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Vassallo, Scruggs Debate: Is The Presidential Primary Selection Process Broken?

Steve Vassallo: The presidential primary selection process is broken.

Steve Vassallo
Steve Vassallo

For months now the major national television networks have been touting the individual state primaries and caucuses as the world’s fair in selecting our next president. In the harsh reality of it all, the system is far more broken and unfair than anyone can imagine. Here’s why. Let’s look at the Democrats first.

The DNC (Democratic National Committee) has 4,763 delegate slots of which 712 are classified as “super delegates.” This is a term that actually means…not selected by the voters. Here’s a perfect example. In the recent New Hampshire primary, Sanders trounced the Clinton machine by getting 60.4 percent of the vote. However, after the super delegates were factored in, the state basically was an even split in delegates for the two candidates. After all those weeks and months of campaigning, the voters in New Hampshire were of secondary importance!

What are super delegates any way? These are the fat cats of the party, elected officials, former party bosses and political insiders who clearly define the word establishment. In a closely, contested race with this large number of super delegates, the fix is definitely in as to who will be ultimately selected as the eventual nominee.

The Republican process is not a whole lot better. It appears now that after the months of primary campaigning end in early June, no one will have the 1,237 delegates needed to be declared the nominee. Although Donald Trump is clearly the choice of the people in the primary voting process, should he fall a hundred or two hundred delegates shy of the magic number, a brokered convention could name the nominee thereby discounting all the hard work, dollars invested and effort by the candidates.

Should this occur (and it’s highly possible) the Republican electorate will revolt like nothing we have ever seen. We are already hearing conspiracy theories that the “Republican establishment” has a game-plan to deliver the nomination to Romney at the convention in Cleveland.

Consider this theory. Let’s say Trump ends the primary process with 1,100 delegates and no one is even close in second place. One would reasonably think that at the convention, Trump could make a deal with another candidate to insure the nomination. However, the more likely scenario is that the delegate fight would end in a bar room brawl with the “establishment” guiding the nomination to someone of their own persuasion (like Romney) thereby kicking the primary selection process in the teeth.

Because of the emphasis, cost and time of the primary process, there needs to be a change in the rules, that whoever wins a state receives those delegates and has their committed support at the convention through at least two rounds of selecting unless officially released by the candidate who won that state’s primary election. The rules vary so greatly by individual state, you almost need a Supreme Court ruling to determine how the delegates are to be awarded following the voting.

In conclusion, the process is certainly flawed and subject to a corrupt ending unlike anything we have ever seen previously. The selection of our president should ultimately be the people’s choice and not decided by back room shenanigans whereby the political hacks, lobbyists and establishment insiders determine the outcome, thereby continuing their choke-hold and control over our the nation’s most important office!

Dickie Scruggs: The Republican primaries are “broken,” but not for the reason Steve says.

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs

Steve complains that the 2016 Presidential Election primaries are in danger of dilution—or worse, getting hijacked–by the super delegates. Steve and other Donald Trump supporters say the primary system is “broken.” Of course, they say this about everything in our great country. But it’s clear to me that Steve’s point is limited to the Republican primary only. Let me explain.

Both parties have “super delegates”. These officials are automatically “super delegates” by virtue of their holding elective office or a party leadership position. They are at once the party establishment and its safety net, designed to prevent primary voters from selecting a nominee whom party officials view as unelectable in the general election. However, there is a big difference between the parties in the power of the “super delegates.”

Republican Party rules concerning “super delegates” are relatively new. The “super delegates” make up only seven percent of the total, and are bound by the rules to vote as their state votes in the primaries or caucuses. Despite Steve’s cri de coeur that the Republican establishment might, through super delegates, “steal” the nomination from the winner of the primaries, that really isn’t possible given the rules. Republican “super delegates” are more like honorary delegates, because they must vote the way their state votes in their primary.

The Democrats, by contrast, place more independence and power in their “super delegates,” which make up 15 percent of the total. Unlike Republicans, Democrat “super delegates” are free to vote for any candidate.

There is a good reason why Democrats seem unwilling to allow their voters to select a candidate popular with the base but unacceptable to the larger electorate. In 1972, Democrats nominated Senator George McGovern, a liberal visionary with a strong appeal to the Democrat base, like Bernie Sanders.

McGovern lost 49 states against a Watergate-impaired Richard Nixon. To reduce the chances of a similar phenomenon, the Democrats created a check valve of politically-savvy super delegates. They are the reason that Bernie Sanders is trailing Hillary Clinton by a margin far greater than the primary vote totals indicate.

With the likely result of Super Tuesday voting being an almost insurmountable lead for Steve’s insurgent candidate, Donald Trump, traditional Republicans will wish they had the Democrats’ “super delegate” rules. With “the Donald” as their standard-bearer, the GOP seems to be headed for a Republican disaster on the same scale as the McGovern-Democratic train wreck of 1972.

So, Steve, it’s only the Republican primary system that is broken. The Democrat “super delegate” rules are just fine.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the Republican Party will change its “super delegate” rules to conform to the Democrat model to prevent the electoral disaster the Republicans are about to experience.

I imagine they’ll fix it by 2020, if there’s anything left of the Republican Party to fix.

Dickie Scruggs is one of Oxford’s best-known former attorneys who now expresses his passion for adult education through the GED in a unique state-wide program he has developed, aptly called “Second Chance.” Scruggs is a well known Democrat and anchors the position of the Left in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at DickScruggs@gmail.com.

Steve Vassallo of Oxford is a frequent contributor to HottyToddy.com covering a wide range of subjects. An arch conservative, the popular columnist holds the political position of the Right in Point/No-Point. He can be reached at sovassallo@gmail.com.

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