A Note on Semi-Super Saturday/Sunday
Dear Sanders Supporters:
I realize that over the weekend, Senator Sanders won 3 of 4 state contests up for vote, as opposed to Secretary Clinton’s 1 of 4. Many of you have argued that the media is not sufficiently making a big deal of this.
So, let’s break down what the actual number of delegates in aggregate actually represents…
- Total Population (2015 estimate) 1 – 2,911,641
- Electoral Votes (2016 election) – 6
- Registered Democrats (2014) – 444,963 (14.6% of registered voters)
- Pledged Delegates – 33
- 1.13 Pledged Delegates/100,000 People
- 7.42 Pledged Delegates/100,000 Democrats
- Total Population (2015 estimate) – 4,670,724
- Electoral Votes – 8
- Registered Democrats (2014) -1,383,437 (47.4% of registered voters)
- Pledged Delegates – 51
- 1.09 Pledged Delegates/100,000 People
- 3.69 Pledged Delegates/100,000 Democrats
- Total Population (2015 estimate) – 1,329,328
- Electoral Votes – 4
- Registered Democrats (2014) – 314,784 (31.8% of registered voters)
- Pledged Delegates – 25
- 1.88 Pledged Delegates/100,000 People
- 7.94 Pledged Delegates/100,000 Democrats
- Total Population (2015 estimate) – 1,896,190
- Electoral Votes – 5
- Registered Democrats (2014) – 363,018 (31.6% of registered voters)
- Pledged Delegates – 26
- 1.37 Pledged Delegates/100,000 People
- 7.16 Pledged Delegates/100,000 Democrats
An additional note. All four states use closed primaries/caucuses, meaning that party affiliation determines whether or not you get to participate in the nominating process.
Based on the allocation numbers coming out of the various caucuses/primaries the delegate numbers look like over the weekend:
- Clinton – 66 delegates
- Sanders – 68 delegates
If you split the populations in proportion to the delegate apportion per state, you essential get that the delegates each candidate received over the weekend represent this many people respectively (note, this is an arbitrary number):
- Clinton – 5,478,742
- 1.2 Delegates/100,000
- Sanders – 5,329,141
- 1.3 Delegates/100,000
If instead we use the popular vote/caucus participant numbers (and assuming 46,000 total people participated in Maine, with them splitting along the same lines as the state convention delegates did) the share becomes:
- Clinton – 260,920
- 2.5 Delegates/10,000
- Sanders – 140,976
- 4.8 Delegates/10,000
And then we compare this to turnout per state (as percentage of voters affiliated with Democratic Party who participated):
- Kansas – 8.8%
- Louisiana – 21.2%
- Maine – 7.3%
- Nebraska – 12.7%
We can keep splitting this into different, smaller measurements, but the basic point becomes as follows: Sanders picked up states and delegates predominantly in states with:
- A greater number of delegates per capita
- A substantially greater number of delegates per Democrat
- And lower overall turnout among Democrats who participated in the primary and/or caucus.
Why am I focusing on this part? Because a lot of the narrative that keeps getting pushed by Sanders supporters is that his campaign represents a grass roots popular movement that’s overturning what a smaller number of party elites want to push. This is particularly implicit in the efforts to paint the press as complicit in this effort by “hiding” the fact that Sanders won 3 of 4 states over this past weekend.
But there’s an enormous problem with that narrative: Namely, Sanders is winning in states with FEWER participants in the primaries, AND in states that have disproportionate sway in terms of delegates, both in relation to its absolute population and in terms of delegates per DEMOCRATIC VOTER.
This isn’t to diminish your efforts, or the useful critiques of establishment policies that Sanders has generated, but you guys need to be clear eyed about what you’re actually winning and what you’re missing.
Denial doesn’t help anyone.
You were all very quick to condemn the idea of unpledged delegates as being undemocratic and antithetical to mass movements. That may or may not be correct. But at least in this particular instance, Bernie Sanders is benefiting enormously from the fact that the DNC doesn’t allocate pledged delegates on a Party Member proportional basis, but rather on an arcane method calculated using electoral college votes. 2
Every Sanders voter counted for TWO Clinton voters in terms of delegate apportionment over this weekend. In terms of “the establishment party rules” helping anyone, for the time being, it’s Sanders who is reaping this benefit, particularly because his supporters tend to be relatively more educated and white – useful predictors for participating in a primary election.
- Numbers taken from 2015 population estimates by the US Census Bureau, and a database of 2014 election party registration data aggregated here. Individual state results taken from the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary aggregation page at Wikipedia.
- Rather counter intuitively, unpledged delegates (“Super” Delegates) in the DNC Primary System actually counter-balance the tendency for primary electorates to be smaller and more elite than general election voters. That’s because they’re allotted to states on the basis of those that have sitting Democratic governors (plus the Mayor of DC), US Senators, US House Reps, in addition to party officials, meaning that a more successful/active state-level party gets more unpledged delegates.