Blue-state Bernie and Clinton's Plutocratic "Victory" Rules

The Clinton "big victory" consists of a combination of "rotten boroughs," exclusionary primaries, disinformation, and conflicted Superdelegates. They should, and could, all be barred by DNC rules if the run-off process were conducted in a democratic manner.

Hillary Clinton is piecing together a seemingly successful campaign on the basis of rotten boroughs in red states where it is certain that there will not be a single electoral vote cast for a Democrat, and Super delegates who have conflicts of interest because they have worked for or been given money by, or are otherwise integrated into the Clinton political machine. She has been aided by obvious disinformation about her electability and experience, and other features of a broken run-off system.

Sanders' campaign has committed itself, as a consolation prize should it fail to secure the nomination, to make some rules changes at the Convention. Making rules changes at the outset of the Democratic Convention could determine its presidential candidate by evaporating Clinton's "victories."

The current state-by-state run-off system for selecting a president is a hodgepodge of procedures that run the gamut from fair and democratic in some states, like Minnesota which prides itself on clean elections and high turnouts, to easily corruptible and exclusionary in states with low-turnout and unrepresentative results.

Rule changes at the level of the DNC could correct for this original flaw in the lack of minimal state run-off election standards. Several systemic flaws could be removed by changing Convention rules that are currently designed to tilt the results toward plutocracy.

The reform of DNC rules would address these methods by which plutocrats manipulate a corrupt and venal party to select the least favored and least likely to succeed among two candidates, when one of those two candidates has gained the lead among the general electorate by resolving to overthrow plutocracy.

1. Rotten Boroughs

The propagandist mass media is already prepared to concede to Clinton the run-off election to determine who will oppose Donald Trump in November. This is not based on Clinton squeezing out a narrow one delegate victory in the reliably Democratic Massachusetts, but rather on her series of victories in states which have not contributed a single electoral vote to a Democrat for a generation or more.

A "rotten borough" is a depopulated election district that retains its original representation though hardly anyone lives there any more. The term was used to describe the English voting system that founders like Thomas Paine rejected as part of the corrupt system that they revolted against. Before the Civil Rights Era, when the Republican and Democratic parties switched positions on Jim Crow, the southern states were well populated with electoral votes for segregationist Democrats. But starting with Nixon's famous 1968 Southern Strategy, created in opportunistic response to the landmark civil rights legislation of the middle 1960's, and especially after that strategy was further refined by Reagan in 1980, there have been effectively no electoral votes for Democrats in the deep South, other than for southern "favorite sons," Carter and Clinton. Since then, even that tactic has not broken the solid south. Al Gore was unable to get an electoral vote from even his home state of Tennessee in 2000.

Like it or not, Americans select their presidents by an indirect electoral college process specified in the Constitution. Most states assign electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. We all know those red states and blue states, where one party has a lock on the electoral votes, and also the few purple states where they do not. Red and blue states, for purposes of the electoral college, are rotten boroughs for Democrats and Republicans respectively.

Democrats for all practical purposes have exactly zero potential for receiving a single electoral vote in the deepest red states. For the last generation the deep south states of South Carolina, and Super Tuesday states Georgia, Alabama as well as Texas have been well-established as deep red. Along with red states Arkansas and Tennessee, these former slave states are the base on which Clinton is building hersupposed (by the plutocratic media) "major victory" over Sanders giving her "full command" of the race. But why should delegates from those states vote at the Democratic National Convention when, to a very high degree of certainty based on experience, those delegates will represent not a single vote that will count when the electoral college selects the President? Such red state delegates have been proven by past experience to have no Democratic constituent in the electoral college, which is all that counts.

It is self-delusion to think that the minority voters whose voting strength will be predictably cancelled out by winner-take-all electoral college votes actually do count for anything. They do not. Democratic votes in deep red states are no more relevant to the outcome of electing a president than if they were never cast. That is why these states constitute a rotten borough. The delusion that they are anything else is based on the false pretense that presidents are elected by the people and denial of the fact they are actually selected by the electoral college whose membership is all that matters.

Rotten boroughs were declared unconstitutional in Baker v Carr, as a violation of the democratic principle of one person one vote. This is often considered one of the great Supreme Court reforms of American democracy. But the rotten borough system lives on in the Democratic Party to dilute the influence of a state like Minnesota. A rule change could abolish this undemocratic practice. A new rule could discount the votes of such states on the basis of their historic failure to prove that they represent any relevant voter by contributing Democratic electoral votes to the electoral college. Irrelevant voters who are insufficient in number to support such an elector should not be given power to cancel the voters in states that do send electors on the pretense that since a Convention precedes an election Democrats should pretend that red state delegates represent anything but a rotten borough devoid of an electors.

To enforce this rule, the vote of red states could be cut by say 40% if the state produced no electoral votes in the previous election, which is the most relevant evidence if any electors are living there. It could be sliced away further at 15% per election for a full generation back until it reaches zero, if the state has contributed no electoral vote in the last 20 years. This is the case with the deep red states named above that Clinton won.

The only fair conclusion is that no Democratic electors live in those states, since they have not shown up at the electoral college for a generation. Therefore the state should have no voting delegates at the Convention. Giving voting power for non-existent electors only serves to dilute the power of those states where such electors have lived for more than a generation, like Minnesota.
To give delegate votes where there are no likely electors is no different than enfranchising a rotten borough. Aside from being inherently undemocratic, rotten boroughs have always been more easily susceptible to corruption and manipulation.

2. Exclusionary elections

A principal means by which corrupt political parties rig elections is by keeping tight monopoly control over their ballot access privilege. The United States, more than virtually any other country in the world, is a two party system which structurally marginalizes third parties to the point of irrelevance, or worse. Control over one of the two ballot slots can therefore provide very valuable duopoly political power. This gives rise to a multiplicity of means by which political parties rig primary elections, mainly for the purpose of excluding the participation of independents. In this way the duopoly can consistently provide two bad choices for general election voters.

Sanders consistently wins the support of Independent voters in exit and other polls. Independents are 40% of the electorate compared to Democrats who barely reach 30%, a number that will likely continue to decline as the party's election rigging techniques become more visible this year. Independent voters determine the outcome of general elections. If they get turned off the Democratic Party due to its transparent election rigging the Democrats will lose in November. Since Independents are essential to any winning coalition, their choices in the run-off process are essential to victory.

Different approaches to primary elections range from say Minnesota's, which has an entirely open process requiring little more than future voter eligibility and a signature to participate, to a state like Massachusetts which is not so open, to states like New York that are closed. In Minnesota, a solid blue state that has consistently contributed its electoral votes to Democrats for two generations since 1976, Sanders accordingly defeated Clinton with a landslide 63-36% on Super Tuesday, with the state's second highest turnout. This was comparable to Sanders' landslide in his neighboring New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, by contrast, Sanders ran almost even. The Super Tuesday states ranged across this spectrum giving their results variable validity in representing the actual preferences of general election voters.

The DNC cannot by itself change this variable discrimination in different states against Independent voters. It was unsuccessful in trying ad hoc discipline of state primary practices in Michigan and Florida in 2008, for example. Discrimination against voters the party will need to win the general election is usually rooted in state laws which the corrupt parties have created for their own duopolistic purposes. But the DNC rules committee could immediately ameliorate the problem and demonstrate its commitment to a democratic run-off process. It would do this by compensating for this bias by an adjustment in delegate voting strength. The adjustment would cancel out the distortion of the preferences of voters, which tends to misstate the relative prospects of different candidates in the general election.

Such a rule would be comparable to the proposed remedy for the rotten borough problem. Each states' procedures could be objectively ranked on the spectrum from open to closed. The voting delegate strength at the Convention would be adjusted accordingly to favor open primary voting over closed primary voting as indicating the likely Democratic voters' actual choice for a nominee. Why should a tightly controlled primary that deliberately misrepresents the actual preferences of voters have the same weight of say, Minnesota, which seeks to allow everyone to participate, and thereby more reliably contributes to Democratic electoral votes year and year out?

Failing to make this rule change would continue to condone election rigging by excluding or deterring the 40% of Independents from participating in the run-off process. This is not a winning strategy in an election year when such political corruption and rigging of the system is foremost in many voters' minds, especially of Independents who will decide its outcome.

3. Disinformation

Virginia is the only state that is not a deep red state where Clinton has crushed Sanders just as he crushed her in the blue state of Minnesota and the purplish state of New Hampshire. Virginia was previously a red state along with the other former slave states upon which Clinton has built her "major victory." Virginia shifted to Obama in 2008 and 2012. It can now be called a purple state on its way to claiming blue status if the trend continues.

Washington Post exit polls of Virginia voters raise another issue that is more difficult to solve than the other rule change issues discussed here. This issue no doubt also affects Clinton's other delegates, especially from red states where reliable information about Democrats is more scarce than elsewhere. Delegates from the other red states would be eliminated by the above "rotten borough" rule change in any event. This analysis can therefore focus solely on Virginia.

The Virginia exit polls tell us that the 52% of voters who express a preference for a candidate who "Can win in November" or who "Has right experience" overwhelmingly voted for Clinton. Meanwhile the 47% of voters who prefer a candidate who "Cares about people like me" or who is "Honest and trustworthy" tend to prefer Sanders by lesser, though respectable, majorities (56% and 78%, respectively).

One must ask whether the experience of Clinton which is preferred by these voters is that of selling US foreign policy for the benefit of the Clinton Foundation as described by Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash (2015), or the experience of defending herself against an FBI investigation for national security breaches that may or may not be related, or Clinton's destabilization and warmongering for weapons manufacturers who pay her as described in Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015).

When fending off the accusation that her most significant experience is as part of the plutocratic Establishment, Clinton admitted Sanders' superior experience: "He's been in Congress, he's been elected to office a lot longer than I have." The non-sequitur that experience in office could be considered interchangeable with being a plutocrat is beside the point of her acknowledgment of Sanders' superior elected experience. Clinton is not even close to Sanders' greater experience in government. This experience advantage relied upon by Clinton's voters becomes very ephemeral as soon as one tries to pin it down to specific successful experience as opposed to the "blur" of marginally criminal conduct. Clinton Cash 101.

As to voters' preference for winning in November, every poll since December has shown Sanders defeating every Republican with much higher margins than Clinton, who some polls show actually losing such match-ups. This misperception, which also motivates many voters, appears to fly in the face of known fact.

Can anything be done about such Democratic voter ignorance on these two themes? It is primarily the consequence of mass media propaganda which is bought one way or another by plutocrats for their favored candidate. Propaganda cannot be regulated without enacting laws that the Supreme Court would likely rule unconstitutional. Cf. Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. ___ (2014).
There is an alternative that could be applied by a DNC rule change. This proposed change proceeds from an observation about the logic of holding extremely expensive conventions attended by voting delegates to determine a nominee, rather than just performing an audit of primary results and tallying them up to determine the nominee. Behind this delegate convention practice is the notion that the delegates are supposed to exercise some judgment in selecting a nominee, comparable to elected politicians in performing their official duties. Absent that concept the PR extravaganza could be held on its own, without the pretense of a nomination taking place.

A way for the delegates to exercise their judgment in a way that adds value to the math of the democratic process, to become more than the sum of its parts, would be to expose them to objective relevant reality as a prerequisite to their exercising discretion on who to nominate. A rule change could introduce the citizens jury process for the national conventions. This is a known technique to overcome the impact of propaganda, in the same way that trial jurors make decisions based on a process designed to uncover truth, rather than implement their preconceived biases.

By overcoming the effect of propaganda, exposure to some objective facts about the candidates would only improve the nomination process. This is an innovative idea, of course. But is there a better way to counteract propaganda, other than banning it which is unlikely in any near future? Before the delegates go ahead and commit party-suicide by nominating Hillary Clinton, should they not at least be exposed to a presentation by a neutral pollster on the consistent finding that Sanders is more likely to win in November as well as an honest neutral statement of the two candidates' thoroughly vetted resumes detailing their actual experience? No moderate sized company would hire a CEO without such due diligence. Is it not reasonable then to expect the same from the doorkeepers to the most powerful executive office in the world?

A formal vetting by professionals of a candidate's resume for claimed experience could be subject to objective standards for both candidates. Reporting on polling results can be objectively critiqued. The other two criteria, "Cares about people like me" or is "Honest and trustworthy" are not much susceptible to objective inquiry, barring a John Oliver-style body-slam for extreme cases.

4. Conflicted Superdelegates and RBC Members

The final problem requires a simple traditional rule to guard against straightforward conflict of interest corruption in the nomination process. To use Minnesota as an example again, its congressional delegation Super delegates all support Clinton except for Keith Ellison who has endorsed Sanders. Yet their constituents support Sanders almost 2 to 1. There is something wrong here.

One solution is a rule binding all super delegates to vote the way their constituents have indicated. This, in effect, would nullify the Super delegate remnant of the old party-boss system that the Democratic Party used to select its presidential candidate until it selected Hubert Humphrey in 1968, although he had not won a single primary. The Party then went into a tailspin from which it never really recovered, due in part to the long term corrupting influence of Nixon's judicial appointments.

Short of getting rid of superdelegates, those Super delegates who have a conflict of interest as a result of receiving money or other substantial benefit from a candidate should at least be subject to recusal, both in the Convention and on the important Rules and By-Laws Committee (RBC). It is the RBC which would decide upon the four rules suggested here. If the RBC was motivated to win a democratically governed nomination that would win in November, rather than distorted by conflicts of interest to support the worst candidate, they would adopt these rules.

Just one example of a clearly conflicted member of the RBC is Harold M. Ickes, a long-time Clinton advisor and a senior advisor to the independent Ready for Hillary super PAC. Ickes should not be a voting member of any rules committee proceedings that would affect the Clintons. Ickes was known as Bill Clinton's "garbage man" for running interference on Clintonian corruption. Yet there he sits on the RBC prepared for further duty. When he rejoined the Rules and Bylaws Committee, at least one longtime Democratic strategist raised her eyebrows. Said Donna Brazile, a fellow member of the rules committee: "He predated the Clinton era, but when I saw Harold reappointed to the D.N.C., he surely, in my judgment, symbolizes the return of the Clintons," This is the kind of corrupt conflict of interest currently allowed to contaminate a committee that is supposed to make rules designed to fairly yield the best, most democratic and potentially successful choice, not the choice of those favored by obviously conflicted interests and hopes of further pay offs.

In response to such overt corruption the Republican National Committee Chairman has publicized his party's rejection of the undemocratic practice of Superdelegates which he could accurately claim to be "unlike on the Democratic side where they have superdelegates and could give a darn about what the grassroots are telling the party. That's not how we operate our party on our side."

This makes a powerful message to Independents looking for the least corrupt party in 2016.

Rob Hager, a Harvard Law graduate, is a public interest litigator who filed amicus briefs in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy. He is currently writing a three-part book assessing proposals for ending the political influence of special interest money. The current eLibrary draft of the first part, Hillary Clinton's Dark Money Disclosure "Pillar," is available online.