Donald Trump has been branded with multiple monikers over the past election cycle and the hotel magnate, skyscraper builder, country club owner and plane flying billionaire has never ceased to please the media with his brash statements and bold words. Although he is seldom correct, in this case, Trump is right. Elections are rigged — not just against Trump, but also against other candidates who defy the establishment’s expectations.
Indeed, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic rival to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has long lamented the rigging of the election through the use of the superdelegates, which remove responsibility from the hands of the people and put it in the hands of party officials. The larger issue surrounding this election is electability, a term batted around as the Democratic and Republican National Conventions near.
For non-establishment candidates such as Bernie Sanders, electability could make or break his nomination for president, as for the party leadership, Sanders does not fit the bill nearly as well as long-time favorite Hillary Clinton.
At bat is the issue of superdelegates, which have gained the power to overrule a popular vote due to structural changes in the Democratic National Convention’s nomination process — exactly what they were designed to do. Generally, in state primaries and caucuses, delegates are assigned to candidates proportionally to the number of votes they receive. These pledged delegates then must vote for their candidate at the national convention.
However, there exists a second class of delegates — colloquially called Superdelegates. Superdelegates make up around 20 percent of the vote at the national convention and are formally described as “unpledged party leader and elected official delegates.” Being “unpledged” allows superdelegates to remain free to vote for whomever they want and not be bound by the results of state contests.
This second level was adopted by party leadership after a “disastrous” 1980 election, resulting in the adoption of superdelegates, regressing from the party’s earlier 1968 decision which aimed to make the composition of the convention more aligned with cast votes.
This problematic arrangement prevents a true democratic process by allowing the Democratic establishment to have a large measure of power over candidates that are viewed as unelectable or disagreeable.
Despite this, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman said in an interview with CNN that the two level system does not obstruct a fair vote but expand opportunities for lesser-known delegates by ensuring that they “don’t have to run against much better-known and well-established people at the district level.”
Superdelegates are not a secret tactic by the Clinton campaign or an evil plot by the Democratic convention; however, it is time that they are removed from the equation. Clinton holds 520 superdelegates to Sander’s 39 superdelegates, giving Clinton an edge that she would not otherwise have.
Although superdelegates do not rule out a Sanders nomination, his chances look increasingly slim and should the Democratic establishment turn against him fully, his chances could be put down permanently.
By changing the delegate system to represent the vote of the people, another outlet of political corruption can be removed, bringing the DNC closer to a true democracy not governed by the party elite. Because, as of now, the outcome of the primary almost feels inevitable and votes seem to carry less weight.
Sanders and Trump float in the same boat. In the eyes of the establishment, Trump symbolizes a critical flaw in the voting process — one that will almost surely be fixed with superdelegates. Because the greatest fear for both establishments isn’t that these candidates are not electable, but that arguably, they are.