As divergent in character, political beliefs, experiences and demeanor as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are, they share one abiding belief: The political system is rigged against them. They argue that the democratic nature of our political system is being corrupted in order to ignore the will of millions of voters and thwart their efforts to gain the presidential nomination of their Party.
Trump and Sanders are correct when they say the political system is rigged against them, but they are wrong to argue that our system of democracy has been hijacked and has been corrupted, because the Constitution never intended for our government to be a true democracy of majority rule. The political system is working just the way the writers of the Constitution intended.
In their writing, speeches and how they crafted the Constitution, the Founding Fathers of our country made it abundantly clear that they did not trust the people and were unwilling to empower the masses to determine who should govern them. The drafters of the Constitution were members of the original “establishment,” and they “rigged” the structure of government in a way that would keep the establishment in power and thwart any outsider from usurping power. What the Constitution created was a “representative government,” not a democracy.
For example, when the Constitution was adopted, only free white men who owned property were allowed to vote. (This disenfranchised almost 90 percent of the citizens.) Senators were elected by the state legislature, not the people. The president was not elected by the popular vote of the people, but by “electors” selected by the state legislatures. The whole idea of this political structure was to give the illusion that the people had the power to determine who would govern them, but the reality was that the system protected the establishment. And it worked. Not once in the history of our country, with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson, has a person from outside the establishment been elected president.
There is a telling parallel to the presidential election of 1824 between Andrew Jackson and John Q. Adams and the election of 2016. Jackson was a total outsider, loathed by the establishment and considered little more than a crude, back-woods buffoon. Despite the fact that Jackson received the most popular votes and a had the most electors, but not a majority, (sound familiar?) the election went to Congress where the establishment rejected Jackson and elected one of their own, Adams. (Eleven of the then 24 states did not even allow a popular vote for president and the “electors” were determined by a legislative caucus)
It should be noted that Jackson went on to win the next two presidential elections and introduced “Jacksonian Democracy,” which is exactly what the establishment feared he would do. Jackson was the first president not to have a direct line to the Founding Fathers and not to have been born in either Massachusetts or Virginia.
Living With the Past in the Present
When the modern political parties were formed, it was natural for them to mimic the type of “democracy” called for in the Constitution. In short, it was the establishment of the Party, not the body of members who would decide the nominee. The political party leaders were free to write the rules in a way that favored those they favored; and they did.
For example, in 2012, the Republican Party passed what is called “Rule 40.” The rule states that an individual’s name cannot even be placed in nomination, unless they have won at least eight primaries. The sole purpose of the rule was to protect the establishment’s chosen candidate – Romney – and prevent any movement of delegates in favor on Ron Paul. The Democrats are even less democratic in their nominating process. They have this thing called a “super delegate.” These super delegates make up as much as 20 percent of the total delegates and they are “elected” by the Party establishment. The sole purpose of the super delegate is to block any outsider who might challenge the establishment candidate.
So when you hear Trump and Sanders railing against the system as unfair and rigged in favor of the candidate of the establishment, even though that candidate might not be the favorite of Party voters, know that what they say is true. But when you hear Trump or Sanders say the system has been “hijacked” by the establishment, know that what they say is not true. The system has not been hijacked, it has simply been reinforced and the establishment leaders are circling the wagons to protect their power. The system has always been rigged by the establishment of both Parties, in an effort to block any outsider from securing the nomination. That is exactly why Sanders can win the Wyoming primary by a large majority, while the loser Clinton comes out of the state with more delegates. That is exactly why Trump can win the Mississippi primary by a large margin, while the loser Cruz comes out with a disproportionate number of delegates.
To Win, Trump and Sanders Have to do the Hijacking
The truth is that the only way for outsiders like Trump and Sanders to gain the nomination of their Party is for them to hijack the system. Of the two, Trump is the only one who really has a chance to accomplish this feat. If he can corral the majority of delegates who are elected by popular vote, he can hijack the system. It is this possibility that has the establishment in fits of fear, bordering on panic. Yet note that while Trump does very well in those open primaries where the winner is determined by popular vote, he gets crushed in those closed caucus states, where only the establishment sets the rules and votes.
It is clear that both the Republican and Democratic establishment are doing all they can to make sure that the selection of their nominee for president is not a democratic process. And why not, after all the Constitution makes it clear that our government is not one based on democratic majority rule. It is rather a representative government intended to represent the establishment. And both the Republican and Democratic Party establishments are very comfortable with that concept of limited democracy.