THE RULES ARE THE RULES – EXCEPT WHEN THEY’RE NOT

Here we are in the middle of the 2016 presidential primaries, and what have we learned? That the fix is in–whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.

For years, maybe forever, we have been led to believe, and probably have believed, that we, the public, had some role to play in the political primary process. But this year, due to a very unusual set of circumstances, the scales have fallen from our eyes, the political onion has been peeled back, the curtain has been opened to reveal–the Wizard of Oz.

We have long suspected that the Presidential primary process has been too protracted, too incoherent, and too, well, nonsensical. Why, for instance, should the corn farmers of Iowa or the liberal independents of New Hampshire be given the opportunity to influence the Presidential nominating process of Republicans earlier, and likely to a greater extent, than the residents of other states? Or, on the other side of the aisle, why should the corn famers of Iowa or the Southern Baptists of South Carolina have the right to disproportionately influence the Democrat nominating process? Apparently because we’ve always done it that way (at least since the current primary process was established decades ago). So, after 50 plus years, how’s that working out for you?

Recently, the parties have made efforts to compress the primary process, while still observing the “traditions” of allowing certain states to jump the gun and continue to exercise undue influence. And why do we allow the Republican candidates to verbally assault and denigrate each other during the primary process to the point where their public personas are only slightly more appealing than the paper at the bottom of the birdcage? Apparently because we’ve always done it that way.

So let’s just stop it. Here are a few prospective modifications that would streamline the primary process and make it both less expensive for the candidates and more appealing to the public at large: no campaigning until January of the year of the Presidential election; the allocation of the delegates of all states will be made in accordance with a uniform formula; multiple delegates will be encouraged to stand for election for a given candidate as opposed to essentially being “selected for election” by the local Party officials; no more than two debates; moderators at Republican debates will be conservative Republicans in order to focus the debates on issues rather than endless strings of “gotcha” questions and ad homonym attacks; and all state primary elections will be held on the first Tuesday in March.

Why are such changes necessary? Because, in spite of objectives of Establishment1 politicians of both political parties, most Americans still believe in the democratic process and want a process that is fundamentally fair.

Without being too specific about the distinctions between the primary rules of the GOP and the Democrats, let’s examine the current arrangement. While both Parties’ systems are patently absurd, the Democrat process really does take the cake. While 2,383 delegates are required for nomination of a candidate, there is a huge number of “uncommitted” “Super Delegates” (712 to be exact) just waiting in the wings to intervene at the convention. The purpose of the Super Delegates (all of whom are Democrat “Establishment” political hacks, office holders, or Party officials) is to make sure that, no matter who the Democrat voters select in the primaries, the Super Delegates will be able to “override” the will of the voters. In other words, the function of the Super Delegates is principally to ensure that, should the common voters select a candidate who is unacceptable to the “Establishment,” the Super Delegates will be able to correct the voters’ “error in judgment” by guiding the delegates toward a more “Establishment-friendly” nominee. As a consequence, the Democrat primary process is, essentially, a sham and a fraud. There is no reason for Democrat voters to go through such a meaningless charade. If the voters fail to select an “appropriate” candidate, the Super Delegates will select the Party’s nominee. Sorry Bernie–but as a life-long Democrat, you should have known going in that the process was completely rigged in Hillary’s favor. The problem isn’t really that Bernie is so naïve that he thinks the country will elect a socialist (his main supporters are college students with too much time on their hand, for heaven’s sake), but rather his naïveté in thinking that the Democrat Party would allow him win the nomination (in the Democrat Party it’s okay to be a socialist, but definitely not okay to aver being one). Regardless, we all owe Bernie a debt of gratitude for helping to peel back the façade of the Democrat primary process. Bernie cannot reasonably expect to even become the Party’s standard bearer as a result of Hillary’s email FBI examination or even her subsequent indictment. It seems more likely that John Kerry or Al Gore will be parachuted into the convention in order to reluctantly accept the mantle of Democrat “nominee.” In the final analysis, Bernie’s role in the primary process may simply be to prove to the electorate that Hillary can beat someone, anyone. Unfortunately for Hillary, Bernie has taken his charge a bit more seriously than the Party ever imagined.

And while Republicans have every right to be joyful over the Democrats’ predicament, it’s not like they don’t have problems of their own. Before anyone gets too giddy about the Democrats’ dyspepsia, consider the Republican Party’s untenable predicament. Like Democrat primary voters, Republican voters also used to think that the primary process was an equitable affair–namely, that the determinative factor in the selection of the Party’s nominee is within the purview of the primary voters. Also, not unlike the Democrats’ circumstance, the Republican voters only learned the true nature of the primary process because of the unusual circumstances of the 2016 election. Just as the Democrats have their Bernie Sanders, the Republicans have Donald Trump. The ascendance of those two candidates has brought greater than normal scrutiny of the primary process.

We have considered the inherent inequity of the Democrat primary, so let’s take a brief look under the hood of the Republican process.  For openers, consider that the delegates are basically selected, not through some separate democratic process, but rather by being hand-picked by GOP Party hacks and cronies at the local level. So the Establishment bias of the delegates is baked into the convention cake, so to speak. And while it is true that, by rule, the delegates may be bound to a specific candidate on the first convention vote, thereafter they are likely free to vote for any candidate. Consider also that bound delegates may or may not actually be all that fond of the candidate to whom they are bound. There is no requirement that a delegate even like the candidate to whom he or she is bound. Of course, a GOP primary candidate is advised up front that the rules require a candidate to obtain at least 1,237 delegates in order to become the Party’s nominee. But that’s just a “rule.” And then there’s that pesky rule that purports to limit potential nominees to only those candidates who have won a majority of the delegates in at least eight states. But, as it turns out, the rules that the candidates are operating under were established by the Rules Committee in 2012 and were intended to apply only to the 2012 election. A new Rules Committee, to be convened just prior to the 2016 convention, will actually establish the rules for the 2016 candidates. So let’s see if we have this straight. Candidates have been running for the Republican nomination for the last 6 months, or more, on the basis of rules that were adopted specifically for the 2012 election, which do not apply to the current primary process, and which may be modified or entirely eliminated by the 2016 Rules Committee immediately prior to the convention. In theory, the Rules Committee could conclude that a qualifying nominee must have received less than 150 delegates in order to be nominated (John Kasich, for instance). Or the Rules Committee might decide that any candidate who resides in a Blue State is ineligible to compete. Or whatever other ex post facto restrictions or limitations the Rules Committee might choose to impose and apply to the 2016 convention. In other words if, Mr. Trump hasn’t “bought” the folks on the Rules Committee prior to the actual convention, he may be the peoples’ choice–but that and 75 cents will get him a cup of coffee. One would assume that there is, or at least will be, some prohibition in the rules against outright purchase of delegates’ votes. But since the current rules apply only to 2012, and since the new rules won’t be effective until July of 2016, perhaps there is a window of opportunity between now and July to “do some deals.” Perhaps Trump’s attorneys should look into this possibility. What delegate wouldn’t be happy to receive a free week’s vacation at one of Trump’s Florida resorts? That would certainly be a poke in the eye of an already rigged process. We don’t want to be perceived as suggesting any sort of illegal conduct. We’re just saying . . .

The GOP primary process is the functional equivalent of setting the rules of a football game at the end of the fourth quarter (touchdown one point–field goal ten points) or the rules of a baseball game at the bottom of the ninth inning (team with the most hits wins). We don’t think the NFL or MLB would last very long if it established the rules governing a game at the end of the game. We can’t think of any good reason why the concept should work any better for political parties.

So what are the options if the GOP Establishment tries to stick it to the GOP faithful? Let the Establishment know in no uncertain terms that, if Trump is not the GOP nominee, he will be your third party nominee. Call the Establishment’s bluff. When they tell you that you wouldn’t dare vote for a third-party candidate because it would not only hand the Presidency to Hillary, but would also cost the GOP its majorities in the Senate and the House, let them know that, while they may care about keeping the House and the Senate, you don’t–after all, you gave them the House and the Senate in 2010 and 2014, respectively, and they gave you–six more years of unfettered Obama. If the GOP Establishment thinks for one minute that throwing Trump under the bus to preserve majorities in the House and Senate is a good idea, let them know that, if there is hanky-panky at the convention, you are just as willing to throw the Senate and the House under the same bus. Let’s see who blinks first.

If the GOP Establishment doesn’t have the collective common sense to accede to the wishes of its constituents (as it has failed to do with respect to Obamacare, with respect ot securing the border, with respect to immigration reform generally, with respect to standing up for the police and first responders, with respect to reigning in ISIS, with respect to preserving religious freedom, and with respect to holding President Obama’s feet to the Constitutional fire), then, by God, maybe it’s just time to put the old GOP down and start all over again. And, in the meantime, let those elected GOP politicians who have publically announced that they are opposed to Trump know that, just like everyone else, they get one vote for a Presidential candidate, and beyond that, they should sit down, shut up, and stop subverting the will of their constituents. Otherwise, there will be political consequences.

Donald Trump has suggested that the primary process is corrupt. That would appear to largely be hyperbole. But if “corrupt” means that: (1) the primary process is complicated by design in order to discourage participation by outsiders, (2) the process is set up so that the Establishment can largely control the selection of delegates, (3) the RNC is positioned to set up debates and schedule primaries at the times and places of the RNC’s choosing, (4) the RNC can exert pressure on state GOP representatives to control the primary process to the advantage, or disadvantage, of a particular candidate (consider, for instance, Colorado), (5) the RNC can support and finance candidates with no serious prospect of winning in order to dilute the delegate count of another candidate, and (6) the RNC can encourage the adoption of rules prior to the convention that favor one candidate over others–well then, Donald may not be engaged in hyperbole after all.

Donald’s detractors say that by alleging “corruption “ in the process, he is just a whiner that doesn’t want to play by the rules as announced prior to the beginning of the primary process (you know, those rules that can be amended or imposed at the convention, long after the candidates have committed to strategies). But knowing the rules, or even agreeing to the rules, is not relevant to a determination whether the rules are fair or have been stacked in favor of the Establishment’s preferred candidate.

If someone has his hand on the primary scale to the detriment of one or more candidates, it is little defense to such bias to assert that everyone was aware of the inherent bias in the process from the outset.

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1Whenever pundits and politicians have an opportunity to respond to a suggestion that the “Establishment” is engaged in nefarious or wrong-headed conduct, the inevitable response is–“Establishment? Whatever that is supposed to mean?” So, for those folks, here’s a relatively simple definition. “Establishment” means the entire GOP Congressional leadership, all sitting members of Congress who are not affiliated with, or don’t have the backing of, the Tea Party, all officers of the Republican National Committee and members of its standing committees, all officers of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and the equivalent House organization, all major donors to the any of the aforesaid committees or to Super PACs, and all lobbyists who facilitate the flow of moneys from special interest groups to the foregoing individuals, committees, GOP-controlled campaign organizations, and all Congressmen who receive major contributions from special interest groups. We are undoubtedly missing a trick or two here (e.g., major campaign bundlers), but you get the idea.

 

© 2016

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