Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders launched insurgent political campaigns against their respective political parties; Trump against the RNC and Sanders against the DNC. Trump won, and Bernie lost. Trump won because, quite simply, the rules of the Republican Party were more “democratic” than the rules of the Democratic Party.
Now in both cases, one could argue that the reason things are where they are is more nuanced than that. OK, but understand this: The GOP and the Democratic Party are non-governmental organizations. They write the rules for how nominees for offices up and down the ticket are chosen. If you don’t like those rules, get involved in party politics and change them. Otherwise, you’ll have to live by them.
Bernie Sanders, an independent, launched a bid to grab the Democratic Party by the throat and choke the moderate out of it. Sanders called for economic policies specifically targeted at reducing the gap between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent of Americans — expand Social Security, make public college tuition free, provide paid family and medical leave and universal health care, increase the minimum wage, implement a youth jobs program, and, with all the money that’s left over, institute a trillion-dollar program to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. Sanders had ways to pay for all of this. They all amounted to essentially the same thing — tax the rich. So, in political terms, Bernie was trying to hijack the Democratic Party and make it a Social Democratic Party.
Many “millennials” resonated with Bernie Sanders’ messianic message and his passion. But they hadn’t fully participated in party politics before “feeling the Bern,” and because they hadn’t ‘infiltrated’ the party, their revolution was doomed from the beginning. Had they been in leadership positions in the DNC, they could’ve become the superdelegates they so decried. As the Pew Research Center has said, “Superdelegates are the embodiment of the institutional Democratic Party — everyone from former presidents, congressional leaders and big-money fundraisers to mayors, labor leaders and longtime local party functionaries.”
These party faithful didn’t want an outsider taking over ‘their’ party and because they’d prepared for just such a contingency, they were able to prevent it.
The GOP has many fewer superdelegates than the Democrats — 250 or 7 percent versus the Democratic Party’s 713 or 15 percent. The more important distinction, however, is that Republican superdelegates must vote for the candidate for whom their state voted. In effect, the GOP is more democratic than the Democratic Party. Consider the result.
If the GOP had convened in Cleveland with as many superdelegates as the Democratic Party had, and if the rules permitted them to vote their conscience, would Trump have emerged as the Republican nominee?
As Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico Magazine, “There are some circumstances where the “will of the voters” — often the will of a plurality of voters — may well put the party on the road to a massive political defeat … it may result in the nomination of a candidate who violates the most fundamental beliefs of that party. Or whose temperament and character might put a dangerous, unfit person into the Oval Office.”
The chances of Trump winning the 2016 presidential election are slim to none and diminishing. And there’s a very good chance the GOP may lose the Senate. What happens to the Republican Party after the election depends on what the Republican Party leadership does now. Republicans cannot have their party, and let Trump eat it too.
Richard Badalamente is a retired Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientist. He is now a writer living in Kennewick.