The Times They Are A-Changin'
The presidential primary season is ending. California’s June 7 election is two weeks away. The mainstream press assures us that democracy will prevail, with each nominee representing a majority consensus of their party.
Unfortunately, there are problems with this viewpoint for both sides.
Should the winner take all?
The Republican problem is quite simple. They use the “winner takes all” rule in most states. A candidate receiving a simple majority of the vote receives all or most of the convention delegates. A candidate can win a few states by a large amount and lose a few states by a small amount and the delegate count will not reflect the will of the voters. Thus, when the Republicans convene in Cleveland on July 18, Donald Trump will bring the United States closer to fascism than ever before.
The shrinking Democratic pie
The problem for the Democrats is more complicated. The size of the electorate registered as Democrats is aging and declining.
New voters decline to state a party preference when they register. Many states do not permit independents to vote in primary elections. That “closed primary” system creates a problem this year for Democrats, who are convening in Philadelphia on July 25.
Pennsylvania and New York are typical examples.
Since 2008, the Democratic Party has lost 130,000 registered voters in Pennsylvania. Most re-registered declaring no party affiliation. They could not vote in the primary election.
New York has several small political parties, with activist constituencies, whose members also couldn’t vote in the primary. The problem was compounded by the mysterious disappearance of 120,000 voters from the registered voter rolls in Brooklyn, the birthplace of democratic socialist insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders.
The aging Democratic pie
To compound problems for the Democrats, the age of the typical loyal Democratic voter is increasing. Young people tend to register without party affiliation.
The Democrats are members of a party that is simultaneously aging and shrinking. This suggests a poor prognosis.
Let them eat cake
This year young people are particularly active. Democratic Party leaders seem not to care. They feel that the young enthusiastic voters who have gathered around the candidacy of Bernie Sanders can be taken for granted in the fall.
This year young people are particularly active. Democratic Party leaders seem not to care. They feel that the young enthusiastic voters who have gathered around the candidacy of Bernie Sanders can be taken for granted in the fall. The old guard invokes the specter of fascism that is being articulated by the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Sanders opponent, typifies this viewpoint. He told The Associated Press, “Big crowds mean nothing. You don’t get extra points for an enthusiastic vote versus a moderately enthusiastic vote.”
The oblivious old guard
Longtime Democratic leaders are oblivious to the rapidly changing demographics. Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill invoked the traditional old guard response. She red-baited Sanders, tellingThe New York Times, “The Republicans … can’t wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle.” McCaskill’s Democratic colleague Steney Hoyer, senatorial candidate from Maryland, jumped on McCaskill’s McCarthyite bandwagon, telling CNN, “He calls himself a socialist. I don’t think that’s a good title to be running for president of the United States. I don’t think that resonates well.”
This oblivious disconnect between the Democratic establishment and reality was demonstrated vividly shortly after the Missouri senator made her remarks. Sanders garnered 49.4 percent of the vote in the Missouri Democratic Primary, losing to his opponent by 0.2 percent, only after a few late reporting precincts in St. Louis delivered overwhelming results against Sanders at 2 a.m. the morning after the election.
Looming on the horizon
Conservative website The Federalist summarized the Democratic Party dilemma succinctly: “Millennials are simply not that alarmed by the idea of socialism. For instance, a national Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds view socialism favorably, compared to only a quarter of Americans over 55. A more recent January YouGov survey found that 43 percent of respondents younger than 30 viewed socialism favorably, compared to 32 percent thinking favorably of capitalism.”
What about November?
The disenfranchised Democratic chickens may come home to roost in November, when the independent voters will cast their votes. The prospects evoke concern.
In states critical to a Democratic victory Sanders fares better against Trump than Clinton, his Democratic primary opponent. This is true even in the Deep South, in states where Sanders was defeated overwhelmingly in the closed primaries. In Florida, Sanders beats Trump 44 to 42. Clinton squeaks by with a margin of one percent.
In Pennsylvania, carried by Clinton in the primary, she barely beats Trump by 1 percent while Sanders clobbers Trump by six points. In neighboring Ohio, also carried by Clinton in the primary, she is behind Trump by four points; Sanders defeats Trump in Ohio by two points.
The mainstream press tells us that the Democratic Party’s aging delegates will deliver the nomination to Clinton.
Will they win the battle and lose the war?
As the great poet said:
“…you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone,
For the times they are a-changin’”
Robert M. Nelson is a founding member of the Democratic Club of Pasadena Foothills and a founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America.