The Donkey and the Elephant

Throughout this primary season I’ve heard many cries of the system being “hijacked” and “undemocratic” and “not following the will of the people” from my friends who are more left of center on the political spectrum. In some respects, I can understand.

  • I agree the DNC wanted to hold a coronation, rather than have a process.
  • I agree the Media has rather unblinkingly followed the coronation narrative.
  • I agree the primary process for the DNC was designed to minimize the will of the voters 1.

What I don’t agree with, however, is the notion the process was somehow “undemocratic” and “hijacked.” In fact, the process worked exactly as it was supposed to work. Hillary Clinton, depicted as “inevitable” for months by both the party and the press, won the nomination. And, after the process of discouraging dissent, she also happened to win more votes. But, really, those votes don’t matter all that much. They’re really for show. Primaries, in fact, are not a democratic process. They never have been.

We forget the two major political parties in the United States are not public entities. They are actually private clubs. Those private clubs can do whatever they want, in the bounds of their own rules, to set both the agenda and their list of candidates. This includes masking a coronation inside a “race.”

The only process which was derailed during the primary season was actually on the Republican side of things. As Donald Trump was running away with the Republican nomination, I heard many of my more right-of-center friends pining for the brilliance of super delegates. Donald Trump was not supposed to get anywhere near the nomination. He wasn’t part of the club, he went out of his way to alienate the establishment, and he deliberately undermined the political outreaches to Latino voters the GOP had been pursuing for the better part of a decade 2. Trump’s ascension to the nomination isn’t the result of a political race, it’s a hostile takeover of a fallen regime.

The DNC had a bit more of a imaginative streak when they pondered the power of real grass-roots movements, and created rules to make sure they’d not be easily dislodged. Their victory may be pyrrhic, because the DNC establishment has now alienated younger left-of-center voters, but right now they can pat themselves on the back for managing to stave off a political revolt 3.

The real problem I see in all this is how people so easily applied the terms “democratic” and “will of the people” to the selection process of entirely private organizations. As much as it masquerades as one, the primary process is not an election. The fact so many of us assume it is a function of public government shows me 4 how these parties are too big and too entrenched to trust either one. They’ve hijacked more than a process, they’ve hijacked the very notion of governance itself.

  1. See bullet point number 2. 
  2. Better late than never? 
  3. There is no short-sightedness quite like entrenched power. 
  4. Again.