, and Superdelegates, the only way Superdelegates will flip to Bernie is if he can win the majority of pledged delegates, which is nearly impossible at this point.

Myth #4: That's because Superdelegates exist to keep guys like Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination

Wrong again.

Superdelegates are there to keep guys like Donald Trump from winning. Imagine if the Republicans had Superdelegates. The party would have a mechanism to say, Donald Trump does not represent us as a whole.

If the majority of primary voters voted for Bernie Sanders, Superdelegates would flip to him. Even Bill Clinton said he would, as he did with Obama in 2008. Storm Thurmond1 was a Southern Democrat who joined the party when it was pro-segregation. Superdelegates are to keep guys like him out. Hell, if Hillary Clinton is, in fact, indicted before the convention (she won't be), Superdelegates will be how the party hands the election to Bernie without a fight.

There is a schism in the Democratic Party currently over whether or not the party platform should expressly include an intend to punish Wall Street and the big banks for the financial crisis. Right now, the side that's winning is the side that says we should focus on recovery not retribution. That could change in the next four years. In fact, I think it should because that sort of crusading feel will engage Democratic voters the same way Republicans have been able to enflame their base. If enough Democratic voters get behind that cause and in four years the majority of Democratic voters vote for a candidate who pushes as hard as Bernie Sanders, even if he's not the establishment's choice, Superdelegates will turn to him.

Delegates in general used to only fight for the will of the party, and now we have two categories of delegates, ones that fight for the party and ones that fight for the people. The people have a say over 85% of the total delegates. Superdelegates are a small minority of total delegates. The DNC has even asked the media to not report Superdelegate counts with election results because Including them is inaccurate, especially since they are all free to change their vote at any time. The media is purposefully including them to make Hillary look like she's more ahead than she is and to enrage people about it enough to tune in and share articles.

Myth #5: You're saying I should stop supporting Bernie

Nope. Support him all you want, and in elections at all levels, support the candidates you think align best with Bernie's views and values. But also, stop saying there will be a contested convention because there won't be (or say what you want, this is a free country, you're just wrong). Bernie will not be the Democratic nominee for president.

1 Yes, I know it's Strom Thurmond, but it autocorrected and this is funnier.

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