The reason Hillary Clinton has cinched the nomination

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This is an excellent moment to revel in the complexity of life, and argument, and to appreciate the value of the honest conversation.

A candidate is the presumed nominee when she or he obtains the required number of pledged delegates to be at 50% plus a fraction in the total pledged delegate count. This is because a candidate must have a true majority to win the nomination when the delegates are all counted up at the convention, and the pledged delegates are required to cast their lot with the candidate they are pledged to, assuming that candidate exists at the time of the convention.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have not reached that bar. Therefore, neither is the presumed nominee for their party.

But then there are the unpledged delegates. Unpledged delegates can vote for whomever they like at the convention, and therefore, anything can happen. However, it is the practice among unpledged delegates to “endorse” or otherwise show support for a particular candidate. News agencies may use that statement of support to place that unpledged delegate in the column for a particular candidate.

Using this form of math, Trump did not reach a true majority of delegates a couple of weeks ago for two reasons. First, the Republicans have very few truly unpledged delegates. (The Republican and Democratic systems are not parallel or comparable, but the Republicans do have a certain number of delegates who can do what they want when the convention rolls around.) But then, one day, a bunch of unpledged delegates from one of the Dakotas made a statement. They said that they would definitely cast their ballot for Trump in the Convention. This was just enough to put Trump over the top, by adding together the pledged delegates that were pledged to him, and this small number of “unpledged” but now “pledged-ish” delegates.

That is still not clenching the nomination, because even though those Dakota delegates went beyond support or endorsement, to the level of actually promising to vote for Trump, they really still don’t have to vote for him.

But, the press took this as an event, and decided to go with it, and Trump became the actual nominee.

That may seem like a digression in a post about the Democratic primary, but it is relevant because the press has this thing they do where they balance or equalize. Therefore, even though the systems are not truly comparable or parallel, and the event in the Dakotas was actually meaningless, the press did in fact go with the “Trump is the presumed nominee” thing, and therefore, one should expect, even in the absence of a logical underpinning to the argument, the press to do the same in the Democratic party. That is only a small part of the story, but it is part of the story.

I should reiterate that unpledged delegates (in the Democratic party, unofficially called “Super Delegates”) are unpledged even when they pledge. That is a simple fact. But, there are nuances. For example, I know one Super Delegate that on principle will not declare for a candidate until the convention. But I also know that this individual liked Bernie Sanders. I suspect that this means that under some conditions, this delegate would vote for Sanders, but maybe not. I know another Super Delegate who has endorsed Clinton, and another who has endorsed Sanders, publicly. However, I do not assume that either one of them will absolutely vote for that candidate. An endorsement is not a pledge. If Bernie Sanders is found sitting in a hot tub full of fruit jello with the leader of North Korea on a yacht owned by the Koch Brothers, making a deal to trade nuclear warheads, that the delegate that endorsed Sanders will not cast a ballot for Sanders at the convention. But the pledged delegates from the same state will be forced to by the rules. (This is why we have Super Delegates. This is also why we can expect the Republicans to add a higher percentage of unpledged delegates when they rewrite the rules for the next primary season.)

The Dakota delegates, however, did something different. They did not endorse, or show support, but they pledged. However, their pledged is, in fact, legally irrelevant.

And now, we come to 2008. It could be said not too inaccurately that a point in time came during the 2008 nomination battle between now President Obama and Hillary Clinton, when it became apparent that Obama was going to win, the press said so, and Clinton took two days or so off and came back into the ring no longer fighting Obama, but now as part of his tag team.

And, it could be said not too inaccurately that this same moment came in the present election about now. Staring a few days ago, various members of the press began to note that this moment was upon us, and to imply that it would be unfair to Hillary to have given this moment to Obama in 2008, but not give it to Clinton now. I think the belief 48 hours ago might have been that this moment would definitely be on us by the end of the voting process in today’s primaries, but then another thing about the press came into play. The press has to treat everybody and every event like they are all identical blue Smurfs but they also have to do things first, to beat out their rivals, to scoop. In fact, this “moment of clinch” could have been after the Puerto Rico primary, or even earlier. And it was absolutely going to happen after Tuesday. So, AP jumped out of the gate and made it happen Monday, and this is now the True Reality.

So, let us review.

Hillary Clinton is the presumed nominee because she has almost enough pledged delegates plus a gazillion unpledged delegates.

However, part of the impetus for declaring this is that Trump got that courtesy two weeks ago.

But, Trump was the only person running in that race, and Clinton still has an opponent.

Still, numerically, Clinton can’t not get the nomination because she has many hundreds of Super Delegates and Sanders has only a few dozen.

On the other hand, Super Delegates are unpledged. UNpledged. We argue all along that they should not be counted. Then suddenly we count them. Is that fair?

One could say, however, that it is fair. At some point it becomes fair because the numbers become so tilted. If the hundreds of Super Delegates that have endorsed Hillary decided to randomize their preference using a coin biased in favor of Sanders, there would still be more than enough to put Clinton over the top.

It is only fair to Clinton that she gets the same treatment as Obama.

It is only fair to Sanders that she not.

And on and on it goes.

So, is there a good reason that Hillary Clinton is now regarded as the Democratic Party nominee for the office of the President?


And no.

A good part of the reason that both answers are valid is because the press has painted themselves into a corner located between a rock and a hard spot and have only a Hobbson’s choice. That is a bad reason. Another reason is fairness. That is a good but not overwhelmingly good reason. There is no reason that the process one year needs to be the same as other years, since presidential election years are so different in so many ways. Another reason is math. While we wish to keep the Super Delegate count separate and let the pledged delegates do their job, at some point the Super Delegates should probably be considered as a factor, if not counted precisely. (See this, “Fixing The Super Delegate Problem,” for an alternative way of doing this whole thing.) That is probably reasonable and fair. If the numbers are big enough. But there is no objective criterion for when the numbers are big enough. So maybe not so fair.

So here is where the honest conversation part comes in. There really is no considered, informed, honest position on this that ignores the complexity and dismisses other opinions out of hand.

I hope you read this post on Tuesday, June 7th, because starting the next day it is not going to matter too much.

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9 thoughts on “The reason Hillary Clinton has cinched the nomination

  1. “It is only fair to Clinton that she gets the same treatment as Obama.

    It is only fair to Sanders that she not.”

    “Fairness” to a candidate in an election is not a valid concept.

    An election is a process by which non-candidates choose who will be elected.

    “Fairness” can only relate to the following of the rules under which non-candidates choose candidates, or by the actual will of the non-candidates being accurately represented.

    The process can be unfair if the rules are not followed, if the will of the voters is not followed, or if lies are spread about the candidates so the voters are unable to accurately decide who they want between there is too much disinformation put out about the candidates.

    If there is too much disinformation put out about a candidate, that is unfair to the voters because they cannot then accurately determine who they want to represent them.

    Looking at the levels of hatred being expressed by those who oppose Hillary, and the explanations of the basis for that hatred, my conclusion is that Hillary is hated, not for things that she has done, but by the decades of negative campaigning by Right Wing Conservatives.

    To an extent Hillary is being treated the way that Obama was treated; gratuitously hated because of lies by Right Wing Conservatives.

  2. “Cinched” is a perfectly valid term to use the way that Greg used it. I actually like it better than “clenched” in this context because “clenched” implies held by fingers where “cinched” implies held by non-finger means, such as tethers.

  3. Cinch and clinch both work for Clinton, but for the case of Trump, Clench also works.

    On fairness, right, that is part of the issue. “Fairness” by the press is not really about the press being fair. It is about the press not appearing to be unfair for their own purposes.

  4. DW @ 2

    RE: ” …my conclusion is that Hillary is hated, not for things that she has done, but by the decades of negative campaigning by Right Wing Conservatives,”…

    you can conclude whatever you like but it’s ludicrous to suppose that so many people are so adamantly opposed to Clinton simply because the Right-wing’s supposed crusade against her has been so effective. You’re very naive. In this race, HRC has been the genuine ruling-power’s true favorite since well before the first state primary was held. I’m a confirmed Leftist, have never bought into the Right-wing’s self-serving propaganda. But I can also spot a political fraud when I see one and can recognise that HRC is nothing like my idea of a “Democrat.” What I loathe is seeing a would-be democracy so completely defrauded.

    RE :

    “The process can be unfair if

    … the rules are not followed, (check)

    if the will of the voters is not followed, (check)

    or if lies are spread about the candidates so the voters are unable to accurately decide who they want (check)

    between there is too much disinformation put out about the candidates.


    President Obama endorsed her an hour ago in no uncertain terms. I expect to vote for her in November.

    All that said, I am aware of her faults. That she may be fundamentally honest does not mean she never lies, or shades the truth — as when she said she had State Department approval for her private email server. That she may be fundamentally trustworthy does not mean her judgement is always correct; she voted for Dubya’s Iraq War when Bernie did not, and she recently promoted fracking in foreign countries.

    At this moment, she’s the best option.

  6. Yes, she is the best option to continue our failed policies in the ME (all of which she has voted for or helped instigate: “We came, we saw, he died”), to continue allowing Wall Street banks and large corporations to run rough-shod over workers, to promote trade deals that benefit the tiniest sliver of people – again, crushing workers worldwide, and to continue our current approach of fossil fuel consumption – pushing the world ever closer to climate change.

    She is the best option for BAU.

  7. Mr. Laden,

    I don’t think my comment was worthy of your moderation rejection – there was nothing particularly incendiary, and was certainly no more off topic than @8. But, I suppose you have the right to your echo chamber.

  8. nowhere, for lack of alternative candidates, your only other (workable) option is to have no president at all.

    How do you propose to change the model of our government to achieve that? (Be aware that “Donald Trump and his Congress will replace it with a dictatorship” is not an acceptable answer.)

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