“The system is rigged,” Trump said.
He’s right. The system is rigged for the establishment, because the rules are written by the establishment.
The same goes for the Democratic Party, where more than 700 lawmakers, governors, and party officials serve as superdelegates, representing about 15 percent of all delegates. After landslide defeats in the 1972 and 1980 presidential elections, which Democratic leaders attributed to weak candidates chosen by feckless voters, the elite rewrote the rules to guarantee itself more power.
Hillary Clinton is crushing Bernie Sanders in the superdelegate race, 464 to 40, which means Sanders cannot win the nomination unless he persuades a huge number of Democratic-establishment figures to abandon the establishment candidate. Barring an act of God or the FBI, it’s hard to see how that happens.
So far, Trump and Sanders are merely complaining about the system. Why stop there? Voters already know the system is rigged. Give them more than affirmation: Give them solutions.
Trump and Sanders might promise that, if nominated and elected, they would ensure that all delegates are created equal—no “supers.” Delegates would be pledged to candidates according to the will of voters; no more “unbound” delegates. Primary elections, not caucuses, would determine delegate allocation—and those elections would be transparent, professionally run, and uncomplicated. Iowa and New Hampshire would lose their outsized status. Party contests would be more inclusive because technology can make it easier to vote—whenever and from wherever people want.
I’m sure there are better ideas. I’m shocked that both Trump and Sanders have not moved beyond their whining to explain how they would change their parties’ nominating processes.
There is some history here. Before 1972, party leaders, mostly white men, picked nominees in proverbial smoke-filled rooms. That began to change after the chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the parties moved to what historian Matthew Dallek calls a “sensible, blended approach weighted toward the voters, yet leaves room for elected leaders, party officials, and activists to have a say in the outcome.”
What would a better system look like? I don’t know, but given the public’s historically low faith in the two major parties and the fratricidal machinations roiling both the red and blue teams, Democrats and Republicans are past-due for another period of evolution—if not revolution.
That the two most reform-minded candidates are offering so few real reforms is one of the mysteries of this campaign. Trump and Sanders affirm the public’s belief that big money corrupts politics. Trump’s answer is spending his own money (sort of). Sanders’s solution is to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens’ United, a notion that, even if possible, would only return the nation to what was an unpopular and corrosive system.