The more things change, the more they remain the same. Or déjà vu all over again. Or same old same old.
In the 2008 contest against Obama, Hillary Clinton kept pushing the notion that we should consider the total or national popular vote in determining the Democratic Party’s nominee. At the time, it looked like she would have more total votes going into the Democratic Convention.
Recently, Clinton has been touting her lead in the popular vote against Bernie Sanders, seemingly every time she gets in front of a camera. But a national popular vote is a sham statistic when there are both caucus and primary states. It requires combining apples and oranges, votes in caucuses and primaries, which gives states with primaries an unfair advantage in any total, because the caucus system is designed for many fewer voters. Citizens of caucus states will be underrepresented in any “national” vote total.
But let’s look at the brighter side of the picture here. We have found that Hillary can be consistent over time, if it appears to serve her interests.
Here is an excerpt from a March 5, 2008 post on the topic, “The Popular Vote Myth (or why caucuses may be hazardous to your representation).*
There are apples and there are oranges. Typically we know the difference. We have primaries and we have caucuses. And we usually know the difference. Yet, somehow, we now appear to have something that is neither a caucus nor a primary. It is sometimes referred to as the (national) popular vote. The latter is created by totaling the votes from all of the caucuses and the primaries. It is a chimera, a mythical beast, a red-herring with wings, etc. But the folks in the caucus states stand to be, shall we say, disenfranchised by this chimera. Consider, if your state holds a caucus, your caucus will involve many fewer participants than in a primary. When the apples and oranges of primaries and caucuses are combined into one large national popular vote, your state will not be adequately represented. Had the members of caucus states realized this before they set up their systems, they might have reconsidered. But they, as the rest of us, were told that citizens voted for delegates (directly or indirectly).
I have not seen one note in the media or the press, not one small asterisk, warning the American people that combining the votes in caucus and non-caucus states is not only unfair to the caucus states, but may misrepresent the strengths of the candidates and undermine the present system. For better or worse, we currently have a delegate system, and we need to play by its rules. By accepting a popular vote lead as definitive, especially a slim national one, the Democrats would be inviting chaos at their convention.
The DNC did not send out a warning: Caucuses may be hazardous to your representation. It must now step up to the plate and defend its delegate system.
* With the exception of a tense change in one sentence, typos, and some spacing corrections, this excerpt is exactly as it appeared in March, 2008.