EDITORIAL: The problem with delegates

York Dispatch
  • Uncommitted delegates, like those in Pennsylvania, don't have to declare and can change their minds
  • This year, a closer-than-usual race has revealed flaws in the system
  • This may not be the last we hear of the delegate debate

In a typical election year, a party’s front-runner — usually an establishment-sanctioned candidate — is promenaded onto the convention floor midsummer, where a rousing speech gives way to cheers and an anti-climactic nomination.

160302 sanders trump montage

And states like ours rarely make a difference by the time the primary rolls around in a typical election year. It’s a done deal.

But this is no typical election year. And this unusual race, particularly on the GOP side, has the country wondering if the delegate count will go in Donald Trump’s favor or if he will fall shy of the necessary 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

“I think we're going to win the 1,237. I think we're not going to have the second ballot. I just tell you, though,” Trump told his supporters, “despite what I just said, it's a corrupt system, and it's a rigged system."

We find it laughable that Donald Trump has been whining about this "corrupt" system because he has admittedly used such systems, such as corporate bankruptcy, which he declared four times, to his advantage. He has also given contributions to both parties in his role as developer/businessman and found that to be personally and professionally beneficial. He even used that as an example of political corruption as he campaigned across the country.

He’s just used to using the system to his advantage. But this time, he’s working within a system inherently designed to keep him out of power. It won't benefit him in the least if the party brass has anything to say about it.

Trump cries foul over anything that doesn’t go his way — despite his considerable resources and egotistical view that somehow something as sacred as the democratic process should benefit him first and foremost.

He knew — or should have known — how the process worked when he started.

Editorial: Into the primary labyrinth

But that doesn’t mean the delegate system is without its faults, chief among them the fact that delegates are typically party functionaries — those with power to ensure the establishment isn’t upset by outsiders.

Trump and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont have brought to light the problem with a process that clearly benefits party establishment candidates over outsiders.

On the Republican side, in most states, delegates are bound to a candidate — at least through the first round of balloting at the GOP convention in July. Pennsylvania is not one of those states. The AP this past week polled the state’s 54 unbound GOP delegates and found 40 of them support Trump.

Pennsylvania GOP delegates voice strong support for Trump

If Trump does well in the Indiana primary Tuesday, as he is expected to do, his path to winning the nomination becomes much clearer. And his party must decide whether it will back him or try to contest the nomination at the convention. It will only do so if he doesn’t get the full 1,237 delegates.

On the Democratic side, as Sanders told Dispatch political reporter Greg Gross during an interview before the April 26 primary, the Democratic superdelegate process has left him at what he believes is a disadvantage. Among those superdelegates is Gov. Tom Wolf — who is committed to former U.S. senator, secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton and has considerable sway within the party.

And as Sanders pointed out, the race isn’t over — technically. That's why he thinks the process should be changed — so those other than the party's No. 1 pick have until the end to sway superdelegates in their favor.

And love Trump or hate him, if he secures the 1,237 — or simply maintains his current and substantial lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — and the party establishment doesn’t get behind him, Trump supporters could view this as, excuse the pun, trumping the will of the people.

This is undoubtedly a unique election year. Still, we have no reason to believe that it isn’t foreshadowing the future of U.S. elections. Young voters energized by Sanders and working-class voters inspired by  Trump are getting involved. They are shaking up the status quo.

And if this is the new normal, the delegate debate has likely just begun.