Don’t miss “All The Way” with Bryan Cranston as LBJ premiering tomorrow at 8pm on HBO.  So good.  One of the civil rights leaders portrayed in the film, Bob Moses, was my eighth grade math teacher!


On the set of “Morning Joe” recently, everyone was buying into the theme that the Democratic primaries have been rigged, most recently in Nevada.

This is distressing because it’s untrue.

At least in the sense I understand the term “rigged.”  I.e., something currently being done intentionally to affect the outcome — versus rules long-since baked into the system that may be unfair or stupid (like Idaho having as many senators as California) but that was not the result of bad actors today (what were the Founders thinking?!)

There are several aspects to this. The debates, specific state-party rules, superdelegates . . .

Start with that one — superdelegates — because I know it best.  And am one.

As I wrote in February, here is Bernie’s own senior adviser, Tad Devine, explaining why we have superdelegates — and why, in his youth, he helped create them.

Whether or not you agree they are a good idea — I think they are — surely they were not created, decades ago, intentionally to keep Bernie from getting the nomination.

The irony is that, after much decrying of the potential for superdelegates to override the will of the pledged delegates, some Sanders supporters now argue that we should override the popular primary vote and the pledged-delegate count, because Bernie polls better than Hillary against Trump, or because he better represents the will of the people.

So the superdelegates should not rig the game for one candidate — unless it’s their candidate.

Paul Begala yesterday tweeted:

@HillaryClinton has won 56.5% of the vote, but received just 54.2% of pledged delegates.  If the system’s rigged, it’s rigged against her.

The DNC is neutral.  I am an admirer of both candidates. If Bernie wins the a majority of the pledged delegates — although that now seems unlikely — I expect he will be our nominee.

My hope is that people will watch Tad’s explanation and recognize that, whatever you may think of superdelegates, they were not created to rig the system against dark horses like Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders — and have thus far never overridden the will of the pledged delegates.

I am no expert on state party primaries and caucuses, but here are some facts posted in February by the DNC’s Patrice Taylor about Iowa and New Hampshire.  And here is the letter the Nevada party sent the DNC describing, in detail, what happened there. Read it and judge for yourself whether it sounds reasonable.

The “data breach” incident that led the DNC to briefly block the Sanders campaign access to its own data was real (as reported here); was not matched by similar O’Malley or Clinton wrongdoing; would presumably have made Sanders supporters crazy if the shoe had been on the other foot; and did not block access to their fundraising data — indeed, proved a fundraising bonanza.  That said, it’s important always to note, as the DNC did at the time: Bernie himself was not complicit in any way whatsoever.  In any event, the whole thing was resolved in less than a day.

Finally, in context, and to my mind, the debate schedule seemed reasonable when it was set. That context changed, and debates were added.  In hindsight, the focus may have been too much on defeating the Republicans and shaping the Court (because that was and remains the overriding objective) — I was not party to these discussions. But even if the debate schedule was too limited, the town-halls and forums and Sunday show interviews available to Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb were always entirely unlimited — and not limiting each thought to 30 or 60 or 90 seconds may allow each candidate to get his or her message out better anyway.  As for the “weekend” and “cable” aspects of the debate schedules, it is my understanding that networks were unwilling to give prime time weekday slots to either party — so all the network debates were done on weekends. The cable debates were all done on week nights. (I haven’t fact-checked this; but I think this is right.) Republicans did schedule far more debates; but they also had more than three times as many candidates to sort through, which arguably required more air time.

My point here is not to suggest that every aspect of the process has been perfect. But I do suggest that the idea the whole thing has been rigged is at the very least wildly overdone — and plays into the hands of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the late great Antonin Scalia, among so many others who hope to keep the minimum wage at $7.25, block comprehensive immigration reform, prevent the refinancing of student loans, repeal Obamacare, ignore climate change, eliminate the estate tax on billionheirs, defund Planned Parenthood, block ENDA, and all the rest.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, we need to remember what Bernie so excellently said: even on their worst days, either one of our candidates is 100 times better than the alternative.


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