In my final article of the year, I think it’s important to reflect on the roller coaster of a primary we have experienced thus far, as well as provide some insight for the coming months. This election has been unpredictable and unconventional since day one. If the pundits and experts had been correct, we would be seeing Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush walking into their respective conventions with a unified party base. The Democrats would be excited and energized to support Clinton and Republicans would feel secured by Bush’s stability. That clearly didn’t happen. Rather than two strong candidates entering the conventions with ease, the Democratic Party has become significantly more competitive than anyone thought possible, and the Republican Party has basically descended into civil war with a contested convention on the horizon.
The game changers of this election have been Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump: two unconventional, anti-establishment candidates often construed as outsiders. While Bernie continues to lag behind in the delegate count due to Hillary Clinton’s unbound support from superdelegates, he has recently added to his momentum with a series of wins. Trump has managed to discredit and destroy all of the establishment’s picks to challenge him, from “low energy” Jeb Bush to “little” Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz, one of the most anti-establishment politicians in the Senate, has become the Republican Party’s last hope for a reasonable and rational conservative in the White House, and if that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
The 2016 election began with 22 candidates, five on the Democratic side and 17 on the Republican side. We’ve lost candidates with high expectations (Bush, Walker, Rubio), candidates with brief momentum (Fiorina, Carson), candidates who never stood a chance (O’Malley, Paul, Christie, Huckabee) and candidates we forgot even ran (Webb, Chafee, Pataki, Gilmore). The field has been winnowed down to Sanders and Clinton, who are in a dead heat for the Democratic nomination, and the trio of Trump, Cruz and Kasich, who will likely be taking this race to Cleveland. Six months ago, if you’d told me this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have believed you.
My closing comments on the Democratic race revolve around superdelegates. Superdelegates are democratically-elected officials and party elders who are free to vote for any candidate at the convention. Throughout this race, despite many states overwhelmingly voting for Sanders, Clinton has retained a substantial lead with superdelegates, so much so that when she lost the Wyoming primary by over 10 percent of the vote, she walked out with more delegates. Many, including myself, believe that when a candidate wins a state’s primary, especially by such a wide margin, the superdelegates ought to support that candidate. This is not a requirement, and many superdelegates, including both Minnesota senators and Governor Dayton, intend to support Clinton despite their home state having been won by Sanders.
The superdelegate process giving Hillary such a wide lead constitutes disenfranchisement. What the superdelegate count tells voters, especially in states like Wyoming, is that there is no need for anyone to vote: your voice will not be heard, and your vote does not matter. I see the superdelegate process as equivalent to voter ID laws hindering the will of the voter. Bernie is winning by votes but losing by delegates in those same states. How is that not disenfranchising voters?
On the Republican side, I think election law specialist Ken Gross put it best when he said, “I think the legal term is sh*tshow.” The remaining primaries will likely be divided evenly between Trump and Cruz, making it increasingly likely that Trump will not hit the magic 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination on the first ballot of voting. In that case, the second ballot will allow delegates to vote for whomever they wish, a likelihood that forced House Speaker Paul Ryan to formally announce he would not accept the GOP nomination under any circumstances. The delegates could virtually select anyone, be that a candidate who has dropped out (fingers crossed for Rubio) or even someone who hasn’t been on the ballot in any state (i.e. the “Draft Mitt” campaign).
While all that remains a slim possibility, the Cruz campaign has exceeded expectations in recruiting delegates to support the Texas senator at the convention. Cruz recently took all the delegates of Colorado, as well as all but one in North Dakota. Delegate recruitment is where Trump’s campaign has failed miserably, resulting in the candidate referring to the system as “rigged” and “unfair” even though he’s known about these rules throughout the campaign. In an effort to recruit potential delegates in Washington state, Trump’s campaign sent an email on April 8 informing supporters that the deadline to file was on April 6. That email was mistakenly sent to residents of Washington D.C., rather than the intended residents of Washington state. This is a perfect example of Ted Cruz’s campaign groundwork dwarfing Trump’s. Because of his exceptional delegate work, Cruz will very likely go on to win on a second, possibly third, ballot at the convention. If he does, get ready for some very angry Trump supporters in Cleveland.
Obviously, this election is very consequential for the next few decades of our country in both domestic and international policy. The Supreme Court vacancy must be filled; the wealth gap ought to be addressed; Russian aggression must be confronted; and immigration reform is long overdue. Complicated times and difficult decisions await our next commander-in-chief, and if I’m being completely honest, it’s hard to say any of the remaining candidates possess a great mix of the experience, integrity and strength necessary to be president. I think Bernie Sanders is an idealist and a single-issue candidate. I think Hillary Clinton is a corrupt liar. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are dangerous megalomaniacs. I guess that leaves me with John Kasich, at least for the one month he has left in this race.