August 10, 2022

How Delegate Rules Explain Your Political Party

The remaining Republican presidential candidates enter the Darwinian phase of the campaign – if they lose in some states, they get nothing. Democrats continue with their proportional distribution of delegates – if they lose, they likely get another trophy.

Democrats also have more unrelated delegates, the so-called super-delegates, than Republicans. Think of superdelegates as a regulator. On the Republican side, the vote is more of a laissez-faire deal.

Are you starting to feel a pattern?

Party delegation systems strangely reflect some of their core values, and those values ​​have a big effect on this year’s races.

Democrats The configuration is almost the same in each state: delegates are rewarded proportionally; the candidate only needs to reach 15 percent to qualify. This means that the loser is usually rewarded for their fair share of the vote.

Republicans There is much more variation between states, almost as if federalism is the guiding principle, states being the laboratories of democracy. Starting Tuesday, states are allowed to increase the likelihood that a winner will monopolize delegates. In another context, Republicans generally approve of the idea that markets create winners and losers. A Pew study said that “55% of conservative Republicans don’t want the government to do much or anything about inequality,” compared to about 10% of Democrats who think this way.

How we got here Republican officials were hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2012 race, when Rick Santorum helped keep party frontrunner Mitt Romney from a quick and clear victory. So they changed the rules to allow a leading candidate to deliver the knockouts in states where the winner wins all or most, without ever imagining that an insurgent like Donald Trump could be the beneficiary.

The practical effect Mr Trump could take a big step towards the nomination by winning states like Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri on Tuesday. Bernie Sanders can’t count on such jumps to catch up with Hillary Clinton, as neither of the Democratic races are winning or winning.

Democrats About 15 percent of Democratic delegates are superdelegates: party regulars, donors, activists, officials and union leaders. They can oversee the electoral market and potentially override the will of voters. In another context, Democrats tend to be more pro-regulation. In a Pew poll, about 76% of Republicans said government regulation of business was doing more harm than good, but only 38% of Democrats felt the same.

But is the system too paternalistic? You could argue that the Democratic Party is downright undemocratic. An Upshot reader, MyThreeCents, said recently: “Hillary’s superdelegates are just the modern version of the ‘smoky room’ that presidential candidates were cast into decades ago.”

Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, analyst for CNN and ABC News and herself superdelegate, said in an email that “superdelegates are like any other ingredient in the big bowl of democracy; we add spice.

Superdelegates also offer some expertise. Democrats are generally more confident in this quality these days. In a Pew poll, 68% of politically engaged Republicans said “ordinary Americans would do a better job than elected officials at solving the country’s problems.” A smaller percentage of Democratic counterparts, 48%, felt the same.

Maybe expertise shouldn’t be downplayed. A lot of Americans don’t know crime is on the decline, but a lot of them believe Bigfoot exists. And while Democrats are more likely to trust experts like scientists who say humans are causing climate change, they are also more likely than Republicans to believe in astrology.

Republicans The party has fewer unrelated delegates, and they’re based more on the vagaries of state rule, while Democrats rely more on central planning. (Several GOP state delegations will not be linked to any candidate). Markets can be messy and the risks of disagreement between agreements appear to be higher.

How we got here Worried after the doomed nomination of George McGovern in 1972 and the meteoric defeat of Jimmy Carter in 1980, Democratic Party leaders decided in the early 1980s to add super-delegates. Part of the idea was to increase the chances of an orderly process in the primaries and at the convention. The idea was also that the superdelegates would have a better idea of ​​who would be a stronger candidate in the general election. (For example, they would have a better chance of knowing that while Mr. Sanders’ best poll numbers in head-to-head confrontations with Republican candidates are impressive, they aren’t necessarily predictive.)

The practical effect The elites of the Republican Party probably wouldn’t mind having super-delegates right now. The title of a recent FiveThirtyEight article was “Donald Trump Would Be Easy To Arrest Under Democratic Rules”.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote for The New York Times over the weekend: “The less than democratic side of party nominations is a virtue of our system, not a flaw, and it has often been a necessary check on passions ( Trumpian or whatever) that mass democracy constantly threatens to unleash.

Even without super-delegates, Republicans have plotted how they can withdraw Mr. Trump’s nomination, especially if he cannot reach a staggering number of delegates. We were able to see our first real convention drama since 1976. But as Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote, the weeks leading up to the July convention could be even more fascinating.

On the Democratic side, Clinton has a lead of over 400 superdelegates, making her lead look bigger than it is. But as Ms. Brazile noted, “If anyone paid attention to 2008, we can change our mind,” referring to Barack Obama’s narrow victory over Ms. Clinton.

If Mr Sanders were to dominate the race by the end of it, the superdelegates would almost certainly switch to his side.

But if Mr. Sanders were to eventually overtake Mrs. Clinton by, say, just two committed delegates, the superdelegates might not give up on him en masse. A tie or virtual tie would probably go to Mrs. Clinton, with the party perhaps deciding against the people. But even that probably wouldn’t be as hurtful or chaotic as it might expect if a senior delegate led by Mr. Trump were toppled at the Republican convention.

Question to readers: Anyone can get a trophy, but only one person can become president. In your opinion, which system achieves the best qualified candidate?