New York’s Democratic Party (and the New York GOP) are both living in the past.
This is NOT sour grapes (okay, it’s slightly overripe grapes). I’m stating this in response to yesterday’s Presidential primary in NY State, which saw Hillary Clinton snag 58% of the vote over Bernie Sanders. But that number, though indicative of how the party faithful will vote in November, is not predictive of how the state vote will shake out come Election Day. The reason is simple. NY’s primary system is for party members only–tens of thousands of likely voters can’t vote because they haven’t registered as a member of a party (Republican or Democrat). The ‘closed’ primary system keeps the leadership of the parties happy–on the GOP side, John Kasich actually WON Manhattan (New York county to wonks) over Trump. This was good news for the GOP leadership, which dearly wants The Donald to not be the standard-bearer at Cleveland. And Hillary Clinton’s ties to the increasingly neo liberal New York Democrats have made her victory in New York State a do-or-die for the state party.
And just to make things more interesting, the vote in NY State’s Democratic primary was ugly. Mayor Bill de Blasio was shocked, SHOCKED at 126,000 Democratic voters removed from the rolls in Brooklyn by the NY Board of Elections since last fall. Record numbers of complaints were filed by voters disenfranchised when they went to their polling places. Such voters were forced to file affidavit ballots, which may or may not be counted. Also in the mix were tens of thousands of voters who register as independent but wanted to cast a primary vote for Bernie. Election Justice USA (an advocacy group) has also filed suit over such voter disenfranchisement on both parties, even though there were no complaints from disgruntled GOP voters. Justice Gazette, a lefty source on election practice, also notes illegality: According to other reports approximately 60,000 Brooklyn Democratic voters registrations were altered, removing these registered Democratic voters from the Democratic voter rolls, after April 1, 2016.
Under New York law, these registrations could not legally be altered (not even by the voters, themselves) after October 9th of 2015 . This means there was probably some illegality in the alteration. Because New York has a closed primary, those illegally dropped from the voters’ rolls could not vote a countable ballot. If you add the dropped votes back in, Bernie Sanders would have won Brooklyn by a landslide. He also would have won New York City by a landslide (emphasis mine).
I’m not sure I agree with the idea that Bernie would’ve won NYC ‘by a landslide’. But it’s clear that New York’s primary system is not about respecting the will of the electorate. It’s about bowing to the will of the two party leadership. Per the political site 538, New York makes it harder to change party affiliation than any other state. In reviewing the results of NY’s primary yesterday, we found that a majority of registered Democrats want the presidential nominee desired by the party leadership. That’s not the same as saying that a majority of voters in NY will want Hillary (OR Trump) to be president come November. The above meme about Obama is instructive–and Hillary is not being coronated by anybody besides the Clintonista’s this AM. Indeed, the New York Times (hardly a fan of Sanders) has used its editorial page this AM to encourage both Bernie and Republican John Kasich (blown out everyplace in NY BUT Manhattan) to stay in their respective presidential races to the end.
The New York primary system’s results last night are testament not to the will of the people but to the desperation of the leadership of the NY two-party system to hang on. And both party’s leaders got the results they wanted–it’s arguable that Bernie would’ve won the primary absent the closed system, and The Donald would’ve scored even better. Sanders supporters should understand that the Empire States’ primaries have been gamed for a generation. Bernie supporters–Let’s move onto the other states’ primaries and prove NY irrelevant.
POSTSCRIPT: This is my 500th post on my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. I’m thinking of changing the focus a bit, so watch for changes in coming weeks.