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Sanders Is Right About The System Being 'Rigged'

There's a group of Democrats, we'll call them the "Shut Up And Fall In Line" wing, who insist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont really has nothing to complain about, and that all his talk of a rigged primary system is only so much bellyaching.

They point out that, even without superdelegates, Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. True. They point out that in a system that awards delegates proportionally, with or without superdelegates, Clinton wins. Also true. And they also like to point to the popular vote, which Clinton leads by some 2.9 million. No one's going to dispute that, either.

But all those points rely on essentially retrofitting a narrative to a result that already exists. Clinton is winning, therefore she would always have won, as if politics is science and the behavior of moody, changeable voters can be compared to immutable objects in a vacuum.

The truth is a bit more complicated, and a bit more uncomfortable for Democrats who, like National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, insist the Democrats still run a big-tent party where every voice is respected and heard.

"I'm proud to work for the party that's fighting for every single American to get a fair shot & a chance to succeed," Wasserman-Schultz tweeted on May 21, just a few days after Democrats almost tore each other apart when Nevada state officials tried to steer their caucus toward Clinton.

"It should just be called the Clinton party," one user responded, summing up the feelings of dozens of others who replied to Wasserman-Schultz. "She was already the nominee before the first vote was cast."

If it wasn't already clear, Wasserman-Schultz was in the bag for Clinton from the beginning. While her Republican counterpart, Reince Preibus, took pains to appear neutral during the contentious Republican primaries, Wasserman-Schultz behaved like a Clinton spokeswoman in media appearances, talking as if the former secretary of state were already the nominee, the only real choice, the inevitable choice.

When the national party chairperson doesn't even bother to hide her overwhelming preference for one candidate over another -- and the party's elites take the same stance -- how can the party claim objectivity? How can it claim it's giving voters a real choice?

Wasserman-Schultz had an early opportunity to prove she was a neutral referee, not a corner woman for Clinton, when the DNC's finance chairman, Henry R. Munoz III, was caught holding a fundraiser for Clinton in the summer of 2015. Although it was a direct violation of party rules that demand neutrality, Wasserman-Schultz didn't even reprimand Munoz, reports Politico.

Combined with other examples of her obvious bias -- scheduling debates at times favorable to Clinton, advocating for Clinton during appearances on cable news, cutting off the Sanders campaign's access to a key database of likely Democratic voters -- Wasserman-Schultz has long been signaling to voters that Clinton is the "correct" choice.

And about those superdelegates? Sure, they might seem irrelevant at this point, but they certainly were not irrelevant early in the race, when 500 of them lined up behind Clinton compared to the 40 or so who backed Sanders. That helped create the air of inevitability that helped the Clinton camp. It helped create the narrative that Clinton was the only sane, mainstream choice, and that Democrats would stop their silly flirtation with the Vermont socialist by spring at the latest, when they'd all fall in line and unite behind Dear Leader Clinton.

With those circumstances, it's easy to wave off concerns about the voting problems in places like Brooklyn -- Sanders' birthplace -- where around 100,000 voters were purged from the rolls ahead of the New York primary.

Running interference for Clinton in The New York Times, statistician Nate Cohn draws from his deep well of experience to explain why the Brooklyn incident doesn't matter. Because voters didn't show up during a midterm election and a local election, Cohn argues, they probably weren't going to vote in a presidential primary.

"I just received my first postcard from the state of Washington last week. I assume I’ll be moved to 'inactive' status, since I was lazy and didn’t respond, and then I’ll eventually be removed," Cohn wrote. "So realistically, most of the people who were purged were not going to vote. They probably don’t live in Brooklyn anymore."

Assume. Probably. Not going to vote. See? No problem here, nothing to see, move along.

Barring the Department of Justice indicting Clinton, or some earth-shaking revelation that disqualifies the former secretary of state, she will be the nominee and Sanders will not. But if the Democrats want Sanders' many passionate supporters to even consider unifying behind Clinton, they're going to have to start listening to the sizable wing of their party who feel genuinely disenfranchised by a primary process that has been anything but democratic.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico (2), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz/Twitter / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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