Hillary Clinton a Victim of the System
Sean Wilentz contends that, “If the system made sense, [Hillary] Clinton would be far ahead” rather than, well, losing.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats in primary states choose their nominee on the basis of a convoluted system of proportional distribution of delegates that varies from state to state and that obtains in neither congressional nor presidential elections. It is this eccentric system that has given Obama his lead in the delegate count. If the Democrats heeded the “winner takes all” democracy that prevails in American politics, and that determines the president, Clinton would be comfortably in front. In a popular-vote winner-take-all system, Clinton would now have 1,743 pledged delegates to Obama’s 1,257. If she splits the 10 remaining contests with Obama, as seems plausible, with Clinton taking Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Puerto Rico, and Obama winning North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon and Guam, she’d pick up another 364 pledged delegates. She’d have 2,107 before a single superdelegate was wooed. You need 2,024 to be the Democratic nominee. Game over.
In related news, if pigs had wings, they could fly; if wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets in the sea; and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And if my aunt had — well, you get the idea.
Like Wilentz, I prefer a winner-take-all system. But it’s not inherently more sensible than a proportional scheme. Indeed, it’s easy to argue that the Democrats’ system (minus the superdelegates) is more inherently fair and democratic than the winner-take-all method used in most Republican primaries and most of our other political contests.
Further, the Democrats have been using this type of system for several election cycles in a row and have, until now, managed to wrap up the nominating process early. Whether the fact that it’s still deadlocked this time means a) that they have two incredibly strong candidates or b) the party faithful aren’t yet sold on either of the two candidates is a matter for debate.
Regardless, these are the rules of the game. Quite frequently, the baseball team with more hits or the football team with more offensive yards nonetheless loses. Or, as we saw in 2000, the candidate with fewer popular votes gets elected president. Clinton chose to concentrate her efforts in the large states while Obama contested all the minor caucuses, picking up easy wins. It turns out that his strategy was better.
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