Hillary and Trump's Crushing New York Victories Proved One Thing: The System Is in Shreds

After all of that—all the rancor and the rallies and the pandering—Tuesday’s presidential primary in New York changed…pretty much nothing about the 2016 race.


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remain the frontrunners, just as they’ve been for the entire year. They both cruised to crushing victories over their rivals. They will probably be the general election candidates. This has been true for a long time.

Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz remain the underdogs. They both have serious staying power and, especially in Sanders’s case, constituencies that can’t be dismissed. They will stick around until the party conventions. You can’t compare the impact they’ve had—Sanders has forced the contours of the Democratic race to be fought in large part on his issues, and has likely changed the party in significant way—but they probably won’t win. This has also been true for a long time.

New York’s primary process was exactly as high-profile, nasty and chaotic as you’d expect it to be, but in the end, it only highlighted that this election is just going to go on and on and on and on. Oh, and one more thing: that the way we elect presidential candidates is crazy.

Seriously, why do we do things this way? In New York City, a slew of snafus and irregularities triggered a probe from the local Board of Elections, which is notorious for its incompetence. (You have to hand it to a city that can turn its police force into a monstrous high-tech army but can’t handle an election.) Millions of people across the state suddenly discovered that they were barred from voting because they weren’t registered Democrats. You can blame Sanders for not making more of a push to get his supporters to get their act in order, but New York has a ridiculously early deadline for changing your party registration. The burden should be on the state to make it easier to vote and not force people to have the equivalent of a key to a special club just to exercise a fundamental right. Of course, this is New York, the place that gave us Boss Tweed, so we shouldn’t be too shocked.

This isn’t an outrage on par with the blatantly bigoted voter disenfranchisement going on in some states,  who won’t hesitate to put their own electoral prospects above the broader public good, and that our illogical, byzantine patchwork of state election laws discourages people from participating and taints the overall results.

Everyone in the race has both gained and lost from some of this. Sanders may have been disadvantaged by New York’s closed primaries, but he was certainly happy to profit from a string of victories provided to him by caucuses, which are both totally undemocratic and prone to severe irregularities. We’ll never know how Clinton would have fared in New York if some of the people blocked from voting because of registration issues hadn’t faced that hurdle.

The point is that this is a system crying out for reform. The ultimate solution is obvious: there should same-day registration available to every voter in the country. This doesn’t happen for lots of reasons—racism and the fact that the parties benefit from a confusing, cloistered system that practically demands that people tune out are just two of them—but we have to do better. And while we’re at it, can we get rid of these caucuses and state conventions and just have primaries? Oh, and maybe we can even have a single primary day across the country, so we don’t have to go through a million-year death march every time. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? There’s even a model for how to do it. It’s called the general election. Get on it, candidates, and let people vote!

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