The Democratic Party has long been seen as the Party of the people, with party leaders like FDR, LBJ, and Obama all ushering in programs and policies that stimulated economic recovery, established a social safety net, and insured millions of previously uninsured people. However, the party has come under fire recently for seemingly directing the primary toward a certain candidate; some Sanders supporters would even go so far as to say the election has been rigged. To say that the Democratic Primary has been rigged is equally as misinformed as saying that the Primary has not been manipulated at all. The Democratic Primary Process has not been deliberately designed to favor Hillary Clinton, but designed to favor the candidate with closest ties to the Democratic Party, which in this case, was Mrs. Clinton. But the question remains: How much longer can the Party of FDR and JFK continue to label itself as “Democratic” when its elections are anything but?
Perhaps the most undemocratic aspect of the Democratic primary process is the superdelegate system. Superdelegates, or unpledged delegates as they’re sometimes called, are party “insiders” who range from current senators and governors to former presidents and vice-presidents. The superdelegates are not beholden to the popular vote. What does this look like in a practical sense? Take the West Virginia Primary: Sanders won 51% of the vote to Clinton’s 36%. Because the Democrats allot delegates on a proportional basis, Sanders received 18 and Clinton received 11. Throw unpledged delegates into the mix, and deciding who really won the West Virginia Primary becomes more difficult to do; Sanders was given 1 and Clinton was bestowed 8, which puts the final delegate count at 19 to 18. Democratic? I think not. That being said, it’s important to note that even without the superdelegate system, Clinton is still winning the popular vote (internet support doesn’t automatically translate into support at the polls.)
Democracy relies on an informed citizenry –and how can we be truly informed on issues such as climate change, income inequality, and campaign finance reform when oil and gas companies, the financial sector, and those who benefit from the Citizens United decision control the media? Some of Clinton’s most prominent donors are also behind media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. Additionally, most major media sources, like those mentioned previously, include unpledged delegates when discussing total delegate counts. Why does this matter? Because if Hillary Clinton only has a lead of around 300 pledged delegates, and it is assumed that 571 superdelegates are automatically going to vote for Clinton, when in fact they don’t decide until the day of the convention, it appears as though Clinton is beating Sanders by around 800 delegates. This is simply not true, as it is possible that some of these unpledged delegates could decide to support Sanders at the Democratic Convention — although, admittedly, while it may be possible, by no means does that make it probable. The voter who loves Bernie Sanders, but sees that he is being beaten by more than 800 delegates may decide that voting isn’t worth it, and decide to stay home. Does discouraging voters from showing up at the polls seem characteristic of the “Democratic” Party?
The Democratic Party is like America in that both claim to exemplify and abide by their ideals on a daily basis — but this is simply not true. As both a member of the Democratic Party and an American citizen, I know that both entities have very clear ideas of what they stand for. Democrats can get closer to turning their values into laws by taking a long look at their election process and taking steps to reform it. And maybe — just maybe — once reform is made, we can continue to lead the country into this new and exciting century.