On Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver ripped into both the Democratic and Republican parties for their presidential primary process that seems to go out of its way to make things much more complicated than they need to be.
As Oliver said, it’s a nearly indefensible process that amounts to nothing but an “erratic clusterf*ck every four years.”
While he hit on several points, his main focus was on the chaos that recently took place in Nevada where some Bernie Sanders supporters made quite the scene over what they felt was “fraud” – even though absolutely nothing fraudulent was found to have actually taken place. Oliver blamed that incident on confusion that was directly caused by the overly complicated process by which Nevada awards all of its delegates.
“They had a caucus in February which Hillary Clinton won, but that caucus only determined 23 out of their 35 regular delegates,” Oliver stated. “As for the remaining 12, those were decided by delegates at the state convention, who were chosen by the delegates at county conventions in April, who were chosen in those February caucuses, which, you may remember, Hillary won.”
“Unfortunately for her, at those county conventions more Bernie supporters showed up and they had an advantage going into the state conventions, although by that time Hillary supporters had realized what was happening and managed to mobilize their turnout, making the numbers in that room basically even,” he added. “At this point both sides began fighting to disqualify each other’s delegates over technicalities such as failing to register as Democrats by May 1, a deadline set after it had already passed at the convention by the credentials committee.”
Oliver also hit on the GOP for having rules such as in Pennsylvania where the majority of the state’s delegates are “unbound,” meaning they can choose any candidate they want and the voters have absolutely no way to know which delegate favors which candidate when they go into the voting booth.
“That makes no f*cking sense!,” Oliver exclaimed.
He then brought up Louisiana where Donald Trump won the state by nearly 4 points, only to have Ted Cruz emerge with more pledged delegates after some weird rules in the process that state follows.
As he pointed out, neither party really has to do any of this. There’s no law that says each party has to hold primaries or even listen to the voters. Though, as you can imagine, if either party actually chose to do that – all hell would break loose.
But the truth of the matter is, the primary process as it stands now is absurdly convoluted.
First, we need to get rid of caucuses. Not only do they massively suppress voter turnout, but there’s absolutely no reason to overly complicate a process that could be done with a simple, ordinary, vote. Especially when you factor in these state conventions and county conventions that make things even more confusing.
Personally, I go back and forth on closed vs. open primaries. While I’m all for allowing as many people to vote as possible, we’re talking about specific party candidates. If you did all open primaries, you open the parties up to some potentially shady shenanigans.
For example, Donald Trump has the nomination wrapped up so there’s really no need for Republican voters to vote for him anymore other than “bragging rights” about the number of votes he’ll ultimately end up with. Therefore, if all the remaining states were open, then Republicans could simply participate in the Democratic primary, vote for the candidate they think is easier to defeat, and that could potentially give conservative voters influence over who eventually wins the Democratic nomination. And Democrats could do the same thing to Republicans if the situations were reversed.
If you don’t believe me, look no further than West Virginia. While the state itself is “semi-closed” (meaning you must either be registered with a party or “undeclared”), exit polls showed around half of those who voted for Sanders said they would vote for Trump in November.
While I’m sure not all of those folks were Republicans, and Sanders would have likely won West Virginia even if the primary was closed, it’s very unlikely he would have won by fifteen points. He didn’t even win ultra-liberal Oregon by that much (a closed primary). A good amount of voters who have no intention of voting for a Democrat in November voted for him to help him defeat Clinton by an even wider margin. Despite what many Sanders supporters believe, Republicans would much rather face Bernie than Hillary this November.
But I’m fine with having an ordinary primary where most people can be involved in the process, just as long as some sort of rules are put into place that could combat any “party crossover” which could potentially allow voters from the opposition party to unethically influence the results of an election. I’m sure something could be figured out.
At the very least, we need to get rid of all these caucuses and these pointless state and county conventions. Just have some sort of primary vote where all delegates are up for grabs and let the voters decide which candidate deserves the most.
As for superdelegates, if they’re not going to go against the will of the people by ignoring the pledged delegates and overall popular vote – which would be a really bad idea for them to do – then nullify any influence they have unless there’s some sort of “tie.” Simply lower the number of pledged delegates needed to clinch the nomination and make it to where if no candidate hits that number by the end, the candidate with the most votes and pledged delegates wins the nomination. Essentially that’s what happens anyway. In the case of a “tie” (one candidate has more votes while the other has more pledged delegates), then superdelegates can step in and serve a purpose. Until then, even though they’ve never overturned the will of the voters, the fact that they’re not bound to any vote makes the whole process appear shady – even if it’s not.
As he concluded the segment, Oliver stressed that we all must keep pushing to reform the primary process. If we don’t, in four years we’re going to be going through this pathetic circus all over again.
Watch the segment below via HBO: