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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/23/16

The Ides of March Primaries

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Message Rob Hager

If the Sanders revolution is to restore democracy one of its essential goals, alongside change of the Supreme Court, should be reform of the DNC's rules for counting delegates. Changing this "rotten borough" system and other DNC rules that protect plutocracy would make the nomination of a candidate democratic rather than rigged to favor the plutocrat candidate, as it is now.

Democratizing the DNC delegate rules would likely give Sanders, or a similar progressive candidate in 2020 when there will be even more Millennial voters, the Democratic nomination.

The Ides

The immediate concern is the interpretation of the March 15 results. This is the scene of the latest money-stream media assassination of Sanders' chances for the nomination. How then do the Ides of March results look from a democratic perspective rather than the undemocratic perspective of the assassins?

In the midst of all the propaganda exaggerating the importance of the Ides of March results, it needs to be clarified that there was only one blue state in play, Illinois. There, for a third time, Sanders fought to a virtual tie in a major delegate-rich blue state. Sanders lost by just two delegates in Clinton's home state of Illinois, which is also the home state of her powerful political backer, Barack Obama. Illinois was otherwise similar to Sanders' previous virtual tie in blue state Michigan. There he won by seven delegates, making one win, one loss in the rustbelt Midwest region. Both states finished within a less than 2% margin, for a net of five delegates to Sanders. Only in comparison with the miracle of Michigan is the Illinois result disappointing. Together the results in these similar rustbelt states represented an historic victory for Sanders in a core blue state region. More on Illinois later.

Sanders also tied in Missouri, a red state which will make no necessary contribution to a Democratic Electoral College victory and so its primary result should be considered as just a straw poll under democratic rules. Its equally divided delegates, like those of neighboring Kansas and Oklahoma which Sanders comfortably won, should be irrelevant to the selection of a Democratic nominee. These are red states whose state electors will, to a high degree of certainty based on past experience, vote against a Democratic candidate in the Electoral College. Delegates from these states should take no part in nominating that candidate.

The other three states in play in the Ides of March primaries were two purple states that were unnecessary for Obama's 2012 victory, Ohio and Florida (which has a closed primary), and the mostly red state of North Carolina, which voted against Obama in 2012. The delegates from these states should count in the nominating Convention but nowhere near as strongly as the blue state votes count, because they are neither essential, nor likely, for a Democratic 2016 victory.

Such purple states delegates' voting weight should be calculated by a formula based on the electoral votes that, for example, North Carolina has contributed to Democrats in the electoral college during the previous generation. Nothing earlier than that could have much predictive power. A reasonable weighting formula would reduce voting strength based on electoral votes by 50%, 20%, 15%, 10% and 5% for each previous year that the state made no contribution to Democratic electors in the Electoral College.

For example, North Carolina voted Democratic once within the last generation, in 2008. It would be fair if its delegates' voting strength were weighted at 20% compared to reliable full-strength blue states like Michigan or Minnesota, which have voted Democratic for at least the past generation and are virtually certain to do so again in 2016 if the Democrats choose a winning candidate. This 20% weighting would still be higher than any reasonable probability that North Carolina will decisively contribute to a Democratic victory. Both Ohio and Virginia are more likely than North Carolina to contribute, and even they are unnecessary to victory.

The same discount should apply to the other purple states not essential for victory. Each award of voting strength should reflect a rough estimate of probability that the state will contribute electoral votes essential for a 2016 victory. The calculation would be based on actual past experience, not on a mythical treatment of unequal states as if they will contribute equally to a Democratic victory on the false landslide hypothesis.

The purple state formula could include other predictive factors, such as the "favorite son" effect, or the effect of a strong third party in a prior election. For example, New Hampshire might acquire full blue state status, notwithstanding its 2000 aberration, due to the influence upon the state expected by the candidate from its neighbor Vermont in the general election. The 1996 election produced some unusual results having limited predictive value, due to the third party Perot effect.

Bernie is a blue state victor and a purple state competitor

Before Illinois, other than Clinton's one delegate margin in Massachusetts, discussed below, Clinton had yet to win a single blue state and had done no better than virtual ties in the purple states essential for victory. March 15 added three landslides in her purple state column to her earlier landslide in Virginia. None of these four purple states are necessary for a Democratic victory.

Under the fair system of counting delegates described above, not only would March 15 be less significant than the media has treated it, and March 22 of no significance at all, but the red state reliance of Hillary Clinton for her previous delegate strength would, and should, entirely evaporate. In blue states, she has those two extra delegates in Illinois and a questioned one in Massachusetts. That's it.

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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