Understanding the Primaries: Delegates, Democracy, and America’s Nonstop Political Party


Good morning, Hank. It’s Tuesday. and I have strep throat which I rate 0/10 not recommended. so your video about the political situation in Brazil made me think about the political situation here in the United States specifically the tortuously long, Kafka-esque process through which the two major political parties in the United States determine their nominees for President. delving deeply into the whole sorted affair would take like a month so today we’re just going to look at one state: Missouri last week the people of Missouri voted in their presidential primaries and on the Republican side, Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz statewide by about .19 percent And on the democratic side, Hilary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by a similar margin But what actually matters for becoming your party’s nominee is not how many votes
you get but how many delegates are pledged to you because the nominees are
not actually chosen by voters. They are chosen by delegates at the party’s national
conventions in July. The Republicans are meeting in Cleveland the Democrats in
Philadelphia. On the Republican side there will be 2473 of these delegates voting at the
convention and on the Democratic side there will be 4765-ish. It depends a little bit on if anybody dies. Right, so despite
only winning the statewide primary by point two percent Hilary Clinton
emerged from Missouri with 47 delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 35. In fact, she would have won more delegates
than Sanders even if she lost by .2 percent because the Missouri Democratic
Party has named 13 so-called super delegates who can support whomever they
want at the convention and most of them have endorsed Clinton. Missouri’s
super-delegates include the state’s governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire
McCaskill, and like other prominent members of the state’s Democratic Party. Then there are the 71 delegates who actually represent Missouri’s Democratic
primary voters. By state party rule, their votes are split proportionately according to
the results, so if Clinton had gotten a hundred percent of the vote, she would have
gotten all 71 delegates, but she just barely beat Sanders, so instead she got
36 delegates to his 35. This year in Missouri there were about 8,800 democratic votes for each of these
71 pledged delegates. Which means that at the party’s convention in Philadelphia Governor Jay
Nixon will have, you know, around 8800 times more power than the
average Democratic voter in Missouri, and not to belabor the obvious or anything,
that’s not a power distribution generally associated with the word
democracy. But wait, there’s more! Over on the Republican side Donald Trump beat Ted Cruz very narrowly statewide, but emerged with 37 delegates to Cruz’s 15.
And John Kasich, who got ten percent of the vote, won no delegates at all. But it
wasn’t all bad news for Kasich, because on the same day in Ohio, he got 47
percent of the Republican vote but all of the state’s 66 delegates.That’s because the
rules of the Republican state party in Ohio dictate that whoever gets the most
votes gets all the delegates, whereas the rules created by the State party in
Missouri dictate that if no one gets 50 percent, the winner gets twelve delegates, and then
five delegates go to the winner of each of Missouri’s eight congressional
districts. Trump won the state and five of the congressional districts ergo 37
delegates. Alright, this is going to get a little complicated: bit of context for
non-Americans: there are 435 congressional districts in the United States. Each of
these districts elects a congressperson every two years who goes to Washington and
fails to pass a budget. Presumably they also do other things but the main thing is to
make sure that we don’t accidentally pass a budget. Each state gets a certain
number of congressional districts based on their population, and after the 2010
census it was determined that a smaller percentage of Americans lived in
Missouri so they lost a congressional district. While fast growing states like Arizona
and Florida gain districts but this losing a district offered the state of
Missouri an opportunity to redraw its congressional boundaries. Back in 2010 there
were six congressional districts represented by Republicans and 3
represented by Democrats. If one of those had to go, the Republicans obviously
wanted it to be a majority Democratic district which is what happened because
1- they control the state legislature and 2 – one of the democratic congress people
helped them because in that process his district became even more democratic. You know, now he’s less likely to lose his job. Today congressional districts in
Missouri are drawn mostly in a way that makes the elections within them extremely
lopsided. Like in 2014 the first congressional district of Missouri voted
73 percent to 21 percent for the Democrat. The third district meanwhile
voted 68 percent to 27 percent for the Republican, et cetera. But per Republican state party rules, no matter which
district you win you get the same five delegates. Like in Missouri’s 1st congressional district
about 34,000 republican votes were cast in the 7th district it was closer to
150,000. So just by virtue of living in the first district instead of the seventh, your
Republican primary vote is five times more powerful. In short Hank, all of this is
extremely complicated and none of it is particularly democratic, at least not in
a straightforward way we usually imagine democracy. Political
parties are weird institutions in the United States, like, they’re simultaneously
public organizations and private clubs. They make their own rules, the rules are
constantly changing, but in many cases the rules are regulated by the states.
And political parties are powerful, but only insofar as their supporters allow
them to have power. Also they don’t really have card-carrying members, but almost
every national elected figure belongs to one of them. Now some of this is a legacy from
a time when the United States was openly suspicious of what we now call voting
rights. I mean, for most of American history, most adults couldn’t vote and
political parties served partly as a check against revolution or radical
change. In fact, the nominating process has become much more democratic over time. Like as
recently as 1968 only 34 percent of Republican delegates were chosen by
primaries, and only 38 percent of Democratic delegates. And for the last 10 election cycles,
in both parties, the person with the most overall primary and caucus support has
also been the eventual nominee. But that may not be the case this year, and it
remains to be seen who will actually wield the power when the party and the
people disagree. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. sadly, this might be the first time, john has not cleared up the subject for me…. that made No sense ūüôĀ

  2. It is so very annoying. Basically, though nobody will admit it, America has become an oligarchy. Everything is run by rich people with power. The people have spoken, but nobody is listening. America feels the Bern. The delegates should too.

  3. Can you please explain why littering is bad for our environment and what pollution is/how is effects our Earth to my four and six year old sisters for Earth day?! (April 22) We are going to pick up garbage at a park in our town for Earth day and they are interested in learning why it's important but I'm having a hard time explaining it.

  4. It would be interesting to see you guys comparing different voting systems in the world. What's actually the "most democratic" way of voting/representing the citizens of a country? The pros and cons etc.

    I don't know where you'd start this analysis from though, but I feel there's ought to be a lot of different systems out there.

  5. I say if things don't change and our elected leaders don't start listening to the the people we need a revolution like the French…..

  6. Someone has to explain Donald Trump how it's happening:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/04/11/trump-slams-gop-nominating-process-as-top-aide-accuses-cruz-gestapo-tactics-to-win-delegates.html?intcmp=hpbt2

  7. As an Englishman, I knew the American voting system was complicated, but I had no idea. I'm going to have to read more now to properly understand it.

  8. Watching this as a non-USA citizen all I think is WHAT THE HELL AMERICA?! This is so complicated for no reason!

  9. As a Missourian, I appreciated your explanation of our BS congressional districts. My district got very convoluted after 2010. Political parties are not a democracy. They are political establishments that decide to concentrate their members and money in order to pick one candidate for president. If you don't like the way they do things, you should start your own party with it's own rules or support candidates for president who do not belong to the two parties. The political parties are not in the constitution and unless your state has placed rules on primaries (like MO has), you don't have any rights to complain about. Get involved with the party and get selected as a delegate if you want to participate in that non-governmental but political process.

  10. power to the people, anyone in power who has an agenda other than returning full power to vote on everything back to the people is not on the right side of history. checks and balances are the way to go but as it stands the few with power still were able to fuck shit up and let it become corrupted over time. which actual makes it harder to fight power because who has it? a lot of people. we had the right idea but didn't make it on a large enough scale. power to the people. no one has more power than another

  11. You get to vote for a guy who voted for another guy so that in November you can vote for a guy who will vote for that other guy.

  12. Those DEMONIC DELEGATES are unGodly, ungrateful EVIL destroyers of FREEDOM and Democracy.  Nothing more than servants to the establishment. Great men and women died in war to protect and defend the right of every American to vote.  How dreadful it is that it wasn't our enemies from outside that came in and took away our freedom.  It was from within our own Government.  The most destructive Trojan Horse in the history of the world.

  13. the establishment super delegates aren't really counted till the convention, but the corporate media includes them in $hillarys delegate total. if the media was here to actually inform people with helpful information instead of forming public opinion in favor of the establishment, sanders would have a lead. the system is rigged, the media is owned by the same people who control the puppets running for president. to trump and clintons 120 minutes of media attention, sanders gets 6 min of airtime. most likely discrediting him. 2012 congress made it legal for media to run propaganda on its own population. everything coming from media outlets is carefully written to make you think a certain way

  14. Man, I have never been able to figure this process out…but I thank you for your help all the same. I'm loving the vlogbrothers videos.

  15. Dude, everyone outside the United States hates America. Don't explain anything about our country to them. They'd have us fry if they could. We saved Britain and Frances' collective butts from Germany, and they'd rail on us for…I don't know, anything.

  16. I don't think you can understand the presidential primary process (or see in perspective) without knowing the full history of how political parties have chosen their candidates for president as well as candidates for other offices …and nothing at all has been said about that in this video.

  17. it is so nice to live in a smaller country, because no none talks about your corruption or scandals, so you can live in ignorance.

  18. EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN(+18) = ONE FUCKING VOTE. PERIOD. No superdelegates, no bullshit. The sistem is so complicated and that only helps corruption.

  19. All I can say about the voting system in the U.S., Is look at a imaginary camera and scream at the. Say, "THIS IS STUPID!" At around 2:33~2:38

  20. Hey, I thought it was only the Ukrainian parliament who are prohibited from passing a budget. Guess we aren't alone.

  21. k sorry for my ignorance i'm not american, but if the president is decided by delegates and not by voters then why do you vote?

  22. "Who will wield the power when the party and the people disagree?" -John Green

    Man I feel this small sentence wholly encapsulates the situation that the US is going through in these elections. A moment in time where the divide between the parties and the people they are supposed to represent is stretched to the breaking point.

  23. This election season really is a once in a nation's lifetime event. I keep thinking of Hamilton's The Schuyler Sisters and the line: "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now." We are watching history be made, and it is both amazing and terrifying.

  24. Ummm…Please do more research on the super delegates because I think you have a misunderstanding. Superdelegates have no more voting power than the regular-citizen delegates (who represents the same number of people in the state). Please don't misinform people. This superdelegate misinformation is going to backfire on us making us look bad…

  25. And this is why first past the post is a terrible idea. If you had proportional representation then gerrymandering would be an excercise in futility.

  26. For real all you need to know is you got 5 choices
    1. Crooked Hillary
    2. Commisar Sanders
    3. 1 for 38 Kasich
    4. Zodiac Killer
    5. Dude with funny hair cut

    Pick one and then you're a real American

  27. So what's the problem with one person. one vote? It's simple. quick, inexpensive and irrefutable. It's been working in UK for decades.

  28. Question.

    If a party's nominee is chosen by delegates and not the people, what does the people's vote affect? Where and how do nominees get their delegates? Because my current understanding of the process sounds to me like nominees are just grabbing delegates on their own and that to me sounds like the people's vote doesn't make any difference whatsoever.

  29. I just got my ballot and I've been sitting in front of it for an hour without filling in any bubbles HELP ME JOHN

  30. I fucking understand it alright: Hillary's 15 is greater than Bernie Sander's 26…… week after week……. you know the Superdelegate math thing. Oh yeah!

  31. So I watched hanks video saying that out votes totally matter, but if our choices for president are out of our control, our votes don't matter. I'm probably going to write in, but I really don't see how thats any different from not voting at all.

  32. Now I understand why democratic super delagetes exist, because although they seem a counter to our democratic process they exist out of the chaos that was the 1980 democratic primary convention and the fight that between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy presidential committees, and how it tore the Democratic Party chances for years to come. And yes the pieces where eventually picked up by Bill Clinton and his third way approch put not only new life in the Democratic Party of USA, but also gave new lives of Tony Blair's labor party and however briefly Hit shak Rabin and Shimon Peres labor party and also in Russia. Truly Bill Clinton was a political genius and as history tends to echo brought down by his sexual appetite truly Camelot is no more. What where only musings in the Kennedy administration, braght down Bill Clinton and killed the baby John Edwards in his cradle.

  33. What do you mean when you say "for the last 10 election cycles in both parties the person with the most primary and caucus support has also been the eventual nominee"? I'm not sure whether that's supposed to be referring to the popular vote, in which case it's debatable who won more votes in the 2008 Democratic Primary. But perhaps you're phrasing it weirdly to specifically avoid this case.

  34. They stole it from sanders, they tried despretly to steal it from trump. Its a broken system that cheeted us out of getting to choose between a socialist and a capitalist. Needs to change.

  35. Delegates are supposed to represent their constituency, NOT their own personal prefaces. That is why we voted them into government positions for in the first place. They are SUPPOSED to be the voice of the people. Is this too hard for politicians to understand? Come on, it is NOT rocket science!

  36. Just WHY? Why have delegates at all? Party members vote for a leader and that leader is chosen why have conventions and caucuses and primaries? Why? Keep it simple, members vote on a leader that leader is elected and that leader leads the party to power, why make things over complicated?

  37. I just wanted to add to this conversation, that in Germany we can't choose the nominee of any party neither for chancelor nor for president. They are determined by the leadership of each individual party. And I've got to admit this does not seem to make our system less democratic, but it does make the process of electing a new government substantially less painfully long

  38. I'm a little unsure why he's dwelling on the topic of gerrymandering. Sure it's a flaw in the American political system, but what does it have to do with the primaries? No matter how many republican districts there are, this doesn't affect what candidate their party will pick.

  39. I was just in a walk with a friend, and she said that whenever she's reading something about american elections, she finds herself scratching her head. So I took it upon my self to explain it to her.

    Neither of us are americans, I just happened to have some idea about how degenarete the system is, and as we were covering how there was no way for russians to influence anything, no matter what, and if they had done anything trying to influence elections, and how you can literally believe that russians did influence something, if you have no idea how it works, she kept interrupting me, literally yelling in the street, how non e of it makes any sense.

    Her final thought was "so, why do they act as if they are the greatest democracy in the world if this is how their elections work?"

    Compared to our system: bunch of candidates are like "vote for me", you vote for whomever you like, then if one candidate has more than 50% he wins, which is almost never the case, so second round is given, where two candidates with most votes compete. Typically you know who's gonna win after the first round, cause people who voted for smaller candidates typically stay home for the second round, so the guy with "simple majority" wins.

    That's it. That's what democracy looks like. Enjoy.

  40. damn, 63 years old and I know squat about our political machinery. this video would have helped if I could have slowed it down to first gear. why cant we just have a election where the one with the most votes gets the job. anyways , since this was produced in March I know the outcome of the election and let me say I may not know politics but I knew enough not to cast my vote for that pompous , gaudy , lying  circus clown.   I suspect in 90 days or less he will be out on his ass for obstruction , then later after he's back in the Tower for awhile the Feds will get him for money laundering. but I digress. what got me here was a article in Politico on Manafort. I had no idea Stone and him played such a huge part in politics in their younger days. Both of those S.O.B's are going to get what they deserve . So F'n stupid that they both would get in the spotlight with all those skeletons in their closets. God Bless America. And I am watching this video again.

  41. When you register to vote do you have to state which party – democrat, republican, independent or none – that you align to?

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