Superdelegates Were Literally Created to Prevent a Candidate Like Bernie Sanders

February 15, 2016   |   Claire Bernish

Claire Bernish
February 15, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Electability. It’s a term batted around with such frequency during the months of caucuses and primaries leading up to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, its significance has largely been glossed over.

But for fervent supporters of non-establishment candidates like Bernie Sanders, electability could easily constitute the most loathsome concept, as his nomination for president hinges on the Democratic Party establishment’s interpretation of it — and Sanders, in their eyes, doesn’t quite fit the bill.

At issue, to the consternation of Sanders’ supporters, are superdelegates. Despite conflicting reports concerning their significance, the fact is, due to structural changes in the party’s nomination process implemented in the 1980s, superdelegates have the potential to nullify a popular vote for the Vermont senator — because that’s what they were designed to do.

To understand how this superdelegate arrangement works, it’s necessary to understand the delegate system.

Delegates — “often party activists, local political leaders, or early supporters of a given candidate” — are chosen in processes that vary from state to state, but generally represent candidates proportionally based on the outcome of those states’ primaries or caucuses. Those state delegates are thus “pledged” (or, “bound”) to their candidate, whom they must vote for at the national convention following the primary process. To clinch the Democratic nomination for 2016, a candidate needs to secure at least 2,382 total delegates.

Superdelegates, also referred to as “unpledged” delegates, are elected officials, and “include not only members of the national committee, but all members of Congress and governors, former presidents and vice presidents, former leaders of the Senate and House, and former chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”  For 2016, they constitute roughly 15 percent, or 712, of the party’s 4,763 delegates. Being “unpledged” to a specific contender means the superdelegates remain free to choose their candidate up until the convention — and even if a superdelegate backs, say, Clinton at one point, they are free to change their mind and ultimately vote for Sanders.

But there’s a catch.

As Florida congresswoman and wildly unpopular Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper, though the only delegates ‘available’ — up for grabs, so to speak — during primaries and caucuses, are pledged delegates, as described above. Superdelegates, those unpledged to a specific candidate, exist for a very specific reason, which will likely bewilder many unfamiliar with their purpose. As Wasserman Schultz clarified:

Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists. We are as a Democratic Party really highlight and emphasize [sic] inclusiveness and diversity at our convention, and so we want to give every opportunity to grassroots activists and diverse, committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend, and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.”

If her statement seems counterintuitive, or even somewhat contradictory, simply factor in electability.

After the 1980 election, which was largely considered a disaster due to pledged delegates, two-time former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt headed a commission named for him to rework the nomination process — which resulted in the adoption of superdelegates.

In a recent interview with Democracy Now, Duke professor David Rohde expounded on the creation and purpose of superdelegates:

“The reason that the Democrats adopted the superdelegate plan was really because of the possibility of insurgent candidates, not for their own sake, but insurgent candidates who might not be successful in general elections. So it doesn’t do the party a lot of good to nominate a candidate that reflects the wishes of the party and then go on to lose the general election […]

“[T]he Hunt Commission thought that having those elected officials play a part in choosing the nominee would be a partial balance that would give more weight to the considerations of electability than might otherwise be placed by the delegates that were elected in the primaries and caucuses.”

This superdelegate arrangement essentially ensures that should an insurgent candidate emerge whom the Democratic establishment feels lacks electability — or, for that matter, whom the establishment finds objectionable for any reason — party insiders can close ranks and intervene by casting their collective vote for the ‘better’ candidate.

Voters who were outraged to learn Sanders’ landslide popular victory in New Hampshire could yet result in a tie with Clinton didn’t gauge the Democratic Party’s hardline dedication to self-preservation. Carried away by Sanders’ populist message and pledges for sweeping reforms, however enticing they may be, ordinary voters turned out in droves — forgetting the party system must, above all, take the White House to advance its narrative.

Superdelegates won’t necessarily rule out a Sanders nomination; but, by design, they could, should the Democratic Party establishment feel the need to protect itself from threats — perceived or actual — to its existence.

And Sanders, who is an Independent running as a Democrat, panics party hardliners — not necessarily because he isn’t electable — but, arguably, because he is.


This article (Superdelegates Were Literally Created to Prevent a Candidate Like Bernie Sanders) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: nordique. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Claire Bernish

Claire Bernish joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include thwarting war propaganda through education, the refugee crisis & related issues, 1st Amendment concerns, ending police brutality, and general government & corporate accountability. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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78 Comments

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  3. I will be so pissed if the public votes for him but the elites ignore us.

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  4. But, let's not act like there is nothing we can do. The power lies with the delegates and the super delegates. However, we have power too and we can still win. Don’t despair, Democracy is a process and a rigged one requires more effort but, it does not mean we won’t win. Participate, here’s what we can do. Every state's Democratic Party is obliged to tell you who your state's delegates and super delegates are with contact info. You can discuss with your state’s Democratic Party the electorate and the super delegate phenomenon. Be pro active, you can lobby your state's delegates and super delegates to support Sanders and vote according to the populous vote. Democracy is an active daily process. Keep Fighting. Keep Participating and we Will win!!!!! HACK THE SYSTEM BY USING IT!!!!!! GET OUT THE PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY/CAUCUS VOTE!!!!!!!!!!! Bernie Sanders for President 2016!!!
    You Tube video of The Sane Progressive on the Super Delegates and Hillary carrying the NH election:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03UwonUweAk

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/reform-voting-people-urge-administration-stop-practice-super-delegates-overriding-popular-vote

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  5. They better be VERY careful what they do in this election.

    Obama once said he was the only thing standing between the elites and the pitchforks.

    I'm not sure if he knows how accurate that statement is.

    People are PISSED OFF!!!

    We are living on scraps while the elites manipulate the vote and the economy. Sanders only brought this point into laser focus for those that weren't paying attention.

    No going back. Vote wisely superdelegates….America is finally watching.

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  6. if bernie wins the popular vote they know if they nulify it bernie supporters will not vote in the general causing the loss of the white house and probaly the other seats up for grabs because their will be a whats the point feeling that will spread through the democratic party like a virus. the only way hilary will get any of their votes is if she wins fairly. i don't think they could be that stupid. course we are talking about polititions. this would also be the ammo the republtcans need. look they ignore the vote of the people. so this is just properganda to try to discourage Bernie voters. what they don't realize his suporters are smarter than that.

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  7. If this crap determines Hillary as the nominee, then screw the Democratic Party. We'll stay home on election day.

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  8. @ Donna Hughes. Democrats who stay home elect Republicans. (aka cutting off your nose to spite your face.)

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  9. I couldn't have said it better. Sanders will be the nominee or the Democrats will lose the Whitehouse. I'm an Independant and I'm really only here because this is where I followed Sanders. Not nominating Sanders does NOT get my, and thousands of other votes, for Hillary. I'm more likely to vote for ANY Republican candidate than for Hillary. From the perspective of, "it's time for some change in Washington" Hillary Clinton is the last place nominee and every Republican makes a better candidate than the wife of a former president. Jeb is right behind hee though so if it were Jeb vs Hillary, well, I guess I'll stay home because they are both the same anyway.

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  10. John Eddy So you're like, if I can't have Bernie, I'll settle for Ted Cruz? I'm not sure I get your logic.

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  11. The USA is so corrupt to its people. unbelievable they are getting away with this. Its the The People's Country, and not the ones who were elected! They call us crooks, they defined and refined the word! Most corrupt nation in the world.

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  12. "Democratic Party establishment feel the need to protect itself from threats"
    What a nice, true, democracy. The level of irony in this is sky high.

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  13. I just plan to write my choice on the ballot if there isn't a checkbox. Period. I'll not vote for anyone except my choice. Bernie Sanders 2016

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  14. its really the "establishments" way of saying your votes don't matter…cuz we have control of the system either fucking way…GG to the American democracy!…such a joke…Even if they lose…they win.

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  15. John Eddy This isn't true. I've loved Sanders for years before he was a candidate. I remember when he ripped Alan Greenspan apart and was a fan ever since. So I am a hardline Bernie supporter, but if he doesn't get the nomination, I will gladly vote for Hillary Clinton, and I think she will handily win. Most likely the GOP candidate will be Marco Rubio, even though he isn't doing well right now, the RNC is the same way with Cruz and Trump. They will do anything they can not to let either of them become the nominee, which leaves them with Rubio to trot out.

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  16. Sanders should run as an independent. He would win the national vote. the systems needs to be rocked! If it's about democracy. then let the people decide!

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  17. We need a third party here. Perhaps Bernie should have run as an Independent. To H*** with both the Republicans and Democrats. I wonder what the reaction woud be if an Independent won.

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  18. We need a third party here. Perhaps Bernie should have run as an Independent. To H*** with both the Republicans and Democrats. I wonder what the reaction woud be if an Independent won.

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  19. If Bernie unequivocally wants the nomination, he should immediately–and certainly if the results in Nevada and South Carolina confirm that he's a serious contender–join his supporters in demanding that the superdelegates be eliminated or required to follow the popular vote. It’s a demand that nobody can begrudge, and it would jump start the possibility of real change in the party—the kind of change that is indispensable for his proposed political revolution.

    Is there some reason, besides not wanting to discomfit the Party too much, for him to demur on this demand? Does he not have to be willing, if not eager, to incite infinitely more disruption in the party to win the nomination, run as a Democrat in the general election, and create anything like the political revolution he proposes?
    See: Bernie Wriggles On The Obama Hook http://www.thepolemicist.net/2016/02/bernie-wriggles-on-obama-hook.html

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  20. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  21. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  22. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  23. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  24. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  25. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

    Post a Reply
  26. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

    Post a Reply
  27. No! In some states, like PA, people can only vote within their registered party. Sanders will lose my vote if he runs independent because I could not vote for him 🙁

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  28. Emily Anthony could u change your party to independent? Or are you and the rest of patties limited to Republican or Democrat. I never knew such a thing existed

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  29. Emily Anthony you don't have secret ballot in Pennsylvania? How do they know who you vote for in the general? If Bernie gets rooked out of the nomination he should definitely run in the general as an Independent.

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  30. Actually it makes since you can win the battle ie the nomination but loose the war ie the white house. Winning the nomination doesnt yield any result. The work is done in the white House. It sucks that ot ends up that way but we live in a real world. Many people are swayed by Sanders values which most people dont disagree with just like Obama. But its an emotional decision to elect Sanders. People can beswayed by a momentus underdog when he may have no real plan to accomplish what the partys goals are. They want their team to win. Why is Sanders running as a Dem when hes really an Independant? Because its a strong 2 party system. They want to nominate the candidate they think represebts them the best and basically they are saying the peiple are too stupid and emotional to do that. Its basically a no confidence vote for the American average joe so they bring in ringers. Sanders has a better chance because the Republicans are so weak. I am a republican. I agree with much about what Sanders says but i also dont believe he is capable of accomplishing most of it and i dont believe so much in national social programs as a solution. And he has zero foreign policy thays a problem when as president you are also commander in chief. The office of president seems to have too many roles for one person. We need a small group of say 3 or five with differing specialties. You have to be superman to run America

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  31. They give the looser a consulation prize. Its called vice president. Its like pergayory for presidents. In essence Hillary has already been riding pine and has more national and international experience and she is younger and a woman. Syrongest most electable woman ever. The democrats could seal the feminist vote forever if they nominate her.

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  32. David Cramer Sanders will peaceably push people over the edge to a revolution. Cruz will forcefully throw them off the edge to a violent revolution. Anyone in the middle will just be "business as usual".

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  33. You just called Bernie non-establishment? I stopped reading. You are either retarded, owned by jews or both. Sanders is a fucking Zionist like all the rest! George Lincoln Rockwell or NOBODY for president!

    nojew.weebly.com

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  34. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if Sander's doesn't get the Democratic nod, my hope is that Trump has the Republican so I'll have someone to vot for. You don't have to like his bombastedness or agree with his delivery, but in this election – the first in my lifetime – we could potentially have 2 outsiders vying for POTUS, and putting political persuasion aside, that is good for the country as a whole – whichever direction it goes.

    I remain confident that as long as we continue to elect status quo, we're going to get status quo results. I feel with this election, the status quo is finally being challenged, the conversation is a bit different and either Trump or Sanders, preferably the latter, would be a win for the nation.

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  35. I sure as hell will not vote for Hillary – talk about unelectable!

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  36. Obama literally only won the nomination because of superdelegates rotfl. Hillary is also winning the popular vote. Bernie voters dont understand anything that isnt in meme form

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  37. The US was never intended to be a true democracy. Do you not even know the official government type of your country? Hint: It isnt democracy.

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  38. Him running as an independent would split the democratic vote so Trump wins… He's smart enough to see that

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  39. What his supporters dont realize is hillary is up two million in the popular vote. They just cry because they didnt get their way and their free stuff! Sorry this isnt in a meme. I know that's the only way you people communicate. Laughable.

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  40. Susan Kaeser That's pretty childish. People like you who are so selfish they refuse to accept anything but what they want are what's wrong with this country. Are you so short sighted, you would rather have Trump? If so then just call yourself republican because Hillary is winning the popular vote, delegates, and superdelegates

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  41. It's saying "Sometimes the people are too short sighted to see what's best"
    But, Hillary is winning the popular vote so your comment makes even less sense rotfl
    Bernie Supporters… Selfish, short sighted, childish when they dont win, and have no knowledge outside memes

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  42. Peyton Anderson you really should do your home work. the only free stuff is to the corperations and billionares who want it all and use the media to make you believe that the problem is those who have less than you.. BERNIE is correct in the people he is attacking. and the things hes fighting for. They are for us to have a chanch in life. The people who say we can't or free stuff are saying we can't as a nation do for their people what every other industrial nation does for theirs, that we are week and not smart enough. Can't is not a word but a way of saying you don't care about your elderly or starving kids of this nation and don't care that smart kids can no longer afford to go to school. how you treat the elderly or less fortunate is how you are judged as a nation and as a person. Hillary is more wars more wealth for the people who will never need it. They are phycopaths who care of nothing but having it all including everything you have and the death and suffering of millions don't bother them as long as there is profit. And we become a proverty nation drinking the contaminated water of Flint because it made them a hundred bucks. wake up and get of corperate media. If people don't vote right this election the overthrow of this nation will be complete and the last human has allready been born

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  43. The electoral system is screwed up enough as it is. The whole idea of super delegates is "in your face" career politicians flipping the bird at the common voter. These are the big individual money people who love to stay in the back ground, along with big business lobbyests, and others who pimp their agendas. Their agendas are their own and ARE NOT in America's best interests in the short or long term. Screw both democrat and republican organizations. Both are FUBAR. Because I am against liberals (democrats) I stand behind Trump..he is not a political party insider, cruz and bush do not have the answer to our nation's problems, Kasich is not honest to his adverised party line..he claims to be a republican..well..so does de blasio from new york..but both are transparent. Both are liberal terds and fool a lot of folks..F* them both.

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  44. Dirty politics used be candidate against candidate. And it was seen in political ads. Now dirty politics has probably taken on a whole different level of nastinest. The only people I see having any credibility is sanders and trump. As far as i am concerned F* both political parties. Republicans are doing their best to screw its on front runner..and put their own CRONY in the front running. The same thing is is true with the democrat side of things. I personally weigh what candidates have done according to their voting record and what they publically stand for (that part is not always clear). In the end I really have little to no hope that any politcal party or system here in the US or any other nation will ever be able to prevent war and attrocities against each other. The only hope is through Jesus' who was and is today and His teachings..can anyone dispute His good teaching when it comes to love for one another and all that this means?

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  45. Maria Elise He's not superman. He's a retarded lazy cuckold who didn' have a job until he was 40 years old. Now he wants to redistrute wealth in America. How many socialist countries are doing well now? hint: zero. The ones in Europe haven't collapsed yet because America is footing the defense bill, or else those "good socialists" would be invaded and destroyed by the "bad socialists". Socialism only works until you run out of someone elses money.

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  46. Bernie is attracting people to the Democratic Party. Establishment Democrats have been alienating voters. Democratic membersship, like GOP membership, has been on the decline for the last 25 years or so. It's gotten so bad, Independents now make up 43% of the electorate. Democratic superdelegates need to accept that Sanders is the best hope they have of reinvigorating the Party.

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  47. This is the same system that's been in place for years. Everyone who's tried to get elected had to go through it. Stop crying and complaining. I like some of Bernies idea's, but hate the message. This idea that we are living under a "rigged" system is foolish. It gives people a built in excuse to fail. I know many people who work their asses off for the American Dream and have achieved it. They system is rigged, my parents didn't give me attention, My boss doesn't like me, my teacher has it out for me. It's all the story many people have told themselves to help ease the pain of failure.

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  48. John Eddy I won't ever vote for a republican, and certainly not for Hillary…win or lose, it's Sanders with me. Anything else would be a compromise of my integrity I'm simply not willing to make, and neither are many others.

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  49. they can do nothing, elected or unelected without the peoples support, the elites must win or be exposed for crimes or supposed crimes.. its a fight to the death as nature intends,,, or perhaps theres a 3rd way to avoid natures gimbal lock.

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  50. I know many people who work their asses off for the American Dream and still aren't even close. Just because you think that a rigged system would be used to 'justify' failure doesn't mean that the system isn't rigged.

    And really, if you don't have the basic level of empathy and compassion to relate to people who have had it harder because of things outside of their control, you are in no position to decide that people just use things as "excuses".

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  51. Peyton Anderson Exactly, he doesn't want to end up like Ralph Nader in 2000.

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  52. Unfortunately, it seems like a large number of American Christians dispute it…

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  53. Marvin Miller I fear that your last sentence will come true, and sooner than we might think.

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  54. Strange, then, that his foreign policy positions on Israel are fairly reasonable…. How can you Nazi that? (Get it? Not see? Hehehehe…) I do wonder through how you plan to elect a Nazi who has been dead for 50 years as President. Hmm, I hear that Treyarch has some experience with Nazi zombies…

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  55. If America was a true democracy, it would be much worse off than it is now. Remember, the vast majority of Americans are either uneducated and bigoted rednecks, or self-entitled "social justice warriors". In a true democracy, once a proposed law gets a majority vote, it becomes official. So you could bet your bottom dollar there would be all kinds of oppressive laws in place.

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  56. Jen Bailey If abstaining is the way you stay true to your own sense of moral integrity then you should do just that. To everyone I say weigh the consequences. If you still feel the same after you challenge your own thoughts then you are marvellous.

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  57. Jen Bailey If abstaining is the way you stay true to your own sense of moral integrity then you should do just that. To everyone I say weigh the consequences. If you still feel the same after you challenge your own thoughts then you are marvellous.

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  58. Mark James Hill If Sanders is able to sway the masses with his passion. Then why would you believe he wouldn't do well when speaking to a foreign countries population? Do they not count as ordinary people unless they are American? If the average Joe is too stupid and emotional to vote "properly" why are they always begging us to pick them? You claim Bernie is the emotional choice why? I believe it is His views. The ones we that we wish on stars for. I want to be a cyber defense contractor and I know that even though I am good at it I can only dream of ever seeing MIT. I make too much and not enough. The result is that I can't reach my income potential because it is held too far above my head. I could shut down a popular service like Netflix or Hulu that seems to get people jobs. I won't as it is my moral duty to protect with what I learn not screw with people for kicks but no one wants me.

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  59. Mark James Hill If Sanders is able to sway the masses with his passion. Then why would you believe he wouldn't do well when speaking to a foreign countries population? Do they not count as ordinary people unless they are American? If the average Joe is too stupid and emotional to vote "properly" why are they always begging us to pick them? You claim Bernie is the emotional choice why? I believe it is His views. The ones we that we wish on stars for. I want to be a cyber defense contractor and I know that even though I am good at it I can only dream of ever seeing MIT. I make too much and not enough. The result is that I can't reach my income potential because it is held too far above my head. I could shut down a popular service like Netflix or Hulu that seems to get people jobs. I won't as it is my moral duty to protect with what I learn not screw with people for kicks but no one wants me.

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  60. Miranda Scott Socialism latch onto your trigger words Barney we got stuff to shoot. Redistribute is a contorted word meaning lets make a budget that includes enough money for states to make jobs. Employment must be a social program no wonder you are scared. Working Americans are freaky always buying stuff they Don't need and keeping it.

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  61. I can give you one example I applied to be a Comcast Broker and during the interview I was told that if too many people in an area have the same provider the government fines them for encroachment and they shift the blame onto every hired sales company near the affected area. I will put it simple if you attempt to start up a cable company they will fine you If you are even halfway decent. Want another one I owned a Seasonal Fireworks Franchise. I had every person from every little stand in town try to shut me down. I asked why about a year later and the answer was simple he didn't want me to have their money and then he laughed. I didn't continue the store next season the threats had been juvenile and it was damn annoying.

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  62. I can give you one example I applied to be a Comcast Broker and during the interview I was told that if too many people in an area have the same provider the government fines them for encroachment and they shift the blame onto every hired sales company near the affected area. I will put it simple if you attempt to start up a cable company they will fine you If you are even halfway decent. Want another one I owned a Seasonal Fireworks Franchise. I had every person from every little stand in town try to shut me down. I asked why about a year later and the answer was simple he didn't want me to have their money and then he laughed. I didn't continue the store next season the threats had been juvenile and it was damn annoying.

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  63. Emily Anthony that is the secret you must pick one and when you do Independent Candidates can no longer be backed by you. It is a Grassroots prevention tactic just like these superdelegates.

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  64. Emily Anthony that is the secret you must pick one and when you do Independent Candidates can no longer be backed by you. It is a Grassroots prevention tactic just like these superdelegates.

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  65. Cruz is married to the vice president of a Central Banking Power in doesn't get more insider.

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  66. Cruz is married to the vice president of a Central Banking Power in doesn't get more insider.

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