Economics and politics - comment and analysis
11. February 2016 I Will Denayer I Countries and Regions, General Politics

Can Sanders win the presidency? Super delegates and the money trail

Officially, Clinton won last week’s Iowa caucus. She won by 0.2%. Sanders is sufficiently pragmatic to call it a tie. As I explained yesterday, results remained undecided in six Iowan precincts (see here). In order to decide the win a coin was tossed. Clinton won six times out of six. The chance of tossing 6 coins 6 times right is 1.56%, meaning that there is a 99.44% chance that this outcome does not occur by chance. Two days ago, Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary with a landslide unseen since the Kennedy days. But amazingly, after one disputed tie and one Sanders blowout, the delegate count is 394 for Clinton to 42 for Sanders.

How is this possible? New Hampshire will give Sanders at least 13 delegates. Clinton, who lost by a near 20-point margin, will walk away with no fewer than 15. Clinton won 9 of the ‘pledged’ delegates (who are determined by the electoral vote), but New Hampshire also has 8 ‘super delegates,’ basically insiders in the Democratic party who are free to cast their vote as they wish. Six of these delegates pledged to Clinton, with the other two remaining undecided. Sanders won the election, but the best he can do is to tie (see here).

According to Hugh Warthon, nationally, Clinton has 394 delegates out of a total of 4,763, compared to only 42 for Sanders (2,382 delegates are necessary to get the nomination) (see here). Clearly, Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have been courting the Democratic establishment and Democratic politicians nationally long before the primaries ever began.

Of course, super delegates can change their pledges. The main problem is, as Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of CounterPunch writes (see here), that if Sanders wants super delegates, he will have to court them. If he courts them, they will want something in return. And if Sanders gives them something, he undermines the purpose of his campaign, which is, in his own words, to show ‘that this government belongs to all of us, and not just a wealthy few.’

The 2016 presidential campaign is on its way to become the most expensive presidential campaign ever (see here). The 2012 presidential race cost more than $ 2.6 billion. Let’s not be naïve. We know where all this money is coming from. We know what the millionaires and the billionaires want. The question is what can be done against it.

John Bonifaz, the president of Free Speech for People, has an excellent idea (see here). The argument he developed in the Yale Law & Policy Review is more relevant than ever. Bonifaz wants to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allows corporations to give unlimited amounts of cash to super PACs. His argument is that non-affluent candidates are prevented from competing for office, that the system sharply reduces voter choice and falls with unequal weight on voters, as well as candidates, according to their economic status. It denies huge numbers of people meaningful electoral choice and diminishes the exercise of their political rights (see here).

Bonifaz refers to the first and to the fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The first Amendment guarantees free speech rights to everyone. But how real are free speech rights when billionaires corrupt elections with private money? The Fourteenth Amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws. In 1953, the Supreme Court determined a primary in Texas where only whites could vote as unconstitutional. In 1966, the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s state election poll tax on the basis that the Fourteenth Amendment is violated whenever a state makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard (see here).

Bonifaz’s argument is that today’s campaign finance system works like a ‘wealth primary’. It violates the equal protection clause on the basis of wealth discrimination.

Who can say that this is untrue? The average donation to Sanders’ campaign is $27. Soros’ $6 million contribution to Clinton’s super PAC equals about 222.000 average contributions to Sanders’campaign. This is peanuts compared to the $ 880 million that the ultra-conservative Koch brothers budget for the 2016 election. Of course, the ‘wealth primary’ is a barrier to political participation. It is the usurpation of democracy.

This figure shows the political preference within the Democratic party according to age and income. It seems that Sanders has almost everybody on board, with the exception of the ‘super’ (sic) delegates.


Nicolas Queen

Source: Nicolas Queen.