Ben Pollara: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and fuzzy math

Trump Sanders

I am not a big fan of sports metaphors or former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but both can be used to demonstrate the inanity and intellectual dishonesty driving the cries of unfairness coming out of the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Both are pushing similar messages about their respective parties’ nominating and delegate allocation processes, and those messages are either dishonest or demonstrate ignorance of said processes. Or both, I suppose.

So to use the sports metaphor, what would be the public response to a losing basketball team complaining that certain shots are worth three points, while others are worth only one or two? That is essentially what the Sanders and Trump camps are saying about the “unfairness” they perceive in the delegate acquisition game.

And it’s a game they both signed up for, ostensibly with some, if not intricate, knowledge of the rules.

Well, sorry gentlemen. To quote Rummy, “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.”

As a Democrat, I should apologize for lumping Sanders in with The Donald. I’m sorry, Bern. Actually, Trump’s case is in some ways more rational than Sanders’.

Trump is likely to enter the Republican convention with a clear plurality of his party’s delegates, but perhaps not the majority required to secure the nomination on the first ballot. He will likewise enter the convention with a substantial lead in actual votes. Sanders is virtually certain to have neither.

I recently wrote for inveighing upon the Republican Party to respect Trump’s advantages going into Cleveland and give him the nomination. My case was a political one, and I still believe it. However, the party’s rules are quite clear and have been so since well before Trump entered the primary.

The Sanders case is considerably more head-scratching. Yes, he has won a near-sweep of the most recent round of primary and caucus states, but so what?

According to an analysis by from April 8, he has won only 42 percent of Democrats’ raw votes, nearly 2 million fewer primary votes than Hillary Clinton.

Yet, his supporters continue to decry the “undemocratic” process by which their party chooses its nominee. Oh, and speaking of undemocratic, Sanders has received roughly 46 percent of pledged delegates, 4 percent higher than his actual share of the vote.

But the Bern Bros aren’t bitching about “earned” delegates, where Clinton is dominating. The gripes are about “super delegates,” who Clinton dominates even more thoroughly.

I happen to “feel the Bern” here and believe that media outlets should stop including “super delegates” in their delegate counts. When you remove those “Super Delegates,” you remove the illusory notion that Clinton’s lead is built on the backs of party insiders versus the reality of the lead she has earned through actual votes.

It’s a lead that looks much smaller, but is in reality essentially insurmountable. Clinton’s earned delegate lead has been consistently north of 200. In 2008, with a popular vote count that Clinton arguably won by a narrow margin, Barack Obama’s earned delegate margin never exceeded much more than 100.

I understand the need to occasionally litigate issues in public opinion that you simply cannot win on the facts and the law, but both of these instances seem particularly ripe with hypocrisy and sour grapes.

Trump, on the one hand, has benefited significantly from the complex delegate-allocation scheme that he has decried of late. His substantial lead is built largely on “winner take all” states such as Florida and others that have allocated proportionately in such a way that he has captured all or nearly all of a state’s delegates while receiving only a plurality of the raw vote.

On the other hand, Sanders has cried foul on the undemocratic nature of the “superdelegate” system, while he has dominated the arguably undemocratic caucus system — the exceptions, of course, being Iowa and Nevada.

In Nevada, however, despite losing the state to Clinton by five points, it appears possible that Sanders may ultimately get more delegates because of his dominance in the state party’s multi-step delegate nomination and allocation process. Huh.

I understand that facts and logic don’t dictate the rules of political engagement. To quote the rapper El-P, “I might have been born yesterday, sir; but I’ve been up all night.”

I’m fond of saying that hypocrisy and hyperbole are the salt and pepper of the kitchen of political campaigning. All that having been said, Trump and Sanders are still full of crap when it comes to their delegate-related complaints.

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.


Ben Pollara is a political consultant and a founding partner of LSN Partners, a Miami Beach-based government and public affairs firm. He runs United for Care, the Florida medical marijuana campaign and is a self-described “hyper-partisan” Democrat.

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