YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=sOgWGMK5atk
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Duration:05:17
Uploaded:2016-03-22
Last sync:2018-05-08 22:30
In which John seeks to understand the strange and labyrinthine process used by the Republican and Democratic parties to select a nominee for President, focusing on the great state of Missouri, where the races were close but the delegate counts weren't. Along the way, there's a bit of discussion about political parties in U.S. politics, congressional redistricting and gerrymandering, superdelegates, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.

A little more historical background on the emergence of primaries and caucuses in American politics: http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2015/07/kennedys-nomination-was-a-big-moment-for-the-primary-system/

All the delegate math you can handle: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/delegate-targets/ and all the primary polls/forecasts you can handle: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/primary-forecast
Know your superdelegates and who (if anyone) they've pledged to support at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia: http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/D-Unpledged.phtml
Lots of information on redistricting in Missouri after the 2010 census: https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting_in_Missouri
More information on how the Missouri Republican party allocates its delegates for the 2016 Republican convention in Cleveland: http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/MO-R

Thanks to Rosianna for illustrations (http://youtube.com/rosianna) and Stan Muller for the video title and help understanding political parties in the U.S.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday and I have strep throat, which I rate zero out of ten not recommended. So your video about the political situation in Brazil made me think about the political situation here in the United States. Specifically the tortuously long Kafkaesque process through which the two major political parties in the United States determine their nominees for president.

Delving deeply into the whole assorted affair would take like a month, so today we're just going to look at one state, Missouri. Last week the people of Missouri voted in their presidential primaries and on the Republican side, Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz state wide by about 0.19% and on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by a similar margin. But what actually matters for becoming your parties nominee is not how many votes you get, but how many delegates are pledged to you because the nominees are not actually chosen by voters, they are chosen by delegates at the parties' national conventions in July. The Republicans are meeting in Cleveland and the Democrats in Philadelphia. On the Republican side there will by 2473 of these delegates voting at the convention and on the Democratic side there will be 4765 ish, it depends a little bit on if anybody dies.

Right, so despite only winning the state wide primary by 0.2% Hillary Clinton emerged from Missouri with 47 delegates to Bernie Sanders 35. In fact she would've won more delegates than Sanders even if she lost by 0.2% because the Missouri Democratic party has named 13 so called super-delegates who can support whomever they want at the convention and most of them have endorsed Clinton. Missouri's super delegates include the state's governor Jay Nixon, senator Claire McCaskill and like other prominent members of the state's Democratic party. Then there are the 71 delegates who actually represent Missouri's Democratic primary voters. By state party rule, their votes are split proportionately according to the results, so if Clinton had gotten 100% of the vote, she would have gotten all 71 delegates but she just barely beat Sanders, so instead she got 36 delegates to his 35. This year in Missouri there were about 8800 Democratic votes for each of these 71 pledged delegates. Which means that at the party's convention in Philadelphia, Governor Jay Nixon will have, you know, around 8800 times more power than the average Democratic voter in Missouri and not to belabor the obvious or anything, that's not a power distribution generally associated with the word democracy.

But wait, there's more. Over on the Republican side Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz very narrowly state wide but emerged with 37 delegates to Cruz's 15. And John Kasich, who got 10% of the vote, won no delegates at all. But it wasn't all bad news for Kasich, because on the same day, in Ohio, he got 47% of the Republican vote but all of the state's 66 delegates. That's because the rules of the Republican state party in Ohio dictate that whoever gets the most votes gets all the delegates whereas the rules created by the state party in Missouri dictate that if no one gets 50%, the winner gets 12 delegates. And then 5 delegates go to the winner of each of Missouri's eight congressional districts. Trump won the state and five of the congressional districts ergo 37 delegates.

Alright, this is going to get a little complicated. Bit of context for non-Americans. There are 435 congressional districts in the United States. Each of these districts elects a congressperson every two years who goes to Washington and fails to pass a budget. Presumably they also do other things but the main thing is to make sure that we don't accidentally pass a budget. Each state gets a number of congressional districts based on their population and after the 2010 census it was determined that a smaller percentage of Americans lived in Missouri so they lost a congressional district. While fast-growing states like Arizona and Florida gained districts. But this losing a district offered the state of Missouri an opportunity to redraw its congressional boundaries. Back in 2010 there were six congressional districts represented by Republicans and 3 represented by Democrats. If one of those had to go, the Republicans obviously wanted it to be a majority Democratic district. Which is what happened because one, they controlled the state legislator and two, one of the Democratic congresspeople helped them because in that process, his district became even more Democratic. You know, now he's less likely to lose his job. Today congressional districts in Missouri are drawn mostly in a way that makes the elections within them extremely lopsided. Like in 2014 the first congressional district in Missouri voted 73% to 21% for the Democrat. The third district, meanwhile, voted 68% to 27% for the Republican etc. But per Republican state party rules, no matter which district you win you get the same five delegates. Like in Missouri's first congressional district about 34,000 Republican votes were cast. In the seventh district it was closer to 150,000. So just be virtue of living in the first district instead of the seventh, your Republican primary vote is five times more powerful.

In short, Hank, all of this is extremely complicated and none of it is particularly democratic. At least not in the straightforward way we usually imagine democracy. Political parties are weird institutions in the United States. Like they're simultaneously public organizations and private clubs. They make their own rules, the rules are constantly changing but in many cases the rules are regulated by the states. And political parties are powerful but only insofar as their supporters allow them to have power. Also they don't really have card-carrying members but almost every nationally elected figure belongs to one of them. Now some of this is a legacy from a time when the United States was openly suspicious of what we now call voting rights. I mean, for most of American history, most adults couldn't vote and political parties served partly as a check against revolution or radical change. In fact the nominating process has become much more democratic over time. Like, as recently as 1968 only 34% of Republican delegates were chosen by primaries and only 38% of Democratic delegates. And for the last ten election cycles in both parties the person with the most overall primary and caucus support has also been the eventual nominee. But that may not be the case this year and it remains to be seen who will actually wield the power when the party and the people disagree.
Hank, I'll see you on Friday.