Election Update (New York Primary Edition)

I’m compiling this as we await news from New York. The two questions for tonight – which I will hopefully answer by the end of this post – are: how big will Hillary’s win be? Will Trump clear 50%? And given how complex the rules for party registration are in NY, these questions aren’t as easy to answer in advance as they might seem, no matter how many polls you aggregate. But since we’ll know the answers in just a few hours, I’m just going to punt on that one and get straight to the bullets.

Republican Party

  • So as to not bury the lede here, Senat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared that he is “increasingly optimistic that there actually may be a second ballot.” That’s one of the most important Republican leaders in the country, on the record, saying that he is optimistic that his party is moving to a brokered convention. That’s…AMAZING.
  • Generally speaking, I find the idea that Roger Stone and I would agree on anything abhorrent. I like neither his tactics nor his causes, but I wouldn’t hate him as much as I do if he ain’t so successful. And that’s why when it comes to arguments about the rules and mechanics of democracy, when he and I agree, I actually take that as a good sign. Because the man really does know how to use the rules to benefit his clients. Thankfully, Trump wasn’t willing to listen to Stone’s advice, which is a good thing for all of us since it makes Trump much less likely to either become the nominee or the president. This entire interview is worth your time, but for the record, I’ll note here his explanation for how the party can use the rules to shape the nomination. Does this sound familiar? “They’ll do it in two ways: by planting their own people — what I call Trojan horse delegates — in the slots won by Trump, and by adopting rules for the convention that won’t favor Trump. The Republican National Convention is not ruled by state or federal law, or by the U.s Courts – it’s ruled by its own rules. It can do whatever it wants. And what we’ve found is that party bosses from a number of key states have been quietly planting establishment stooges in important slots. So the Rules Committee, which has the authority to change, rewrite or completely redo any rule previously adopted by the RNC, could pass a rule, just theoretically, that says that the delegate votes of non-Republicans [meaning Independents or Democrats who voted for Trump in open primaries] are thrown out. Now that has to go to the full convention for ratification. Trump doesn’t have a majority on the floor, because, for instance, the Texas delegates who are for Trump are really not Trump people — the party has filled those seats with their lackeys. This is precisely how the 1952 nomination was stolen from Robert Taft for Dwight Eisenhower.” Yes, it is. Yes it is.
  • In case you missed it, Trump has overhauled his campaign structure and staff, and now that we’ve had a bit of time to absorb the details, it looks like there are two main goals: to improve the campaign’s performance in state-level delegate selection, and to improve relations between Trump and Capitol Hill. It’s still early, but I see literally zero evidence of the first happening (see, for example, nearly every other bullet point in this list), and am really skeptical of the second. I’m sure part of that is due to the fact that every time I try to think about Trump delivering a serious policy speech I start laughing, but it isn’t only that. Republicans in Congress are “the establishment” that Trump needs to keep bashing to win, so I suspect he’ll have more luck squaring a circle than he will of convincing party leaders to let him lead them on policy. But we’ll see, right?
  • Wait…we’re already seeing. John McCain is now the third Republican Senator who has said he will not be attending the convention this summer. For better or for worse, he’s one of the party’s elder statesmen, and he’s spoken at each of the last eight conventions, so it’s a really big deal for him not to go, no matter what he might tell you. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Illinois Senator Mark Kirk have both already indicated that they wont be going. Expect pretty much every other non-Southern Republican Senator up for re-election to follow suit. As I always say, ignore waht people say, focus on what they do. They might say they’ve got no problem with Trump, but if their actions indicate the opposite, then the opposite is true.
  • Not content to simply impugn the integrity of his rival and the party’s delegates, Trump’s own son is out saying that the delegate system is so corrupt, he feels like he’s living in Communist China. Look, this deserves a much longer post, but parties aren’t supposed to just be empty vehicles into which voters pour their momentary desires. Our parties are huge, durable institutions, and they each actualyl stand for something. Republicans aren’t the same as Democrats aren’t the same as Greens aren’t the same as Constitutionalists, nor should they be. Democracy would be essentially impossible without parties for a whole host of reasons. So no, the rules for our parties shouldn’t just allow for them to be taken over by anyone at any time. They might not be part of the formal structures established by our constitution, but they provide important checks and balances nonetheless, and we’d be much worse off as a people and a nation if we just chucked all of these rules. Improve them? Sure! Reform them? Yes! But open the party primaries wide to anyone and everyone? No, you will never convince me of that, and believe me, I’m not nearly the only one. More later, I hope… 
  • Meanwhile, Trump’s new top guy has announced that their campaign plans to file formal protests against a number of the state delegations, including Colorado and Missouri. This perfectly illustrates what I’ve been trying to convince you of. All that’s needed for chaos at the convention is for each campaign to pursue its own self-interests. That’s it. No conspiracy necessary!
  • It’s official: Cruz swept Wyoming. I’d expect Team Trump to file protests here too, if for no other reason than that they lost.
  • In Louisiana, Trump and Cruz appeared to tie in the delegate count on election night, while Rubio got five of his own. The pressure on those five is building, but I’d bet a house that they will end up going for Cruz. Much much more importantly, however, is the fact that Cruz’s delegates secure 5 of the state’s 6 spots on the rules, credentials, and platform committees. The ineptness of the Trump campaign is really something to behold.
  • Meanwhile, at the national level, there are increasing divisions there too. Check out this report on infighting among Rules Committee members – and then follow it with this report. The fight is whether the convention should adopt the rules of debate used by the House of Representatives, as it always has in the past, or whether it should adopt Roberts Rules, which allow for much more free-flowing debate. The outsiders seems to think that Roberts Rules would allow them to have more “Freedom”  at the convention, but…good lord would that be a collective action problem of historic proportions. Sure thing – a strong chairman has its own problems, but a weak on in this environment would absolutely guarantee internationally televised chaos. But leave all that aside – if members of the Rules Committee are already having a fight over what rules should be sued to interpret the rules, there’s literally no way that whatever rules the Committee adopts on July 18, a huge block of delegates will be unhappy. And since step one of any convention is the adoption of the rules, there’s going to be a huge fight even before we get around to the nomination itself. Good times!
  • In demographics news…Women, generally speaking, hate Trump. Except white married women. He narrowly beats Hillary in that group. But as Bloomberg says, Trump has “exploded the gap between them into something more like a canyon.”

Democratic Party

  • If you follow me on Facebook, then you surely know by now that I have two major concerns with Bernie. First, I don’t have a clue how he thinks he will get any of his proposals through congress. It’s as if the guy spent the last eight years sleeping, woke up to find that Obama wasn’t able to accomplish some of the things he set out to back in 2008, and concluded that the problem was the Democratic Party, rather than Republicans. That’s…I don’t understand that. Second, because he’s never been a Democrat, and because he’s running against pretty much every aspect of money in politics, I’ve worried that were he to become the nominee, he wouldn’t raise money for the party, leaving other Democrats down-ticket to suffer. Which then feedsback into my first concern, since it would almost certain all leave congress with fewer Democrats in office than would have otherwise been possible. So…when Bernie’s team starts alleging that both the Clinton Campaign and the party are engaged in illegal fundraising when the law quite clearly states that they are not…dude, you’re NOT helping with people like me.
  • Having never really been a member of the Democratic Party, Bernie is now complaining that the party rules have been set up to make certain that only Democrats can vote in Democratic primaries. It’s excluding independents, and he thinks that’s just so unfair. Dude, seriously…you’re REALLY not helping with people like me. You could’ve organized your own party, but you didn’t – you chose to join ours. And that decision means that you play by our rules! But let’s try this another way. Suppose the primaries were truly open: Would you be happy if Republicans crossed-over in huge numbers to make sure that a bad Democratic candidate got nominated, or vice versa? You would most likely see that as meddling, right? And we want our parties to stand for things and offer clear differences, right? Because if so, it’s going to be rules like closed primaries and in-advance party registration that prevent that from happening, which are exactly the rules he’s complaining about. Dude…STOP!
  • Just watched Jeff Weaver on MSNBC. I know that guy has been on Team Bernie since way back in the day, but good lord does he make some bad arguments on behalf of his guy. From start to finish, the case he made tonight was the antithesis of the core message of Bernie’s campaign. I really do hope that the reason Bernie went home to Vermont without the press corps and a huge chunk of his staff is to reassess the turns his campaign has taken over the past few weeks. He said he would run a positive campaign, and until recently he was. But then something changed, and it needs to change back. 
  • One last thing, this time a quote from Jonathan Chait: “The trouble is that Sanders and his supporters are not listening to Nate Silver. Instead the campaign is propounding all sorts of weird, quasi-mathematical approaches to the question of delegate math.” For the record, I’m really sympathetic to many Bernie’s arguments about public policy. I’ve spent years teaching the virtues of Social Democracy to college students, so if ever there was a persuadable Bernie voter, it’s me. But he’s the wrong guy for the right message. I’m eternally grateful for his fight to mainstream a lot of really important ideas, but the idea of him as president really worries me. We’re going to have to use our broken institutions to fix those institutions, and nowhere in his analysis does he seem to account for this. So no, I’m not hating on the ideas Bernie is advancing – just the opposite.

OK, so I finished these in time to see the networks call the races, but not nearly late enough for them to have the data necessary to determine delegate counts. Remember, if Trump is anything less than high 80’s he has failed tonight, no matter what the narrative might be yelling at you from your teevee. And Bernie’s people spent the day predicting a win, so his double-digit loss tonight wont help his cause. The Math? It was already impossible for him, now even more so.

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