Primary season: an exercise in un-democracy

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With the final Super Tuesday coming up on March 15, it’s a good time to take a look at the process of selecting the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

The 2016 presidential election machine shifted into high gear in February with two primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. It hasn’t slowed since. And, by the end of the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries, it was obvious that presidential primaries in the USA are a corrupt and dysfunctional circus.

Small states — huge impact. The first two delegate selections were in sparsely populated states that are 90 percent white. Yet they have a greatly exaggerated effect on the presidential election process.

In Iowa, Democrat Hillary Clinton claimed victory over Bernie Sanders, the margin so close that delegates were allotted by coin flips! On the Republican side Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump by four percent, with Marco Rubio jumping to third place in a crowded field.

In New Hampshire, Sanders trounced Clinton with 60 percent of votes. He won in every age group except those over 65, and got 83 percent of those under age 30. The sharply divided Republicans continued their free-for-all, with Trump at 35 percent in top spot and 14 others straggling behind. But, despite the free-for-all, these first states gave Trump and Cruz, two of the most dangerous and reactionary of the Republican candidates, momentum and publicity that has helped to keep them in the front of the pack.

The Nevada and South Carolina contests later in February were the first test of how voters of color would respond to candidates. Clinton swept more than 80 percent of the Black vote, beating Sanders by getting 73 percent of the total vote. Sanders again won the votes of young people and first-time primary voters. Since then, he has cut a bit into Clinton’s lead with voters of color by attracting more votes from youth of color.

Trump’s showing in South Carolina, a steadfast Republican state, was a win with one-third of the votes, and Cruz and Rubio tied for second. Pundits predicted Trump would take a hit in Nevada due to his racist anti-immigration diatribes, but he won again with 46 percent and Rubio and Cruz again tied in second place. Clinton won by a mere 5 percent in Nevada caucuses, with non-secret votes and card draws deciding ties.

The establishment versus the mavericks. On the first Super Tuesday on March 1, 12 states and American Samoa held caucuses or elections that were expected to drastically cut the number of candidates and solidify leads. The Republican field narrowed slightly, with Trump holding a total of 319 delegates.

Ted Cruz, with 226 delegates, and Marco Rubio, with 110, started pleading with each other to drop out in order to stop Trump. Republican Party insiders were of like mind about Trump, fearful of the uncontrollability of this volatile outsider — and dubious about his prospects against Hillary Clinton in the general election. They began strategizing about how to stop Trump. And, given that neither Cruz nor Rubio dropped out, these insiders have seemingly adopted a strategy of trying to keep Trump’s competitors in the race. This would be in order to deny him the total of 1,237 Republican delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the convention — and maneuver someone else into the saddle in this anything but free-and-fair horse race.

On the Democratic side, despite the media spin that a Clinton win is inevitable, it’s a real contest between her and Sanders, especially after Sanders’ upset in Michigan. But the Democratic Party establishment honchos are trying to get their heavy thumbs into the scales, too, using the power of their 714 “superdelegates.” These are the Congressional representatives, governors, and unelected party insiders who overwhelmingly support Clinton so far.

Final lap coming up. It is clear that the not-so-super elections system denies the public a real voice in who will be on the ballot next November. With all the coin-flipping, voting restrictions, name-calling, superdelegates and media bias, bourgeois democracy has again totally discredited itself. The finish line will come at the party conventions, with the Republicans starting to meet on July 18 in Cleveland and the Democrats on July 25 in Philadelphia. If the establishment hasn’t had its way by that point, back-room maneuvering will likely decide the actual nominees. What a way to “elect” a president!

One thing is clear to everybody. In this 2016 campaign, support is surging for outsider candidates, Trump on the right and Sanders to the left — though the program of this professed socialist running as a Democrat is not all that socialist or even, in some important ways, progressive. Debates, primaries, and caucuses may provide lots of heat and passion for mass consumption, but in the end, U.S. elections remain a racket that leaves no opening for candidates who call for dumping the status quo.

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