Matthew J. Dowd, WSJ
Donald Trump is right. The political system is “rigged“–but on both sides of the aisle.
I have faulted Mr. Trump numerous times in the past six months: for, among other things, not growing as a candidate, for not using his candidacy to unite the country, and for not putting together a professional campaign operation that understands the rules of picking a nominee. Mr Trump has put himself in a position of capping his own support and not winning more broadly. If Mr. Trump loses the GOP nomination, he ultimately has only himself to blame. He is winning in spite of his campaign, not because of it.
But he is right that the antiquated system of the two major parties is a rigged process. Yes, I understand that the rules were established long ago and that this is the system we have. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t rigged. Rules in any institution can be designed to favor a particular group or result.
Look at Wall Street and Washington, D.C. Think about corporate inversions, in which companies play by the rules to dodge taxes and protect assets. Or the broader tax code, which has all sorts of “rules” that benefit those with resources to game the system. Or trade policy, which often benefits a select group of large corporations or special interests.
Many folks who take advantage in our economy are playing by the rules. That doesn’t mean the system isn’t manipulated. The same is fundamentally true in our political duopoly. From a system that doesn’t seem to follow voters’ wishes in ballot results, to delegates selected without voter input, to large numbers of superdelegates who have more power in the nominating process than voters. There is potential for back-room deals at conventions and caucuses across the U.S. In short, rigging is rampant.
A majority of Americans are incredibly frustrated with the economy and political system. They see a cabal between Washington and Wall Street excluding the concerns of working-class and middle America from the discussion and the equation. The fastest-growing group of U.S. voters is independents. Both major parties are viewed quite unfavorably; independents, turned off by today’s politics, are searching for something new. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, the leading candidates of both major parties, is trusted or liked by a majority of Americans. This is all a recipe for major disruption going forward.
Think about baseball. Is it within the rules to steal signs? Yes, and teams do it all the time, attempting to give their side an advantage. But just because something is permissible doesn’t mean that it’s good, that it raises faith and trust in the game. Some permissible actions open the door for people to question the validity of results. Just because something helps you win and is within the rules doesn’t mean it is good for a sport, or for our politics, or for the common good of our country.
Donald Trump has been wrong about many things, and ultimately he is accountable for the results of his campaign. But his campaign and the primary process this year have revealed major flaws in our status-quo politics. Gaming of the system by all sides undermines the will of voters and breeds distrust. Americans are tired of an ends-justify-the-means approach to leadership. If we fix the means of campaigns and governance, in the end good will come.
Matthew J. Dowd is an independent; chief political analyst for ABC News; and founder of Paradox Capital, a social-impact venture fund. He was chief strategist of President George W. Bush‘s 2004 campaign. He is on Twitter: @MatthewJDowd.