In Conclusion: On Corruption

From “The Golden Age of White Collar Crime by Michael Hobbes:

Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.

And why wouldn’t they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. In January 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998. Even within the dwindling number of prosecutions, most are cases against low-level con artists and small-fry financial schemes. Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals who worked at firms with more than 50 employees.

Unquote.

But we had a presidential candidate focused on corruption.

From “Elizabeth Warren Was More of a Threat to the Money Power Than Bernie Sanders” by Charles Pierce:

… I’m not going to dwell on the sexism that so regularly cropped up during Elizabeth Warren’s now-suspended presidential campaign. Proud, accomplished women, writing about what happened to this proud and accomplished woman, already have done so thoroughly enough that what little I could add would have to walk a tightrope between repetition and presumption that I am not able to navigate. This one hurts them in ways I can’t even imagine….

Instead, and accepting that sexism and misogyny were marbled throughout everything about the campaign, I think what did her in was her ideas. She committed herself to a campaign specifically to fight political corruption, both the legal and illegal kind. As an adjunct to that, she marshaled her long fight against the power of money in our politics and monopoly in our economy. And, opposed to Bernie Sanders, whose answer to how to wage the fight is always the power of his “movement,” which so far hasn’t been able to break through against Joe Biden, she put out detailed plans on how to do it. That made her much more of a threat to the money power than Sanders, who is easily dismissed as a fringe socialist by the people who buy elections and own the country.

If I were Jeff Bezos, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how monopoly can distort an economy, I’d have been worried. If I were Mark Zuckerberg, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how the concentration of social media perverts our public ideals, I’d have been worried. If I were the folks at Comcast, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how media concentration damages the national dialogue, I’d have been worried. I’d have been worried not simply because a presidential candidate was saying this, but because she was able to make people understand it, and because she was able to show people how she would do it. That would keep me up nights.

There always has been a touch of Cassandra to her career. As she said on Thursday, “Ten years ago, I was teaching a few blocks from here, and talking about what was broken in America and how to fix it, and pretty much nobody wanted to hear it.” Along with several other proud and accomplished women, whose advice was ignored by the likes of Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, Warren sounded the alarm on the mortgage crisis years before it crashed the economy. She was then brought in to help clean up the damage. There’s an obvious life lesson in there that I hope I need not explain. However, if she says something is breaking in the economy, listen to her next time, OK? This was most obvious in the campaign’s most curious episode—how she was “disappeared” from news coverage after finishing third in Iowa. This was the period in which an NBC poll refused to even include her because, basically, the pollster didn’t want to. Amy Klobuchar was included, but Amy Klobuchar wasn’t going around explaining how media monopolies gouge their consumers and marginalize certain issues and the people fighting for them.

However, this is not a country that is ready for what she called … “big, structural change”. This is a country fearful of any kind of change at all, a country longing for a simpler time—which, these days, does not mean the flush 1950s or the pastoral 1850s, but 2015. The election of D— T—- has lodged in so many minds a longing for the status quo ante that there’s no room for intelligent experimentation….

The problem is that the damage done by this administration* is so deep and lasting that the last thing we need to follow this president* is a humble president with a humble agenda. For example, Joe Biden has no desire to break the monopoly power, and Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the first idea how to do it. But it’s still going to be there, distorting the economy and perverting the public discourse, no matter who gets elected in the fall. You might be frightened by the idea of Big, Structural Change but, without it, the deterioration of the republic will continue apace. We have been rendered such a timorous people that even someone as open and lively and welcoming as Elizabeth Warren was considered too much of a risk.

Oh, and she wasn’t “likable” either. Remember? God, what a load of bollocks that is.

As if to prove that Fate is the ultimate troll, this story broke in The New York Times on the morning that Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign.

House Democrats say the bank found an ally in Eric Blankenstein, a political appointee high up in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created to guard against the abuse of mom-and-pop customers. Mr. Blankenstein, an enforcement official at the agency, privately offered reassurances to Wells Fargo’s chief executive at the time that there would be “political oversight” of its enforcement actions, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee. The report said the agency had promised that the unresolved regulatory matters, such as an inquiry into the bank’s aggressive practice of closing customers’ accounts, would be settled in private, without further fines.

For those of you who may be joining politics late, the CFPB is the agency created by Elizabeth Warren and Wells Fargo is her personal bete noire. (Here she is, telling its CEO that he ought to be clapped in irons.) My guess? She already knows about this bit of news and she’s gearing up—one might even say “planning”—to chew someone out over it. Stay buckled up, America. Senator Professor Warren is not through with you yet.

Unquote.

So Long Twitter and Senator Warren

I’ve closed my Twitter account, because I no longer require up-to-the-minute news and commentary on these subjects (and others): 

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. House Democrats
  4. Senate Republicans
  5. The Supreme Court
  6. The Department of Justice
  7. COVID-19
  8. Voter Suppression
  9. Climate Change
  10. D—- Fucking T—- and His Crime Family

Here’s the invaluable Paul Waldman of The Washington Post to sum up:

Is it enough, as a presidential candidate, to have smarts and charisma, to have a clear and concise message, to even be the best debater, and most of all to be the best prepared to do the job effectively?

No, it is not. Which is why so often during this primary campaign, we’ve heard supporters of Elizabeth Warren ask plaintively, “Hey, what if we got behind the person who’d actually be the best president? Why not do that?”

They asked because the number of voters willing to do that was not what it might have been, which is why Warren has announced that she’s ending her bid for the White House.

There is a temptation to say the presidential primary process is brutal and unsparing but ultimately fair. It tests you in the way no other campaign can. If you don’t win, it’s because you didn’t have what it takes. Lots of it may be out of your control, but if you were a once-in-a-generation talent like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, you could have overcome any obstacle cast before you. Nobody deserves the nomination; either you win it or you don’t.

Which is true as far as it goes. But we can’t consider Warren’s candidacy without seeing sexism, both in fact and in perception, for the hindrance it was for her.

To be clear, sexism isn’t the only reason Warren will not be the Democratic nominee. There are many reasons. She had a few stumbles along the way, as every campaign does. There were some decisions she could have made differently.

But her campaign and the particular way it failed tell us a lot about how gender operates in presidential politics.

Let’s consider that Joe Biden is the likeliest candidate to be the Democratic nominee, despite the fact that he has run an absolutely abysmal campaign and is so erratic that sympathetic Democrats regularly tell one another, “I saw Biden give an interview, and he was completely coherent!” as though they were praising a toddler. Biden won a sweeping victory on Super Tuesday even in states where he did not campaign for a single day or have an organization. There has never in my lifetime been a winning presidential campaign that was so weak on so many dimensions.

And yet Biden is cruising toward the nomination. Why?

Because of a collective decision among a significant portion of the Democratic electorate that he is “electable,” i.e., that other people will find him inoffensive enough to vote for. As Michelle Cottle noted, one poll last year asked Democrats who they were supporting, and Biden was in the lead; when they asked who they’d rather see as president if they could wave a magic wand, Warren was in front.

You’ve probably heard that again and again: Voters saying Warren is the one they liked the best, but because they didn’t think she was electable, they were supporting someone else, most often Biden.

That perception didn’t just come of nowhere. Yes, people might be thinking of their sexist uncle or their “traditional” parents, but they also heard it again and again from the media, creating a self-reinforcing loop. Sure, Warren can put policy issues into terms people can understand like no other candidate; sure, she has thought more seriously about the powers of the government than anyone else; sure, her anti-corruption message resonates with all kinds of voters. But she just can’t win.

Then there are all the people who said they didn’t like Warren but couldn’t quite put their finger on why. Maybe it was her voice, or that she seemed too aggressive, or that she wasn’t “authentic” enough. Not because she’s a woman, though! I’d support a woman, I would! Just not her.

Throughout the campaign, Warren tried to find subtle ways to deal with a problem she couldn’t have been more aware of (just as Obama carefully crafted a strategy to deal with voters’ reaction to a black candidate). But nothing seemed to work in the face of the relentless obsession with electability.

Late in the campaign, she reacted to the question of whether sexism was hampering her by noting that just answering the question put her in an inescapable double bind:

“And, you know, there are only two answers and they’re both bad. The first one is, ‘Uh, yeah,’ in which case everybody says, ‘Oh, whiner.’”

“The second is to say, ‘Oh, no,’ in which case, at least every other woman looks at you and thinks, ‘What planet is she living on?’”

Yes, female candidates have been more and more successful at running for all levels of government; this was particularly true in the 2018 midterm elections. But the presidency is different. It’s about authority, and power, and command. And still, in 2020, millions of Americans simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea of a woman in that job.

So unlike Biden or any other male candidate, being better wasn’t good enough. Warren had to be perfect, and of course she wasn’t. As writer Jill Filipovic asked:

How many times, in how many contexts, have we seen a smart, competent, dynamic woman who is so head & shoulders above everyone else in the room get ignored or pushed out? How many times have we wondered – was I that woman?

Think back to Hillary Clinton, who after a lifetime of being bludgeoned and battered by every sexist preconception, trope and backlash, finally got within reach of the ultimate reward and opportunity only to have to face her exact opposite, an utterly unprepared buffoon and raging misogynist who was literally on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women with impunity. And even after getting 3 million more votes than him, she still lost.

Four years later, we had a presidential field full of talented and accomplished women, and surely, so many of us thought, one of them might prevail. Yet they fell, one after another, until only the most talented and accomplished among them was left. And in the end she too was judged inadequate….

Unquote.

The title of Waldman’s column is “Warren’s Wrenching Downfall Says Something Terrible About 2020”.

It’s many of us who were inadequate. Not her.

The Primaries Are Just Dumb

I tend to skip newspaper editorials. They’re usually bland, as if written by a committee. Probably because that’s partly true. The New York Times editorial board and the Washington Post editorial board are responsible for the editorials in those papers.

But the Times got one right the other day. The seventeen journalists on their editorial board pointed out that “the primaries are just dumb”.

Quote:

As the country learned in 2016 with Republicans, the primaries and caucuses are a mess, giving the illusion of a choice in a situation where in fact voters have just the opposite — no clear choice. This year, Bernie Sanders won close to a majority in Nevada, but in the two earlier contests, in Iowa and New Hampshire, no candidate won more than 26 percent of the vote. This fragmentation helps those candidates with passionate followings, like Mr. Sanders, as it helped D—- T—- in 2016, but it produces nothing like a consensus candidate. Mr. Sanders has won only 2.3 percent of the 1,991 delegates needed to secure the nomination, yet he’s widely considered the front-runner.

Single-winner elections do a poor job of winnowing a large field of candidates down to one who reflects majority agreement, and encourage the type of nastiness we’re seeing now, because it’s all-or-nothing for each candidate. And the winner of this process can be the choice of as little as 25 or 30 percent of the electorate, which is another way of saying that he or she was not the choice of up to three-quarters of voters.

This is no way to pick the person who will challenge a president — one who was himself nominated first by a minority within his party, then elected by a minority nationwide.

There is a straightforward and elegant solution: ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting. Already in use all over the world and in cities and towns across the United States, it’s a popular and proven way of electing leaders who are — what a radical notion! — actually supported by most voters. It is effective in any multi-candidate race, but it’s ideal for making sense of a large and fractured pool of candidates.

Ranked-choice voting works on a simple premise: Instead of being forced to choose a single candidate, voters rank some or all of the candidates in order of preference — they rank their favorite candidate first, their next-favorite candidate second, and so on. If one candidate wins a majority of the vote outright, he or she is the winner. If not, the ballots are tallied in a series of rounds. In each round, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. Each ballot ranking that candidate first is then transferred to the candidate whom it ranked second. The process repeats, eliminating the lowest-scoring candidate and redistributing his or her ballots, until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.

How would ranked-choice voting work in primaries with many candidates? We’ll find out this year, when four states are using it for the first time: Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and Kansas. As in all other Democratic primaries, they will award delegates proportionally to candidates who win at least 15 percent of the vote. But rather than simply eliminate any candidates who don’t reach that threshold, the ballots listing those candidates first will be transferred to their second-place choices, a process that will be repeated until all remaining candidates have at least 15 percent support.

Say a Wyoming voter is partial to Elizabeth Warren, but feels she doesn’t have much of a chance at hitting 15 percent. He could list Ms. Warren first and, perhaps, Mr. Sanders second. If Ms. Warren fails to get 15 percent of first-place votes in the first round, but Mr. Sanders does, that voter’s ballot would be transferred to him. Millions of votes in the Democratic primaries this year will be cast for candidates who don’t reach the 15-percent cutoff; adopting ranked-choice nationwide would make those votes count for delegates, and thus include those voters in the Democrats’ choice of their nominee.

Polls consistently show high voter satisfaction with ranked-choice voting, and it’s no surprise. By allowing voters to express their support for more than one candidate, ranked-choice voting makes more votes count. By allowing voters to rank a personal favorite first, even if that candidate is unlikely to win, it eliminates the risk of “spoiler” candidates. And by encouraging voters to find something they like in multiple candidates, it fosters consensus.

The candidates respond in turn, by behaving more civilly and reaching out to voters beyond their own base. Running a negative, divisive campaign may pay off in a head-to-head (-to-head-to-head, etc.) election, but not in a ranked-choice one, where victory can depend on appealing not just to a core of supporters, but also to voters who might not be inclined to pick the civil candidate first.

Consider what happened in Maine’s Second Congressional District in the 2018 midterms. Maine first adopted ranked-choice voting in 2016 for its statewide and congressional primaries and elections, and it was popular enough that the Legislature expanded it in 2019 to include presidential elections.

The Second District race featured the Republican incumbent, Bruce Poliquin; his Democratic challenger, Jared Golden; and two independent candidates. After the first round of ballot counting, Mr. Poliquin held a small lead over Mr. Golden, 46.3 percent to 45.6 percent. The independent candidates combined to win about 8 percent, and when they were eliminated in the second and third rounds, more of their votes transferred to Mr. Golden, who ultimately won with more than 50 percent of the vote — even though he won fewer first-choice rankings than Mr. Poliquin. In contrast to Mr. Poliquin, who had publicly dismissed the independent candidates, Mr. Golden reached out to them, and thus won over their supporters. Republicans cried foul, but the voters ended up with a congressional representative who was actually representative.

Maine is the only state to have used ranked-choice statewide, but the reform has been catching on everywhere, from California, Minnesota and Colorado to Utah, Massachusetts and Maryland. Last year, voters in New York City overwhelmingly approved ranked-choice voting for their mayoral, City Council and special elections and primaries starting in 2021 — the largest jurisdiction in the country, by far, to try it….

How voters cast their primary ballots is one big area for reform. When they do so is another.

Right now, the primary calendar is cracking under the weight of its own anachronisms. Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the smallest and least diverse states, get outsize attention every presidential election year from the candidates, and therefore have power in determining the arc of the race, long before a vast majority of voters have weighed in. A better system would group state primaries in bunches, making sure to include a diversity of size, geography and demographics in each group, and rotating which group goes first every four years.

No democracy can long maintain its legitimacy with open-ended minority rule. Neither can political parties.

Unquote.

One thing the Times didn’t mention is that ranked-choice voting would address a problem that affects voting before election day (as in voting by mail) in primary elections, when there are a number of candidates. A major Democratic candidate, Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race today. Other candidates have dropped out in the past week or so. If voters had been able to name their second and third choices, their votes could have gone to someone still in the race. Now their votes will be wasted.

Also, we have to get rid of caucuses. Voting out in the open in front of everyone makes no sense. Secret ballots are a foundation of democracy. Making that change should be an easy one, even in America.

The Candidate I’d Want To Have a Drink With

David Roberts of Vox does a great job explaining why Elizabeth Warren appeals so much to a certain kind of progressive voter. The article is called “America’s Crisis of Trust and the One Candidate Who Gets It”:

Warren shares many elements of Sanders’s populist rhetoric. She, too, is focused on how the rich and powerful have rigged the system against ordinary people. But she does not propose to blow the system up or sweep it aside. She proposes to fix it. She (legendarily) has a plan for that, a clear sense of which institutions are broken, what new institutions need to be created, and what kind of people she wants running them. As Ezra Klein documents, her entire career in politics has been focused on battling for better institutions and better personnel.

Warren’s history, experience, and ideology give her progressive populism an importantly different character from Sanders’s. [Will Wilkinson] captures it well:

Because the American republic is, in fact, in the midst of a spiraling crisis of corruption, there is more than a whiff of radicalism in a reform agenda focused on rooting out graft and restoring popular sovereignty. But Warren’s program is animated by earnest devotion to sturdy procedural ideals — fair elections, the rule of law, equitable and responsive political representation, and clean public administration — not left-wing ideology. It aims to realize a homely republican vision of America in which equal democratic citizens of every gender, color, and creed can vote their way to a system that gives everybody a fair shot at a sound education and a decent wage sufficient to raise a family in a comfortable home without becoming indentured to creditors or wrecked by the vicissitudes of capitalist dislocation.

As Warren used to say frequently, she is a “capitalist to her bones.” She believes in the generative power of markets; she just believes they need to be operated transparently and fairly, with everyone protected from immiseration and offered opportunities for full participation. She wants well-regulated capitalism with a healthy welfare state — which is how the Danes themselves think of their system.

This is why, unlike Sanders, she explicitly cites her anti-corruption reform agenda as her first and top priority if she becomes president. It’s why she, unlike Sanders, supports getting rid of the filibuster. For her, procedural reforms are not an afterthought, but a vital part of the agenda in and of themselves, because they are the only reliable way to generate the trust needed to support the rest of the agenda and progress beyond it….

Warren’s appeal to a certain sort of politically engaged Democrat is that she combines bold progressive goals with extensive experience navigating US institutions and detailed plans for bureaucratic reform. It’s the best of both worlds, ambitious and pragmatic.

Unquote.

There is quite a bit more to the article than I’ve quoted. The whole thing is worth reading.

Another reason for liking Warren is that she is likable (unlike You Know Who). You can see it when Stephen Colbert spends a few minutes with her at a South Carolina restaurant:

They bleeped the joke. 

In case it went by too fast, the punchline was:

 

 

“It’s fucking close to water”.

In Case You’re Wondering How Prepared We Are

So far, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US is low. But there are now confirmed cases in at least 32 (now 35)(now almost 50) countries. The number of new cases outside China has doubled every 5.5 days since January. 

Today, an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said:

Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.

From journalist Judd Legum of Popular Information (a site worth visiting):

In 2018, the Trump administration ousted Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, who served as the Senior Director of Global Health Security. Ziemer was a member of the National Security Council, where he was responsible for coordinating “responses to global health emergencies and potential pandemics.” Ziemer was lauded as “one of the most quietly effective leaders in public health.” His work on malaria during the Obama administration helped save 6 million lives.

“Admiral Ziemer’s departure is deeply alarming,” Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) said in May 2018. “Expertise like his is critical in avoiding large outbreaks.” Beth Cameron, who served on the National Security Council in the Obama administration, said that Ziemer’s ouster was “a major loss for health security, biodefense, and pandemic preparedness” and noted that it “is unclear in his absence who at the White House would be in charge of a pandemic.”

John Bolton, who was serving as Trump’s National Security Adviser at the time, did not just remove Ziemer. He decided to eliminate the position, and “the NSC’s entire global health security unit.” Bolton also forced out Tom Bossert, a highly regarded expert who was Ziemer’s counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security. “Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced,” Foreign Policy reported in January.

Trump slashed funding for the CDC’s epidemic prevention activities, forcing the agency to end its work “in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out” in 2018. The program, which started in 2014, was designed to “help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics.” Among the countries no longer included: China.

Trump has also tried to decimate funding for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which is tasked with fighting the spread of disease. Congress, however, has refused to comply. So the Trump administration has simply let the group slowly atrophy, failing to replace members who quit or retire….

Who is in charge of the United States’ response to the coronavirus? You might assume it is the CDC. You would be wrong.

There were several hundred Americans aboard a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, that experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 near Japan. The Americans were evacuated and, before they were flown home, 14 tested positive for the coronavirus. The CDC advised that these infected passengers should not be flown home with the rest of the group, arguing that they could infect the others.

The CDC, however, was overruled by the “State Department and a top Trump administration health official.” The decision was made even though to government “had already told passengers they would not be evacuated with anyone who was infected or who showed symptoms.” CDC officials were so distraught that they “demanded to be left out of the news release that explained that infected people were being flown back to the United States.”

At the moment, there is no “clear chain of command for pandemic response.”

… There are also serious problems with the system set up to identify new outbreaks.

The test developed by the CDC to detect the coronavirus has not been able to be verified as accurate by most labs. As a result, just “three of the more than 100 public health labs across the country have verified the CDC test for use.” This has “hampered CDC’s plan to screen samples collected by its national flu-surveillance network for the coronavirus.” These issues “could impede the U.S. government’s ability to detect scattered cases before they snowball into larger outbreaks”….

Inside the White House, the concern has been around how the coronavirus could impact T—-‘s reelection. Senior officials fear “a sustained outbreak could slow global markets and upend a strong U.S. economy that has been central to [his] political pitch.”

T—- has been eager to downplay the threat of the coronavirus in public, recently expressing confidence that the virus would dissipate in a few weeks when the weather gets warmer….

There is no scientific basis for [this] claim, which is based on the assumption that the coronavirus will follow the same pattern as the seasonal flu. Columbia University epidemiologist Stephen Morse called T—-‘s comments “wishful thinking” and warned against being “lulled by hopeful, but quite possibly wrong analogies.”

Unquote.

From Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut:

This morning’s classified coronavirus briefing should have been made fully open to the American people—they would be as appalled & astonished as I am by the inadequacy of preparedness & prevention.

We have a president whose main concern at the moment isn’t keeping people healthy. It’s how the spread of the disease will affect him. He’s also a pathological liar who doesn’t believe in science. Maybe this won’t be so bad, but that’s how prepared we are.

These Caucuses Suck

Bernie Sanders won big in Nevada, so hardly any members of the news media herd are focused on how bad the caucus process was (just like in Iowa earlier this month). How about using secret ballots instead?

From Stephen Stromberg of The Washington Post:

Unlike in Iowa, it did not take long to declare a winner in Saturday’s Nevada Democratic caucuses. That doesn’t mean the system worked well — it didn’t. Nevada looked orderly only because Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s victory was so lopsided, the networks could call the race with hardly any results.

Some 18 hours after the caucuses wrapped up, results were in from only about half of the state’s precincts — the consequence of cumbersome rules, a jammed reporting hotline and extensive data collection requirements. This mess is what happens when [political] parties insist on running their own private caucuses rather than allowing states to hold primary elections. Indeed, even if the caucuses had worked more smoothly, they would still have been an embarrassing spectacle. They are a terrible way to choose a presidential nominee.

The process I don’t like at all,” said Paul Anthony, a food server attending a caucus Saturday at the Bellagio resort. “I think sometimes this room might intimidate people into not wanting to come vote.”

The Nevada Democratic Party might be surprised at Anthony’s dissatisfaction, given that it tried hard this year to fix its caucus system, offering people more ways to participate. But the party instead proved that the caucus system is fundamentally flawed. One major reason: Peer pressure should have no place in voting.

For all their effort, Nevada Democrats could not fix this inherent problem: There was no secret ballot. At the Bellagio caucus, hotel shift workers had to walk to one side of a large, open conference room, amid a crowd of coworkers, to express their presidential preference. After an initial count, those favoring candidates who had garnered little support could move to a different group. These realigning caucus-goers had to walk to another part of the room with all eyes trained on them, colleagues beckoning them to their side.

It is tempting to make nice with your coworkers, stay with the crowd and avoid sticking out. It is only human to want to satisfy the campaign organizers who may have chatted with you on your way in, who are now observing from the wings. It is all too easy to note the presence of the Culinary Workers Union official attending the caucus…. It is natural to be a little freaked out by television cameras recording your every alignment and realignment.

The campaigns were allowed to have observers on site as long as they were few and quiet, so as to minimize pressure on caucus participants. The Sanders observers were instead many and loud. They packed the corner reserved for caucus observers, cheering, waving at caucus-goers, pumping their fists into the air. After the first count showed strong support for the Vermont senator, one Sanders campaign staffer cried. During the realignment, when it was perhaps most important for them to let the caucus participants make their choices absent outside urging, they chanted “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” and pointed toward the Sanders side of the room… Sanders surrogate Gilbert Cedillo interrupted a caucus-goer’s speech when he clapped abruptly at the mention of Medicare-for-all.

Don’t scorn Cedillo or any of the other Sanders supporters. They showed up because they are passionate. Blame a system that allowed them into a room where everyday people were just trying to express their preference for who should be the Democratic presidential nominee — a room that did not have a single ballot booth.

The only sensible defense of caucuses is that they allow people to shift their support to a second-choice candidate if their first choice is not viable. But Nevada — and every other caucus state — could offer voters this flexibility through a ranked-choice voting system like the one that Maine has used, without accepting all the built-in problems of caucusing. Let people — in secret — submit a shortlist of candidates in the order of their preference. In fact, the Nevada Democratic Party introduced this year a version of ranked-choice voting for people who wanted to caucus early, the results of which were meshed with the live caucus results obtained Saturday. The party could simply ditch the old system and move entirely to the new one. It would be much fairer….

Voting should not be a performance. No one should feel intimidated, as Anthony rightly worried. Everyone should be able to lie to their coworkers about who they support — or decline to say — and save their authentic opinion for the seclusion of the ballot booth. Anything else is indefensible.

Unquote.

Twenty-four hours after the caucuses began, the Post has results from 50% of the precincts. At least one campaign is questioning how the early voting results were integrated into the caucus results. This is a mess that the national Democratic Party needs to fix. They have two years before the next national election. That is enough time to get it right and eliminate these stupid, undemocratic caucuses.