There is a moment — it’s so brief that you really have to watch for it — that those who dissemble for a living in the political world must eventually tell the truth.
And it stays out there, no matter how hard you try to erase it.
Take The Washington Post. The District’s newspaper of record realizes that there’s potentially going to be a brokered convention for the presidential nomination — one in which the party elites would decide who’ll end up running against Donald Trump in the 2020 election if no candidate has enough delegates to win.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed by Marquette University political science professor Julia Azari on preference voting in primaries and how it could help party elites make a decision in such a circumstance.
The subtext was clear: When Bernie Sanders types have the most delegates but are thoroughly undesirable, it helps to know what candidates within the window of acceptability you can get away with picking.
You can see why this got a bit of backlash, but what really got backlash was the original title: “It’s time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president.”
It didn’t take long for that title to be changed — it’s now, “It’s time to switch to preference primaries” — but not after significant backlash.
So, first, let’s talk about the objectionable nature of the piece, no matter what the title is. Azari believes that if there isn’t a clear choice, the elites ought to be the ones guiding the process, with the voters “guiding” them:
“The current process is clearly flawed, but what would be better?” she wrote.
“Finding an answer means thinking about the purpose of presidential nominations, and about how the existing system falls short. It will require swimming against the tide of how we’ve thought about nominations for decades — as a contest between everyday voters and elites, or as a smaller version of a general election. A better primary system would empower elites to bargain and make decisions, instructed by voters.
“One lesson from the 2020 and 2016 election cycles is that a lot of candidates, many of whom are highly qualified and attract substantial followings, will inevitably enter the race. The system as it works now — with a long informal primary, lots of attention to early contests and sequential primary season that unfolds over several months — is great at testing candidates to see whether they have the skills to run for president,” she continued.
“What it’s not great at is choosing among the many candidates who clear that bar, or bringing their different ideological factions together, or reconciling competing priorities. A process in which intermediate representatives — elected delegates who understand the priorities of their constituents — can bargain without being bound to specific candidates might actually produce nominees that better reflect what voters want.”
So, she proposed “preference primaries” which would “allow voters to rank their choices among candidates, as well as to register opinions about their issue priorities.”
“This might sound labor-intensive and a little risky, but the process is already lengthy and expensive. Candidates jockey for endorsements and donations for months leading up to the first contests,” she wrote.
“Why not invest some resources in finding out what voters really think, and then allow party delegates to figure out how those opinions can translate into a winning ticket?”
This sounds a lot like ranked voting or instant-runoff voting, except it would have no influence on the primaries themselves. Instead, in the case of a brokered convention, it would allow the elites — Azaris term, not mine — to choose the candidate most acceptable to the elites as well as the voters.
This is a hedge against a Bernie-type candidate: Surely the Bernie bros and the female versions thereof would eventually come up with a grown-up pick somewhere on the ballot.
Then, the adults could gather in the back rooms of the convention and come up with someone who wasn’t Bernie — or any kind of insurgent — who everyone could deal with.
And by everyone, read the kind of people like Julia Azari, who inhabit a universe in which its inconceivable where they wouldn’t have this power.
I mean, you concede they deserve it, right?
This didn’t go over well with the rabblement, especially when you consider that The Post is owned by the elite of the elite — Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America:
You can’t make this up: The Washington Post, which is owned by mega-oligarch Jeff Bezos (who has $130 BILLION in wealth) published an oped calling for elites to have an even “bigger say in choosing the president”
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 19, 2020
— John Cusack (@johncusack) February 19, 2020
Party of the people…. https://t.co/ukhTedg4m2
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) February 20, 2020
It’s time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president says the #WashingtonPost
They no longer even try to hide it! https://t.co/crKyByxnTZ
— judy morris (@judymorris3) February 20, 2020
— Doug Henwood (@DougHenwood) February 19, 2020
Hi – this is what you are literally advocating for:https://t.co/nGT0qcVVMY
As a political scientist in the 21st century…
What you wrote was an expose, affirming that the establishment can find someone to peddle even the most defunct, evil, disenfranchising ideas.
— Борис Бабагануш (@wuddafuq) February 19, 2020
not sure if that elitist tone is the best mode of communicating your point.
— Michael Ziadat (@mikeyziadat) February 19, 2020
— Lilith Nicole (@coilspinner) February 19, 2020
File this under: “Democracy dies in Darkness” https://t.co/VbD9kvJgWl
— Oliver Hidalgo-Wohlleben (@OliverHidWoh) February 19, 2020
So what The Post did was change the title of the piece without an explanation as to why or a note on the piece, which is obviously the way to engender trust here.
However, let’s face facts: They did get the title right the first time.
The point of the piece is that the elites should have more power in picking the nominee.
It’s rare that there isn’t a consensus candidate going into a convention, but that ought to be a sign that the status quo within a party isn’t working.
That’s the last time the Sanhedrin of the Democratic Party ought to be picking the nominee, and certainly not on ranked voting.
This is a cataclysmically poor idea — and yet, so on brand for both The Post and the kind of writer who would pen this.
For the rest of us who cast our ballots and want them to count, perhaps not so much.
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