Watch John Oliver Explain Baffling Primary-Caucus System - Rolling Stone
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Watch John Oliver Explain Baffling Primary-Caucus System

‘Last Week Tonight’ host breaks down how our presidential race has devolved into “an erratic clusterfuck every four years”

American voters are rightfully pissed off by a perplexing electoral system – or as John Oliver calls it, “an erratic clusterfuck every four years” – where a presidential candidate can win a primary or caucus yet receive fewer delegates than their opponent. We’ve seen that happen in both parties this year: Bernie Sanders won the Wyoming Democratic caucus with 56 percent, but received only 7 delegates to Hillary Clinton’s 11. Donald Trump beat out Republican opponent Ted Cruz by 3.6 percent in the Louisiana primary but took home fewer delegates. In his latest Last Week Tonight deep dive, Oliver sorted through the madness.

The voting system has become a nightmare, as caucuses can cause scheduling strains since they require a long meeting beforehand. In 2012, the Republican Party averaged 3 percent voter turnout at caucuses. “If you have three percent turnout at an orgy, it’s basically just you masturbating next to a table full of uneaten snacks,” Oliver cracked.

The host attempted to break down the insanely convoluted process of caucuses, primaries, delegates, state conventions and superdelegates that often results in frustrated, alienated voters. “Any competition should have clear rules,” he said. “You don’t get to the end of a football game and say, ‘OK, who found the most eggs?'”

This time, we “got lucky,” Oliver said, as both parties will likely nominate their most popular candidate. Trump leads his closest Republican rival, Ted Cruz, by nearly 4 million votes, while Clinton has over 3 million more than Sanders in the Democratic race.

“The problem is there’s no guarantee that the candidate with the most votes will win next time,” he said. “And if they don’t, all the flaws we just documented will be exposed yet again. Unfortunately we only get angry about the primary process during the primary process when it’s impacting the candidate we care about. But the middle of the game is the worst possible time to change the rules.”

Oliver’s solution is simple. “Let’s together pick a date early next year to actually write an email to the chair of each party and remind them – politely – to fix this,” he said. “I propose February 2nd. Now, that will be easy to remember because it’s Groundhog Day, which does seem appropriate because, unless this primary process is fixed, we are all destined to live through the same nightmare scenario over and over again until the end of fucking time.” 

Find out five things we learned from John Oliver.


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