Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

John Oliver Dives into “Erratic Clusterf*ck” of American Primary System

John Oliver Dives into “Erratic Clusterf*ck” of American Primary System

Well, he’s not wrong

If you’ve been following this election cycle, you’re well aware that our current presidential primary/caucus setup is bunk. It’s weird. It’s complicated. It’s arbitrary. And it’s far more confusing than it ought to be.

HBO’s John Oliver also noticed the “erratic clusterf*ck” that makes up our modern presidential primaries.

No, it’s not suitable for work, but it is pretty darn funny:

One of the biggest issues this primary season? Those who believed our primary process to be a directly democratic one have been disappointed to find out that’s not the case. Though Oliver compares this to getting to the end of a football game and determining the winner by who found the most eggs.

Amazingly, the respective winners in both parties happen to be the candidates who’ve garnered the most votes… this time. But as Oliver points out, should the system continue as is, we may very well face a situation where the candidate does not reflect the popular primary vote. Heck, that could happen in Cincinnati. And what happens to our primary process then?

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


The country is held hostage by 2 parties, where they win and we lose no matter what.

healthguyfsu | May 25, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Oliver is more wrong than right usually and that’s a consequence of being a sounding board for one side of every argument with no counterpoint on his show.

However, blind squirrels and nuts…he had a great one the other day about science reporting in the media (although he then proceeded to repeat the 97% consensus myth)

The great virtue of the electoral system is not that the voting public is good at selecting career government drones. It is that it throws unpredictable monkey wrenches into the plans of carnivores like Hillary.

Consider a nobody like James Hansen, the career alarmist and Warmunist conman who ended up a bigwig (and millionaire—those speaking fees add up) at NASA’s Goddard Center. Nobody would have voted for such a turkey for anything. But in government you start off at the bottom, sit in your office and don’t annoy anybody bigger than you (shoot, ideally you don’t get noticed at all), and as they gradually retire or move out (after being rewarded for faithful non-service with ambassadorships and such Party spoils) you slowly ooze into bigger and bigger offices. At last, success! And all without doing anything but wait. (To be fair, it’s not just government—big business tends to do the same, eventually. Consider the mighty GM—in its glory days run by guys like Alfred Sloan, a sort of a Trump with engineering qualifications, gradually replaced by accountants like Roger Smith, a nonentitiy good for managing nothing but decline and decay.)

Elections disrupt the normal growth pattern of such diseases.

So, they don’t have to make a lot of sense to be useful.

This is not widely appreciated. Even as fine an American as Tecumseh Sherman rejected the idea that elections—any of them—were useful. (Remember, he’s the guy who probably didn’t actually say “If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve.”) He considered the idea that run-of-the-mill voters could be qualified to make good decisions to be nonsense. And he was probably right, then as now. But a decision need not be a good one to be a useful one.

This doesn’t mean that primaries wouldn’t still be useful if they did make some sense. But that might be asking too much.

Now, in the cases of Cruz and Hillary, the problem isn’t the semi-random nature of the selection processes, but the fact that both were systematically perverted to favor one candidate. That is, the uncontrollable factor was minimized by systematic attack. In the case of Cruz, his energetic attempt to get his sycophants in as the delegates, and in the case of Hillary, by the Dem superdelegate system. Both were (and are) intended to slant the chaotic selection process toward a particular candidate, thus defeating the purpose and utility of the whole system … and making it prey to the sort of carnivores who are good at perverting things.

    Merlin in reply to tom swift. | May 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    The most disappointing revelation of the current political cycle is the amount of sheer ignorance displayed by such a large number of Americans about the mechanics of their own political system. Even more disappointing is that it seems to be a willful ignorance resulting in a gleeful eagerness to idolize charlatans. Sherman was not wrong.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Merlin. | May 25, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      The primary and nomination process is not our political system. It is the parties’ system. They can rig it to favor certain candidates, because ultimately it’s about who the party wants to run. It doesn’t have to be “fair” or “democratic” because it’s not part of the legal electoral process; it’s a private system.

      I wonder why States spend so much money to support what is essentially a process for two private entities – the Republican and Democrat parties.

I don’t care if John Oliver is 100% right this one time, I will not direct a single byte of traffict to his web page/YouTube channel/Twitter feed or whatever. I really don’t get why we should be promoting liberal hacks that 99.99% of the time are acting like liberal SuperPACs because they either promote the liberal line, attacks conservatives or keep quiet regarding liberal scandals.

So once in a very long while they will throws us a bone and we’re supposed to wet our pants and thank them? No way, I won’t and I respectfully suggest that neither do you.

    Old0311 in reply to Ulises. | May 25, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Didn’t we run those Brits out of the country a couple of time already? While I have met some ex-Brits who have become Texans with a funny accent, most of the TV variety are a bunch of asses.

Based just on outcomes – McCain, Romney, Trump – the Republican primary system is obviously, completely, utterly, bewilderingly broken.

Mr Current Year Man (his go to argument on everything is “it’s the current year!”) can leave if he goes to like it.

This is America, made by and for America. Foreigners ought to stay in their own business.

Approval Voting would be a better system. It lets voters vote for all of the candidates they like. For example, if you dislike Trump, and would support Cruz and Rubio, you could vote for both Cruz and Rubio, thus helping either Cruz or Rubio beat Trump.

I see a number of issues with the primary systems. However I am not sure of any sure way to fix any of them. The biggest issue I see is a lack of participation by the voters. Many voters complain about the candidate that is selected but they didn’t go vote in their primary. If you are serious about who you will vote for in November why are you not participating in the primary?

I listened to 4 minutes of this and then gave up. If there was anything funny or informative, it must’ve came after that mark. The guy just isn’t entertaining to listen to.

Based on what Kemberlee said, he focused on the process not being directly democratic. If so, that is a feature, not a bug. Direct democracy has too many flaws to be sustainable.

G. de La Hoya | May 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm

John Oliver made the news. I just found out he is on HBO. I ask “Who the hell is John Oliver and why should I care?”. My gut tells me that he is just another liberal propagandist and this will be my last thought on one, John Oliver.

Most of us who aren’t “low information voters” already knew this stuff, although some of the numbers & examples ares still interesting. (3% participation for caucus voters as a percentage of the electorate.) It’s still funny though. Of course he has a liberal bias and bent over backwards to make sure he didn’t upset Sanders supporters since that’s a good chunk of his audience.