Trump and Sanders preach about ‘rigged’ electoral system

Political outsiders running in White House race decry the rules of an insider’s game

Thousands queued in the cold rain in Albany, the state capital of New York, hoping to make it into the Bernie Sanders rally in the Washington Avenue Armory before the venue reached capacity.

Despite the bad weather, there was a buzz of excitement. The Cider Belly doughnut shop handed out Bernie-themed pastries to the Vermont senator's supporters to keep spirits up. The crowd jeered the campaign bus of long-shot Republican candidate John Kasich as it passed.

Monday was a busy day for Albany in the US presidential election. Three White House hopefuls visited, campaigning for votes ahead of the crucial New York primary on April 19th.

Four hours after Sanders's rally and several blocks away, more than 15,000 people filed past the anti-Trump protesters and "Make America Great Again" merchandise vendors into the Times Union Arena to hear Republican front-runner Donald Trump.


Even though Sanders and Trump are ideologically poles apart, they are insurgents in their presidential primaries feeding off a deep public malaise with the political establishment.

But even outsiders have to play the insider’s game and they have grown frustrated at the long-set rules on how presidential nominees are picked. Their grievances fit their campaign messages: they, like the American people, are fighting a rigged system.

“The system, folks, is rigged,” said Trump at Monday night’s rally. “It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system.”

The billionaire has won the most states, beating his main rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz. But the chances are increasingly likely that he will fall short of the majority of 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the party's nomination at the first ballot at the national convention in Cleveland in July.

Cruz has played a better ground game in the past week, showing the effectiveness of his strong political network and grassroots operation by winning delegates at local party elections. It has left Trump, the newbie politician, struggling to build an organisation to match the Texan’s.

The Republican senator swept the board in Colorado last week, winning all of the state's 34 delegates to the national convention. This increases the chances of neither candidate winning a majority and sending the race to a contested convention and a "floor fight" among delegates.

Near-impossible task

Sanders is facing a near-impossible task to overcome Clinton’s lead of 250 pledged delegates and 438 super-delegates of party and elected officials to stop her winning the required 2,383 delegates and make the Democratic convention in


in July a contested affair too.

On Sunday, Trump drew parallels with his fellow rebel. “You see what’s happening to me and Bernie Sanders,” he said. “It’s a corrupt deal going on.”

In Albany, Sanders called his White House bid “a campaign that has the momentum”, coming off eight victories in the last nine state contests.

But these wins are hollow. Even though he beat Clinton by 11 points in Saturday's Wyoming caucuses, they shared the 14 pledged delegates at stake. Proportional distribution of delegates in the Democratic primary means Sanders needs landslides, particularly in New York where 247 delegates are up for grabs, to halt Clinton.

“This campaign, not too surprisingly, is not getting a whole lot of support from elected officials. We are taking on the establishment,” Sanders said to cheers in Albany.

Last week when asked about whether the support of super-delegates gave her an artificial advantage, Clinton said Sanders “knew what the rules were when he decided to run”. Her campaign has pointed to her 2.3 million-vote lead in the popular vote, thanks to big wins in big states.

Responding to Trump's gripes, Republican national committee chairman Reince Priebus tweeted: "The rules were set last year. Nothing mysterious, nothing new."

Supporters share the frustration of the candidates.

“I’m not going to talk about delegates and super-delegates,” said Hassan El Minyawi (28), a bookshop owner attending the Sanders rally while holding his sleeping son, Sam (3). “That in itself is a system that stacks the odds against candidates like Bernie Sanders. There is clearly a problem with the way we count votes in this country.”

At the Trump rally, Tracy Loucks, an Iraqi war veteran from nearby Johnstown, said: “Whoever has the most delegates going into the convention should be our nominee and that is going to be Donald Trump. The establishment is just out to get him.”


Loucks, a Republican, even sympathised with Democratic voters that their primary will likely come down to super-delegates. “Each person’s vote doesn’t count in this system,” he said.

On the floor of the Times Union Arena, Joe Stump (45), a refrigeration contractor, said that the party would be making “a huge mistake” if they blocked Trump from the nomination should he end the state-by-state contests on June 7th with a plurality of delegates. “Look at how many of us are here,” he said.

At the Sanders rally, supporter Dave Nuwer (56), an engineer from Chestertown, believes the followers of the democratic socialist won’t let their revolution fade away if he does not win the nomination.

“These people aren’t just going to let the establishment continue on with the corruption as it has been for years and years. How are you going to silence tens of thousands of people who are sick of it?” he said.

For Kath Hull (63), a registered nurse and Bernie supporter sitting next to him, her support runs deep.

“Jesus was a socialist and also a Jew, and so is Bernie Sanders, so if you really are a Christian, you will vote for Bernie Sanders,” she said.