NEW YORK – New York Times headline, April 12: “Donald Trump, Losing Ground, Tries to Blame the System.”
To normal people like you and me, it may seem strange that Trump might be denied the Republican nomination despite winning most of the primaries, and by sizable margins. Not to the establishment. Dripping with a what-a-whiny-baby tone, the Old Gray Lady argues that Trump has no one to blame for himself for losing states he, you know, won:
“Donald J. Trump and his allies are engaged in an aggressive effort to undermine the Republican nominating process by framing it as rigged and corrupt, hoping to compensate for organizational deficiencies that have left Mr. Trump with an increasingly precarious path to the nomination.”
“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,” the Times quoted Trump, saying that he was “accusing party leaders of maneuvering to cut his supporters out of the process.”
“They wanted to keep people out,” Trump continued. “This is a dirty trick.”
Any normal person would agree. You win the most votes, you win the election. Especially when it’s not close. Which, in the case of Trump (8.2 million) versus Cruz (6.3 million) versus Kasich (3 million), it isn’t. But the big corporate news media outlets don’t hire normal people; they hire rich kids who can afford graduate degrees from journalism schools that don’t give financial aid … kids born on third base who think they constantly hit home runs because they’re so damn smart.
The system is working great for them. Why change it?
The Times goes on to accuse Trump of “seeking to cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the local and state contests to select delegates” and “blaming the process rather than his own inadequacies as a manager.” Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is praised because he cleverly “outmaneuvered him [Trump].”
Trump had complained — “whined,” many news outlets called it — that he won the popular vote in the Colorado primary, yet came away with zero pledged delegates. This was because Cruz and his forces flooded the zone at the Colorado State Republican Convention, enticed party officials with trips and other gifties, and came away with all 33 delegates pledged to him. The same thing happened in Louisiana.
Trump even expressed sympathy for Bernie Sanders. Despite winning all the most recent dates, the Democrats’ “superdelegate” system let insider favorite Hillary Clinton start this marathon at mile 16. “Bernie wins, Bernie wins, Bernie wins,” Trump said. “And yet he’s not winning. I mean, it’s a rigged system.”
He’s right. It’s also convoluted, arcane and corrupt.
Normally, when a system is widely viewed as overly complicated, and when it yields results that don’t make sense, people roll up their sleeves and try to fix it. We saw that recently in Hollywood, when no actors of color were nominated for the Oscars. There was an outcry. And a boycott. Then there were reforms.
Not American politics. In politics, you can win and win and win — and they can still take it away from you. After you get screwed, for the good of the country, you’re supposed to shut up and try again later (c.f. Nixon 1960) or slink off and get fat (c.f. Gore 2000).
So when Trump complains about losing what he’s winning, journalists never for a second consider the possibility that he’s right.
“You call them ‘shenanigans,’ ” CNN’s Anderson Cooper ridiculed Trump. “Those are the rules. And didn’t you know those rules?”
“I know the rules very well,” Trump replied. “But I know that it’s stacked against me by the establishment. I fully understand it.”
“You could have had a better organization on the ground,” Cooper scolded. “Your critics say it says something about your leadership ability — for somebody who touts himself as somebody who’s an organizational genius, who’s created this amazing business organization, that you couldn’t create an organization on the ground that could beat Ted Cruz’s organization.”
Talk about blaming the victim! Sure, Trump could have hired teams of professional politicos to navigate the peculiarities of each state’s primaries. As a billionaire, he certainly could have afforded them. Why didn’t he? I have no idea. But why should he have to? Why should Trump, or any other candidate, be subject to such a strange system? Democracy should be simple and straightforward: one person, one vote.
All these crazy rules — the signatures required for ballot access, the polls used to determine who gets to debate on television, winner-take-all primaries, superdelegates, delegates secretly pledged to candidates other those they’re sent to the convention to represent, the electoral college — exist for one reason. They exist in order to dilute the influence of we the people so that They — the ruling class — continues to get its way.
When They win, we lose. We lose our jobs. Our standard of living. Our rights.
If you’re like me — on the left and generally unsympathetic to billionaires — you may be tempted to join the media when they dismiss Trump as a whiner. But this is different. In business, Trump is the consummate insider. But he’s a political naif. When someone as sleazy and unprincipled as Trump is shocked by how dirty politics are, you have to take note.
And if they can steal elections from someone as rich as Trump, there is nothing left of American democracy.
Ted Rall is a writer, syndicated columnist and political cartoonist.
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