Confidence. Faith. Trust. Whatever term you prefer, it is a prerequisite of all healthy economic and political systems: a belief in the integrity of the institutions that figure so largely in our modern lives. This sense of confidence is part and parcel of our system; indeed, our reliance on a fiat currency demands it. How else would anyone ever agree to hand over their property for a handful of paper?

Sadly, this past year has been a bumper season for the skeptical. The monkey business surrounding Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been well-documented, and her cozy relationship with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Clinton’s personal friend, has raised eyebrows since early in the campaign cycle. Under Schultz’s leadership, the DNC scheduled an unprecedentedly paltry number of debates; initially there were only six planned, but in the face of criticism that number was eventually increased to ten. By way of comparison, there were twenty-five in the 2008 primary season. If that wasn’t bad enough, the DNC also chose to air four of these debates on weekends – when less people are watching. It’s generally acknowledged that this was done to limit the American electorate’s exposure to Bernie Sanders. Likewise, the news media’s exclusion of Sanders from the lion’s share of coverage was glaring: An analysis of ABC news coverage from last year showed that they devoted 261 minutes to campaign coverage and less than one minute  of that coverage was of Sanders.


Losing Faith: The NBA, The DNC and Why It Matters

The Democratic Candidates Show Their Teeth

To make matters worse, the primary race was skewed from the start by misleading reporting that lumped superdelegates in with pledged delegates, showing Clinton with a near-insurmountable lead right from the jump. Of course, as we’ve seen in past elections, the superdelegates can and will change sides depending upon the primary results. But this was rarely discussed by our distinguished press corps (and thanks to those few who did). As we’ve seen time and again, voters generally won’t side with a candidate they perceive as losing, and this distorted perception buoyed Clinton’s numbers from the very beginning of the primaries. When you consider how close the two ran in many states, this alone may well have cost Senator Sanders the Democratic nomination.

DNC Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard, a rising star in the Democratic party, was moved to resign her position after being sidelined and pressured by the party for her support of Bernie Sanders. The California primary was a shameful mess, with Democratic poll workers actually being trained to deny proper ballots to millions of independent voters; on election night, with over 2 million votes left to count, the primary had already been reported as a Clinton landslide. The state just finished the counting the provisional ballots today, four weeks later, barely making the deadline. Now, a lawsuit filed In San Diego alleges that fully 285,000 provisional ballots are missing from an audit conducted by the county’s registrar of voters, causing some to question whether the final tally should be certified.

As it turns out, the results of the primaries appear to be leading us toward another Clinton presidency; this at a time when Hillary’s favorability ratings are in the toilet. She is deeply mistrusted by much of the American electorate, and though it appears she won’t face criminal charges in the email case, the results of the investigation hardly cast her in a trustworthy light.

Meanwhile, many of us following the primaries this season were caught up in another, very different drama: the NBA playoffs. It has been a wild year for basketball, with the recent meteoric rise of the Golden State Warriors bringing NBA viewership to its highest level in history: in the US alone, 20.2 million people watched the NBA Finals this year. The near-superhuman sharpshooting of wunderkind Steph Curry and his stellar supporting cast have returned the NBA to a prominence it hasn’t enjoyed since the days of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. But some of the key players in this Finals series weren’t players at all. They were referees.


Losing Faith: The NBA, The DNC and Why It Matters

The Warrior’s Steph Curry, Mouthpiece Intact

OK, don’t get me wrong: home-court officiating is always an issue. As humans, referees are prone to error; they respond to pressure, and often to the will of the crowd. Anyone who has rooted for a team in the NBA Finals has griped about the refs at some point. And although there are always those who cry foul, hinting at corrupt officiating and Vegas oddsmakers, the Fix-Is-In crowd is usually pretty small. Of course no one really knows, but if the league was futzing with the calls in the past, they were at least making it look good.

This year, the refs appeared to tip their hand. NBA officials made a slew of baffling calls throughout the playoffs and finals, and topped it off with a game 6 ejection of Steph Curry (the unanimous MVP had never before   fouled out of a game). Their prime directive seemed disturbingly clear: delivering as many 7-game series as possible to their advertisers. Of course I say seemed to be, because there is no way to prove this sort of thing, unless one of the officials goes off the reservation and starts talking. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened after Draymond Green was suspended for game 5 against Cleveland.

Simply put, it looked bad.  The Fix-Is-In crowd was not a small one this year. I could be wrong about this, but if I am, a lot of people are wrong with me: in their greed, the NBA appears to have overplayed its hand, and decided that a 7-game Finals series was more important than the trust of their fans. They got their seven games, but they’ve lost something invaluable in the bargain.

When people lose their faith in their institutions, there are consequences. Last week, in a stunning move that rattled international markets and forced the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, British citizens voted to leave the European Union. A big factor in this referendum was anti-establishment anger among British voters – a distrust for authority that many Americans share.

‘Brexit,’ as UK’s withdrawal from the EU was christened, has quickly revealed itself to be disastrous for Britain. The news prompted the biggest one-day drop in the British pound in history; world stock holdings lost more than $2 trillion  in value that day, and the UK went from the fifth-largest economy in the world to the sixth in 24 hours. Britain’s reputation as a center of global finance took a huge hit, and the resulting crisis threatens to splinter the country into factions once again.

We are, of course, anything but immune to calamities like this. Americans routinely vote against their own best interests, and they also have a disconcerting tendency to not vote at all. And why bother, when you think the game’s rigged, and nothing will change anyway?

This past weekend we heard the news that Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac in Arizona. The FBI was in the midst of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possibly improper use of a private email server at the time, so this meeting has drawn harsh criticism from Dems and Republicans alike. The Attorney General claims they did not discuss the case, but at the very least, it looks suspicious. It’s a case of remarkably bad judgment, and exactly the kind of thing the Clinton campaign should be avoiding right now. Perhaps more to the point, it reeks of arrogance.

Long ago, the Clintons seem to have decided that winning elections was the most important thing, and they’ve earned their reputation as the Democratic Party’s scrappiest fighters. But again – they’ve lost something in the bargain.

People are tired of being taken for idiots; I’m guessing even idiots don’t like it. The NBA and the DNC both rely on people showing up to get their business done. The NBA has to put asses in seats, and the Democrats have to get people to the polls if they hope to defeat the Republican nominee. If they expect to succeed, it’s time for a gut check. From coast to coast, people are wise to what has been happening – and it’s screwing up the game. When it comes to basketball, it’s just disappointing. When it comes to our republic, it could be fatal.

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