Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Track-back Tuesday - "hell of a way to run a railroad"

Wondering what I was posting on this date in 2008, I shuffled around in the archives. It was another General Election year, in fact my first election year in the USA, and it was to be my first voting year too, as I became a US citizen in August of 2008 - just in time!

Here's my brief post published on 12 January 2008:
Confused US Presidential election watchers, in the States and elsewhere, who are not completely clear about the way the system works, might be interested to read an excellent explanation, written by an astrologer, at the Skyscript forum. Here is the relevant thread. As the astrologer points out, without a clear understanding of this convoluted system, predicting becomes even more of a crap-shoot. The rest of the thread adds useful information, including links to charts for all US states.

I checked, to discover whether the Skyscript link in my old post still holds good. It does, but I've decided to borrow that forum contribution to copy here, just in case at some point the original does disappear. I hope the writer, Tom, and Skyscript will not object; if so I shall remove it on request, leaving only the link.

Here's the Skyscript posting. For 2016, of course, names of candidates have changed, but the system remains the same. I like this explanation, it was written by an American for British (and other) readers, but is a useful reminder to us all of the convolutions of the American electoral system.

Posted by "Tom", Moderator of the forum at that time: Fri Jan 11, 2008.
Post subject: The US Primary Election System.

I really haven't been able to figure out which is worse: the astrologers lack of understanding of this quadrennial phenomenon or the media's. So I'm going to try to give a brief, but accurate description of this system and where it stands today, January 11, 2008, so that interested astrologers might be able to use it to make sensible predictions.

1) The US government is two tiered, and commonly but inaccurately called "federal" and "state." The state part is accurate, but when people say "federal" they really mean "national." "Federal" is the word that describes the system in its entirety. The federal system has two levels: state and national. I'll stick to the word "federal" because that is the term most people use.

2) The US Constitution, the supreme law of the land, sets out a system of how the President is elected. In the beginning the President was not chosen by a national election, but that changed along the way. The basic method remains the same. Each state is assigned an certain number of electors based on the state's representation in Congress (House plus Senate). These electors vote for President. Each State Legislature is given the authority to determine how the electors are chosen. The word "legislature" is specifically used in the US Constitution. It is this system that planted the seeds for the growth of the two-party system we currently live with.

3) Political Parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore the rules for the primary elections and caucuses are established by each state (see the 10th Amendment to the Constitution) and actually by each party organization within that state. States are not required to hold a primary election, and not all states do. Some, like my state of New Jersey hold them so close to convention time that the election rarely matters. Why this is so is a whole other topic.

4) It is more accurate to say that we really have 50 different party organizations for each major party, despite their each having a national organization. It is at the state level that things get done. But it is at the federal level that things get noticed and reported upon. So if you want to be President, you have to traipse from state to state to win the nomination of your party. You do that by winning delegates to the convention. These delegates are pledged to vote for the candidate who wins their primary on the first ballot only and some are not even pledged to do that. The Federal Government has no say-so in this. How you win delegates is by getting votes in each of the primaries and caucuses.

For those who look at this askance, and believe there is a man behind the curtain who makes things happen, I can only suggest that you go and work for a political party for a time. You will discover they are not well oiled machines humming along on orders from Washington. They are actually quite chaotic. If you don't want to do this, then sit back and watch the unfolding drama of the Clinton machine fighting the Chicago/Daley machine which is backing Obama. These are two strong political organizations who play for keeps and there is no one at the head of the Democrat National Committee who is going to get in the way. The idea that Bara[c]k Obama is the product of a virgin birth, and is this wholesome idealist who is above machine politics is too absurd to consider. He's the product of a rough and tumble organization, and he's no virgin himself

5) Many, if not most or possibly all states are not "winner take all" primaries. In other words if a state has 10 delegates the delegates are not all pledged to the person who gets the most votes in that state. If there are three major candidates, the may be split up 4, 3, and 3. This is key to understanding where we stand today.

6) The goal in the primaries then is to win enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, because after that anything can happen. If this does happen (and it hasn't happened in more than a half century I believe), it is called a "brokered" convention. It is possible in that case that none of the major candidates would emerge as the party's nominee.

7) The mainstream press is reporting the primaries like they are all "winner take all." Therefore it is vitally important for proper understanding and prediction to ignore the mainstream press. For example, the current wisdom in the mainstream press is that Republican Candidate Mitt Romney must "win" in Michigan or he is through. Guess who has the most delegates pledged to him at this moment? That's right - Mitt Romney. And the only thing Romney has "won" is the Wyoming caucuses that no one is even aware of. On the Democrat side, the current leader in pledged delegates is Bara[c]k Obama. He has one more delegate than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards is 3 or 4 behind her. So this thing has a long, long way to go.

8 ) Second reason to ignore the mainstream press: despite how it is being reported what happened in New Hampshire was not an upset on either side. This is flat out misrepresentation by the press. Hillary Clinton was expected to win in New Hampshire all along. It was only at the last minute that the press published their own polls that showed her losing, by double digits in some cases, to a "surging" Bara[c]k Obama. The late polls were wrong. There was no upset. On the Republican side John McCain was always expected to win in NH and the polls got it right - so how can we call a victory by the favorite an upset? We can't. So stop believing these guys for anything other than time and dates of the opening of the contests and double check that.

9) The only reason any of the major candidates would drop out now is lack of funds. John Edwards is too close in the delegate count to quit, but it is rumored that he is short of money. If that is the case, he might be forced out prematurely. However, even if he drops out, his delegates are most likely, depending on state rules, are still obligated to vote for him on the first ballot unless he releases them to vote either how he instructs them or he can tell them to vote their conscience. But state rules vary, so he may not even be able to do this. I told you it was chaotic. If he accumulates a lot of delegates, but cannot win outright, he can become a "king maker" by throwing his support to one candidate or the other in exchange for some political favor, say a cabinet post or the vice presidency. So let's say Clinton has the most delegates and Obama is close but neither has enough to win outright on the first ballot, Edwards can make a deal for his delegates. This scenario is possible but unlikely. It is also possible that if three candidates or two are close in delegate count but do not have a majority no matter what, and the convention cannot decide which of the two to nominate, they could nominate a third person who never participated in the primaries at all. Again this is possible but highly unlikely.

10) This may seem like a hell of a way to run a railroad, but ultimately it produces what it is intended to produce: a nominee for the office of President of the United States. At that point the electoral system as outlined in the Constitution takes over, and on January 21, 2008, [I think he meant 2009] we will have a new President for four years and three years into that Administration, the whole damn process starts over again for at least one of the parties. When Jan 20, the usual day set for inauguration, falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, the inauguration is postponed one day. At least I think that is true.

I hope this makes some sense, especially to those unfamiliar with what is going on over here. It is confusing enough for most Americans. I can't imagine what it looks like to those living outside the US.



Sonny G said...

I still think about the years Al Gore should have " rightfully" been President and how things would have been different.
as I've said before, that wasn't the plan of the HIGHER UPS who have their agenda already
almost every good idea Obama had got shut down by congress and the senate, so again, all the candidates and speak their pipe dreams but whats already set to happen, is exactly what will.
I choose a candidate and I vote- but I always feel a bit silly when I do it due to the reasons stated above.
In a country where a Palin or a Trump can be cheered on by millions, it isn't an election, its a crap shoot.

mike said...

Too many hands in the pie, and often with corrupt fingers attached. It's time to abolish the electoral college. The popular vote's time has come, particularly in the digital age. However, there are many problems associated with the new, digital, voting machines: different manufacturers, unknown and-or not sufficiently validated source code, potential for tampering, etc, and these concerns can have an effect on our election process.

From Wiki:
"In a two-candidate race, with equal voter turnout in every district and no faithless electors, a candidate could win the electoral college while winning only about 22% of the nationwide popular vote. This would require the candidate in question to win each one of the following states by just one vote: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A result of the present functionality of the Electoral College is that the national popular vote bears no legal or factual significance on determining the outcome of the election. Since the national popular vote is irrelevant, both voters and candidates are assumed to base their campaign strategies around the existence of the Electoral College; any close race has candidates campaigning to maximize electoral votes by capturing coveted swing states, not to maximize national popular vote totals.

The United States is the only country that elects a politically powerful president via an electoral college and the only one in which a candidate can become president without having obtained the highest number of votes in the sole or final round of popular voting.
— George C. Edwards, 2011"

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ I agree that there was/is an agenda. I'm hoping that this time that agenda can either be overturned, or if not, that it will be made so blindingly obvious that manipulation/rigging has taken place, and enough people will be made aware of it, that before next time (2020) demand for change will be so intense that something will have to be done. I'm concerned mainly about the primary system, which really is key to it all.

Twilight said...

mike ~ This pledged delegate and super delegate endorsement points thing in the primaries is what bothers me most at this stage - a lot! It stinks! I take some comfort from a comment I read earlier (sorry I've lost the link) it went like this:

Endorsements are not binding promises for votes, and many of those endorsements were obtained when Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite to win. Bernie Sanders winning Iowa and New Hampshire could shift the establishment's (which is not a monolith's) view on him more favorably, because in the end what the establishment as a whole wants is an electable candidate, and the biggest mark against Sanders thusfar has been the perception that he is not electable.

Just in the past couple of days I've sensed a definite shift in online pieces written by pundits who have had Bernie down as "good but unelectable" for months. They are having to admit, now, that there's the possibility he could overtake Hillary Clinton in the earliest states, which would, in turn change the minds of many who have liked Bernie's stances but have been put off by incessant cries of "unelectable".