Millions more Americans than ever before are paying attention to the Republican primary this election cycle. Because of the scrutiny, flaws in the system are coming to light. Actually, they are only flaws according to voters not according to the party apparatus. To them, they are simply The System.
Even though I have followed politics since at least the Ronald Reagan election of 1980, I was not as keenly aware of the shenanigans of the party system myself. It was lightly discussed as part of my high school social studies classes but not much else was said about it over time. The Donald Trump phenomenon, with all the talk of a contested convention, has brought to light what only the party intimates knew about the machinations of The System.
The basic problem is that the voters are feeling unfairly deprived of their votes. This is occurring because, even though Trump won states like Louisiana, the delegates are being taken away from him through backdoor politics. It is a common sentiment of the voters, “to the victor go the spoils”. That means that the winner of the state should get the majority of the delegates. Yet we find out that various state systems are rigged so that a lesser candidate can take delegates away and even surpass the winner! This is political thievery as far as the average voter is concerned.
In Colorado this weekend we had the primaries cancelled and all the delegates were awarded to Ted Cruz without a single vote being cast. Simply on prima facie grounds this looks like corruption. Is it any wonder that Americans are turned off on the political system as being hopelessly corrupt?
Stacking the delegates is another form of treachery of which voters do not approve (see Pat Buchanan; it is a “scandal” to Michael Savage). If a candidate gets the most votes they should have the most delegates supporting them as far as the voters are concerned. But the way the system is being gamed is that delegates who are bound to Trump for the first vote are being chosen based upon their dislike of Trump or their favor for Ted Cruz. That way, should there be a contested convention, those delegates are guaranteed to switch their votes to Cruz or another candidate. The result is that it virtually guarantees that Trump cannot win on a second ballot. The public perception of fairness dictates that the delegates should remain firm and then other delegates from losing candidates should be courted in order to try to win enough votes for one of the top two candidates: Cruz or Trump. But the system does not work like that on the whole. It turns all of the delegates free for the second round of voting. A few states, Tennessee being one of them, have some tighter restrictions on their delegates. Tennessee law requires that the delegates remain bound to the candidate for four rounds of voting. But since each state’s laws are different such restrictions cannot be counted upon once the second round of voting begins. It is at this point where any candidate could be nominated despite the number of states, delegates, or popular votes won. None of this sits well with the voters.
Voters look at the current tallies and see that Trump has won 21 states to Cruz’s 10. They hear the talk about the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination while they look at Trump outpacing Cruz by millions of votes. They understand that local elections are not run this way. The winner, even with a plurality and not a majority, is still the winner. In rare cases, such as the state of Georgia, there are runoffs between the two candidates who received the most votes if neither one reached a majority in a multiple candidate field. But that is not how most elections are done. We can look back to the two elections of Bill Clinton and see that he received only a plurality of the votes each time. Yet he won the presidency both times. This was fair as far as the voters were concerned.
The public perception of this problem has reached such proportions that Judge Jeanine Pirro made it the topic of her Opening Statement on her show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Saturday night. While all of this is “legal” in that it falls within the rules of The System, it is a putrid scent to the nostrils of the voters.
Who Likes The System?
The System is loved primarily by bean counters and losers. People who love to play strategy games love the delegate system. These are your lawyer and accountant types. They love to manipulate the system to construct an outcome that suits them. Even though it is impossible for him to win the public vote or the delegates before the convention, Cruz could potentially become the nominee from the second-place finisher’s position. He’ll be hundreds of delegates and millions of votes behind Trump but he could deny Trump an outright victory then leapfrog to the front in a contested convention. It is a system only strategists could love because it undercuts the will of the voters. Losers, like John Kasich, love the system as well. That is because they still have a chance at becoming the nominee even though they were soundly rejected by the people. Kasich will only win his home state of Ohio. He will finish with an inglorious 1-49 Win-Loss record. That would be a 0.020 batting average. Under no just system should this man be anywhere near the nomination of his party. Yet, with the twisted system that is the Republican Primary, he could be the nominee. Worse still, someone who did not even run could potentially become the nominee.
All this creates jobs for people like Paul Manafort, who Trump had to hire to handle his delegate issues. It causes people like Roger Stone to create a Stop the Steal movement. Social media is abuzz with content condemning the convoluted process and particularly the latest Colorado debacle. Simply put, nothing good comes from all of this. It is a needless exercise in frustration.
The cry of the supporters of The System is “Oh, it’s the rules. We’ve had them 156 years. They’re published. Everyone should know them.” Everyone doesn’t know them and no one with a sense of fairness and objectivity likes rules that subvert the will of the voters. People who defend such rules are the party apparatchiks. These are the people you need to fear. These are the people you need to vote out. These are the people whose shows you need to tune out, whose websites you need to ignore, and whose newsletters you need to drop. Because when “The Rules” become more important than “What Is Right” they are no longer worthwhile and must be resisted. As the Outback Steakhouse ads used to say, “No Rules. Just Right.” Voters know that what is happening is not “Right.” When your sense of justice has been corrupted to the point that all you can do is appeal to “The Rules” in order to justify yourself and your subversive System then you have lost touch with what justice and fair play really is. You have lost touch with the American people.
The System may have had a function in 19th century America but that time has long since passed. What this election cycle has shown us is that its primary purpose now is to frustrate the will of the voters. The Republican party needs to jettison the old rules. They need to go to a system similar to the electoral college to select the winner of their nomination. The electoral college system gives weight to smaller states so that they do not get overpowered by the larger, more populous states. In the 21st century there is no reason to have a delegate system. All of these political maneuvers can be expunged very simply and easily. Let the people vote and let their vote stand.