Divergent - Politics of 2016

Frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad, and embarrassed are all words that best describe my reaction to the 2016 Presidential race.  I am not speaking of any candidate in particular nor any one political party.  These feelings are the result of what I believe to be the root of the dissension and frustration in the entire elective process.

In 2014, the first in a book series by Veronica Roth became a successful film at the box office -- Divergent.  Her blog describes Divergent this way:  "In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives..."  If you have read the books or seen the movies you know that once an adolescent chooses a certain faction, they must serve that virtue for the remainder of their lives.  For example, if I am Amity, I will never be allowed to work or serve in any role that is assigned to the faction or class of Erudite.  What makes these fictional stories so compelling is the contrast to our society where we celebrate and cherish our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as so courageously penned in our Declaration of Independence.  America is a great nation because we champion the right of self-determination...unless we are talking about politics.

One of the distinctive differences between the Republican and Democratic primary process is the presence of super-delegates in the Democratic Party.  Both parties are well into their respective primaries whereby citizens in each state have the opportunity to vote for their candidate of choice.  In an effort to simplify this process, think of it this way.  The number of votes a candidate receives correlates into points.  The Republican candidate must amass a total of 1237 and the Democratic candidate 2383.  These points are called delegates because they are actual people.

At each party's convention this summer, every state will send delegates/representatives to select a candidate that will run for the office of President.  And while both party's rules vary, the expectation is that these delegates will vote at the convention based on how their state voted in the primary.  For example, in Virginia's primary, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by approximately 65% to 35%.  So she was assigned 62 delegates and Sanders was assigned 33 delegates from Virginia.  If both candidates are still in the race by the Democratic convention, those delegates will vote for their assigned candidate.  The Republican party operates in a similar fashion.  However, if there were two candidates still in the Republican race at the time of the convention, the only delegates who are allowed to vote are those sent by the states.  And those delegates sent by the states vote according to results determined solely by the voters.  However, if there is more than one ballot, then the rules begin to change so that a candidate can ultimately be selected.  But the first ballot is clear, delegates sent by states represent the will of the people as expressed through their vote in the individual state primaries.

So back to super-delegates.  If you are interested in a more complete history of super-delegates you can see this article by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  There are 712 super-delegates.  These individuals are major elected officials, notable party figures, and select leaders of organizations affiliated with the Democratic National Convention (definitions by Becca Stanek).  Their support is not dictated by the voters.  They are allowed to choose which Democratic candidate to support.  Now you have to decide which process you prefer.  For me, I always want a process that has the opportunity to be determined solely by the outcome of voters.

The former Democratic Governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt said the following in November of 1981, "We must also give our convention more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and, in cases where the voters’ mandate is less than clear, to make a reasoned choice."  I'm not sure how the voters' mandate can be anything but clear.  People vote and margins are based on math and a winner is declared.  Really what Governor Hunt was saying is that sometimes the voter is not savvy enough to pick the right candidate and we the political elite must step in to protect the general public from themselves.  Is it possible for no single candidate to gain enough delegates to be selected?  It is certainly possible in the Republican Party.  In that case, there are rules that guide the process forward so a candidate can be selected.  But what the Democratic Party has done through the creation of super-delegates is to never give the voters of their party an opportunity to express a clear mandate.  

We have factions.  They are not formalized factions like Veronica Roth's novels but they exist and they are powerful influences in our society.  And I believe one of those factions is the faction of the political elite.  The presence of super-delegates is a clear example.  712 of the 2383 delegates that choose the Democratic candidate for the President of the United States are not bound by the vote of citizens.  This concerns me.  The will of the people can be thwarted.  As of this morning, Hillary Clinton has earned 1,716 delegates through the voting of citizens.  Bernie Sanders has earned 1,433 delegates through the voting of citizens.  So when you hear news outlets continue to report that it is mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination for his party, doesn't that surprise you?  The will of the people has yet to be determined.  In an article by Huffington Post yesterday, Bernie Sanders has won 19 of 25 State primaries/caucuses and is only a few hundred thousand votes behind in the popular vote which is a small margin given how many votes have been cast.  Both he and Hillary Clinton are tied in National polls for their party.  But super-delegates swing heavily in her favor, people who are not bound by the will of voters.

I am equally concerned for the Republican Party.  There are no super-delegates in the Republican Party.  But there is a faction of political elites that should be equally disturbing to us.  When former Presidents and their families publicly state they will not support the candidate chosen by the people at the polls, they are the political elite.  When candidates who ran but lost publicly state they will not support the candidate chosen by the people at the polls, they are the political elite.  When elected officials publicly state they will not support the candidate chosen by the people at the polls, they are the political elite.  Oh they are going to say it violates their conscience or their position is because of their personal integrity...they lie.  They are the political elite.  They are a part of the class of people in our society who have been controlling the political process for decades.  And now someone who is not part of their "faction" is trespassing.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Their withholding of support has nothing to do with character.  They are spoiled elites who are pouting about their loss of control or they are political candidates posturing in a way they believe better positions them for future elections...or both!

Regardless of how you may feel about any of the candidates in this year's Presidential race, champion and protect the foundation of our political system...a free elective process whereby the will of the people is expressed at the polls.  Do not support the political elites who seek to control outcomes and derail the will of voters.  Be wise and recognize when media outlets who are supposed to be journalists stop reporting the narrative and begin creating their own narrative.  Don't be naive.  Both conservative and liberal media outlets are pushing an agenda and that agenda is the profitability of their respective brands.  In addition, many of them are just as much a part of this "faction" of the political elites as the candidates themselves.

I'm for a faction free world.  I don't want to live in Veronica Roth's dystopian society.  May we never stop being these people, which people?  "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Pastor Fred