Posts Tagged ‘Delegates’

Voter Ignorance Driving “Controversy”

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

ignorance_no_excuse_ftIn most presidential primary seasons, and indeed, most presidential elections, the actual process is invisible to most voters.  Most don’t know many details, and in most years, it doesn’t really matter much. In 2016, it’s different, and the reason it’s different is because the Republican Party is deeply divided.  Most primary cycles conclude with one candidate or another attaining the crucial majority of delegates between mid-March and mid-April.  This year, that’s not the case, and because of it, the true process has become illuminated more than usual, such that many voters, either having never participated before, or having been clueless participants in cycles of the past, now see something that’s always been there, but react to it as though it’s alien to them, the country, or the party in question.  The process isn’t alien, abnormal, or otherwise different in any substantive way, but for those who’ve been drive-thru participants in the past, they’re very shocked by the existence of a process that’s been normal for nearly two centuries, though they’re just learning of it now.  I wonder how many of these people paid any attention in civics class in high school.  I wonder how many civics class teachers failed even to mention it.  Whatever the case, as the old saying goes, “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” but rephrased for this election process, it’s not just the law of which voters have claimed ignorance, but of the entire underlying process by which the Republican Party selects its nominees.  My aim here is to alleviate that ignorance, primarily because I’m tired of this phony “controversy.”

As the first order of business, let’s establish some facts, whether we like them or not, so we can work our way through from there:

  • Political parties are private organizations.  They have their own rules, bylaws, and procedures. Their internal processes are theirs and theirs alone. The candidate the party selects is the party’s choice, but not truly the choice of voters
  • Our nation IS NOT a democracy, never has been, and had never been intended to be. Neither are the political parties (a much earlier article that covers this subject in full is here)
  • The Republican Party at the national level does not have full control of the Republican Party in each state, though it exercises some control via the national convention and the rules committee.
  • Most delegates for most states’ parties are bound in some number of national convention ballots, varying by state, but this doesn’t always mean what people think it means

These concepts have been true and available to inspection for every person who is alive today in the United States for their whole lifetime, and generations before. There are rules changes periodically, but the underlying process has not changed much since at least the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. What our contemporary electorate needs to understand is that in our system of government, their votes for President are a recommendation to the Electoral College, but not a mandate.  Their votes in primaries serve as a recommendation to the parties, but these votes are not fully binding on the parties.  This may surprise a drive-thru participant in public affairs.  If one has educated him/herself, one ought to have known better all along.  This list of bullet-points may seem like a negative thing to one who is ignorant, but if one understood the intentions of our constitution’s framers, one will understand it also because one understood it all along, having bothered to inform his/herself.

Before new readers have a walleyed hissy-fit because it seems that I’m calling so many voters “ignorant,”I want you to understand that there’s a qualitative difference between “ignorance” and “stupidity.” Ignorance is simply not having the requisite information.  Stupidity is the failure to seek to alleviate one’s ignorance due to a lack of intelligence.  Foolish mischief and prideful stubbornness result in the failure to seek to alleviate one’s ignorance for the sake of maintaining one’s internally contradictory opinion.  Ignorance can be alleviated with a modicum of effort.  Before we recoil at the “discovery” of this “hidden process,” perhaps we should actually seek to know and understand it.  In any event, the level of ignorance among registered Democrats is several magnitudes worse.  Most of them haven’t bothered even to read the Constitution.

Since the beginning of the Republican Party, it has always decided who its nominee for the Presidential election would be through a series of states’ conventions with a delegate process that has always, always varied from state to state.  The truth is, as a Republican, there’s only one state about which you really need to care: Yours!  If you want to be an elections analyst, or you’re merely very curious and hold an intense interest in public affairs,  you might want to know all the others, but it requires a lot of study. Since the various states change their rules from time to time, and since new state statutes and constitutional amendments in those states affect those rules from time to time, it is always in flux.  It is always evolving.  It always has.  It always will.  That is part of the dynamic condition of the sort of constitutional, representative republic our framers had designed.  If it ever ceases to evolve, you will know that the party has failed entirely, and probably the country as well.

All the state parties, to maintain their charters as recognized constituents of the RNC, must abide by some general rules, and agree to the rules set by the national party.  Those rules can cause the state parties to adjust their own rules so they can maintain compliance.  An example of this was Colorado, which in August 2015, changed its rules in order to protect its interests in the national convention.  Let’s see if we can get this straight, shall we?  In 2012, Colorado’s GOP held a “straw poll” to seek the recommendation of the voters at large.  That state-wide straw poll had never been binding before, but because of the RNC’s rule changes, it would have to be binding if they wanted to hold a straw poll.  In other words, delegates selected by the state party would be forced by RNC rules to go to the candidates according to the results of the straw poll, effectively converting the state from a Caucus system, to a primary election system.  The Colorado Republican Party didn’t want to be constrained in that fashion, because they feared being stuck with delegates bound to a candidate no longer in the race.  Just as now, there are delegates bound to Rubio and others who are no longer in the race, and they will be obliged to vote for those candidates on the first ballot at the convention.  Colorado didn’t want its delegates constrained in that fashion, so they changed their rules, as they are entitled.  They did so last August such that every campaign had time to know the rules and adjust accordingly. Some did, but some didn’t.

Speaking of ballots at the National Republican Convention in July, I suppose I need to cover this briefly, since it seems there is a good deal of confusion.  The way the national party, the RNC, selects the candidate who will be the party’s nominee is through a system of ballots.  (Votes, if you prefer.)  There are a total of 2,472 delegates in the Republican Party.  Half of that number is 1,236.  Add one(1,) and what you have is 1,237, also known as a “majority.” For those who are confused about this, it is important to remember that a “majority” does not mean “the most.” It means “one more than half.” A “plurality” is equal to “the most.” If the rule specified a “plurality” instead of a majority, then all a candidate would need to obtain is “the most” delegates.  (The highest total.)  The rules state, and have always, always stated, that a majority is required.  This is not something new to 2016, but it has become an issue of popular concern because there now exists a better than even chance that no candidate will make the 1,237 delegate mark.

Now, in the electoral college, in the actual general election on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, the candidate who obtains a plurality of electoral college votes is the winner, but here’s the bonus prize:  The electoral college doesn’t actually meet until December.  It is there that the new President of the United States is actually selected.  It is most often a rubber-stamp of what the electorate has recommended, because most states bind their electors to do so.  Nevertheless, it is possible, in some circumstances, for some elector or other to raise objections and to derail the rubber-stamping.  It’s not happened in American history yet, but it is possible for the Electoral College to discard the “will of the people” and select somebody else, strictly speaking.  It’s very, very unlikely. It is, however, possible. (For the record, this year’s presidential election falls on Tuesday the 8th of November, meaning this is one of those rare years in which the 1st of November falls on a Tuesday, such that the election gets bumped back to the second Tuesday of the month, because the Monday before the first Tuesday is the 31st of October.)

Returning to the national convention, let’s imagine one in which no candidate has obtained 1,237 bound delegates prior to the first ballot. It is still possible to win on that first ballot because there are usually some number of unbound delegates.  It simply depends upon how clever a negotiator one is, with respect to the unbound delegates, and how large a shortfall one has.  If nobody has obtained at least so many that with the addition of unbound delegates, they’re able to close the gap, what you now have is officially a “contested convention.”  Of course, it should also be stated again that something else is true: It is possible to have 1,237 or more bound delegates going into the convention, and still lose.  How can that happen?  Easy!  All it takes is that a candidate with 1,237 delegates has even one delegate abstain from the first ballot.  In other words, ultimately, nobody can actually be nominated with certainty until the convention. This is where the term “presumptive nominee” arises.  A presumptive nominee is a candidate who has obtained 1,237 bound delegates, but who hasn’t yet officially received the party’s nomination when the delegates cast their votes.   Even if you had all 2,472 delegates bound to you prior to the convention, if 1,236 of them abstain from the first ballot, what you have is a “contested convention.”  While highly, highly unlikely, even if a candidate somehow managed to have 2,000 or more delegates bound for the first ballot, it is strictly possible for that candidate to be defeated.  So you see, those who say that the “party chooses the nominee” are exactly, technically correct, and if the party is absolutely dead-set against a candidate, they have the ultimate ability to turn that candidate away.  That said, the party is not so likely to go this far to prevent the nomination of a candidate because it’s suicidal in an electoral sense.

One might wonder why a party would do so, or what justification there would be for denying a candidate the nomination.  One reason might be that some substantial proportion of the party finds the proposed nominee unacceptable for some reason, perhaps electability, or that the candidate’s long-term impact on the party might be substantially damaging to its ends. Whatever the case, it is possible, and has happened that the candidate who had “the most” delegates going into the convention wound up without the nomination.  This was true in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln actually went into the convention with the third highest delegate count.  If you wonder why John Kasich sticks around, here is your answer, (although Abe Lincoln, John Kasich clearly is not…) Of course, Kasich has another hurdle to clear as the rules now stand: He hasn’t won a majority of delegates in at least eight states. This is a requirement that was put in place four years ago. At present, Kasich has only won a majority of delegates in his home state, Ohio, and it’s likely the only state in which he will have won a majority of delegates by the time we get to the national convention in Cleveland, this July. Unless there is a change to rules, he won’t be eligible for nomination.

Yesterday evening, I read a story about a lawsuit against the GOP by Larry Klayman, of Freedom Watch, who you’ll probably remember/know from Judicial Watch lawsuits fame.  Klayman is an unabashed Trump supporter. His lawsuit against the GOP is over the fact that apparently, Florida delegates are bound for three(3) ballots.(In many states, it’s just one ballot, two in others, and none in states that don’t bind delegates at all.)  Freedom Watch is claiming that the delegates ought to be perpetually bound to Trump, but this is utter madness for a very obvious reason.  Let me explain Klyaman’s foolishness by way of an example:

Imagine arriving at the July convention with no candidate having obtained 1,237 bound delegates.  Further imagine that all states perpetually bound their candidates, so that no matter how many ballots they cast, they would always, always be compelled to vote for the same candidate.  How would the party ever obtain a nominee?  It couldn’t!  Think about this for a moment, and then you will realize that Freedom Watch’s foolish lawsuit is truly a nuisance lawsuit that belongs in the category of “frivolous” if ever a lawsuit belonged in that category.  His excuse, the “tort”(or “harm”) he cites in his suit, is that the people of Florida(of which he is one, thus alleging standing,) are being defrauded by the Florida and National GOP because they “held forth” that delegates will be bound.  In other words, he’s saying that because voters may not have informed themselves of the Party’s rules, they’re being defrauded.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is a toxic bit of political grand-standing, if ever there was one.  Any decent judge, of sound mind and judicial temperament, would bounce this case out of his/her courtroom faster than one can say “build a wall!” Is Klayman really alleging that he didn’t know the delegate rules for his state, and was therefore harmed?  That’s nearly the most preposterous thing I think I’ve read lately, but as I’m certain most readers will have observed, there’s no shortage of absurdity in this election cycle.

Having meandered through this whole topic a bit, I suppose I ought to conclude. My conclusion is as follows: The party selects its nominee – not the electorate – but the party tends to listen to the recommendations in various forms it has received from the electorate, where applicable.  All of this has been true for every election in my lifetime, the lifetime of my parents, and for many generations before. If a person older than, let’s be charitable and say twenty-six years of age, doesn’t know these facts and rules, it’s only possible because they have chosen never to engage themselves in discovering them.  I chose twenty-six because by then, a person should have participated in at least two presidential election cycles.  I don’t know if I knew all of this by the time I was twenty-six, but I am fairly certain I’ve known most of it since at least the age of thirty years.

It is amazing to me that people who are in their forties, fifties, and sixties now complain about this as though it’s all news to them.  The Internet has been around as a commonly accessible research tool for more than twenty years.  Most states and most state parties have had websites devoted to this information for most or all of that time.  To claim ignorance at this late date is to openly proclaim one’s complete lack of diligence.  If one can surf the web over to Ebay or Amazon, to make purchases, and so on, I don’t see how it’s possible that somebody who wanted to know this information was somehow denied access to it.  The election laws governing the states’ parties are generally available through each state’s Secretary of State website, where they may also provide links to the various parties operating in their state.  I encourage all Americans of voting age, or even younger, to learn and know at least the laws relevant in their particular states, and certainly the rules applicable to the party with which they choose to associate, if any.

The United States was established so that citizens could, through the various levels of government and attending political processes, participate fully in their own governance.  In short, being a citizen is supposed to be an active lifetime engagement for the people to determine the course of the nation.  in order to fully realize that participation, citizens should become familiar and remain up-to-date on the laws and rules applicable to their particular political interests and participation.  For most of my readers, most of this will not be news, although for perhaps some of the younger readers, it may be enlightening, but with all the, dare I say “trumped-up” controversy, I thought it critically necessary to clear the air on this issue.  Factually, this is the process.  You might not like it as is, but you have the ability to work to change it. If you think the existing parties cannot be reformed, you are also free in America to form your own and if you’re very successful, in a decade or two, you might be able to have grown it enough to have viable national candidates.  What is not true is that some giant magic “easy button” exists to  “fix things” instantaneously. Being an active citizen is something too few citizens actually do, and this is to the detriment of the country as a whole, and certainly to the parties in particular.  Ignorance of these facts leave too many Americans easy prey for demagogues, and it’s instructive to watch how, with the circumstance of the GOP nomination fight, so many Americans are easily led astray.  I dearly hope this will be a lesson for many, providing them the impetus to engage in the true blessing of self-governance in a thorough fashion they had never contemplated before.

Lastly, I would like to address the complaints of those who argue that it’s “too hard” or “too difficult” or that there is some situational constraint on one’s participation in the full political process.  I grant that at various times in our lives, it can be more and less difficult to find the time to fully participate, but I also know this: If most of us really wanted to do so, most of us could find a way.  What I’ve seen is that for many, complaining and stomping around is a good deal easier, and it satisfies the temporary emotional need.  That sort of laziness will never lead to change, however, and it’s high time that having informed oneself, each goes on to a full and unrelenting participation.

Editor’s Note: This article should not be seen as an endorsement of all aspects of the Republican Party’s rules or procedures, but instead a simple statement about the simpler fact that some form of these rules, with some variation, have been in place since the beginning of the party.  It’s also intended as a way to further that historical perspective and to alleviate some of the ignorance made plain by the reactions to this information by some people.  My intent is not to criticize the electorate at large, but to make them aware of these historical facts so that even should they fail in this election cycle to obtain their desired result, they will have no excuse for not being ready to fully participate in the next cycle, and to fight for those changes they believe are necessary. 





Is the GOP Establishment Leading Us Over a Cliff?

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Here We Go Again?

With Super Tuesday just two days away, I have a question or two about the direction in which the GOP establishment is leading the party.  We have been told that Mitt Romney is “inevitable,” but even if we accept this notion, I wonder what it will mean for the country in the upcoming elections.  Mitt Romney’s unfavorability ratings have soared, and half of Americans now see him in a negative light.  We are told his organization is first-rate, but apart from the gobs of money he and surrogate SuperPACs are spending, I really don’t see where that’s having any impact.  When you break down his support by income group, Romney only carried one segment in his recent narrow victory in Michigan, and that is the group earning over $100,000 annually.  If most voters were in that group, one might not have reason to worry, but the problem is that most voters are not.  Take away that segment, and Romney lost Michigan to Santorum.  This leads to my question, and I’ve narrowed it down to just this: When the establishment of the Republican party tells us Romney is “inevitable,” my mind leaps to November 7th, and asks: “Inevitable defeat?”

Mike Huckabee hosted an interesting forum for three of the four candidates remaining on Fox News, Ron Paul declining to participate, and it was interesting, detailed, and permitted the small panels to ask the candidates questions directly, and have a real exchange with them.  At the end, they each gave a closing statement.  What I found interesting about this was that among them all, it seemed to me that newt Gingrich gave the most detailed, specific answers to the questions.  It was clear that he had a better grasp of the issues than the other two, and while neither Romney or Santorum fumbled badly, viewing each in isolation this way, it was clear from the perspective of a viewer, Gingrich clearly ruled.

There was some discussion that Romney came across as personable, but at one point, during the closing statements segment, it seemed perfectly plastic.  Mitt’s time had expired, and Santorum was walking up to take his place, and Romney, now on his way out, did the laugh and grab thing that seemed contrived, as he placed his hand on Santorum’s shoulder and so on.  It seemed out of place. It seemed contrived. It reminded me of when meeting with a group, including somebody who I know can’t stand me goes through these motions in an attempt to disguise the ill will, but must keep up appearances.

This is the sense that one gets about Romney, and while it may not bother some in the GOP establishment, since that is how they function anyway, it is a signature of the plasticity of Mitt Romney and the whole upper echelon of Republican party insiders.  There are a few who can carry this off but it’s an intangible thing one senses in an intuitive way.  If this is the best Mitt Romney can offer, I fear my question will answer itself.  As I replay the moment in my mind, what it evinces is a desire by Romney to force an impression of warmth that a dog kennel strapped to an automobile’s rooftop roundly disputes.

It is true at this point that Romney seems as though he’s in command of the delegate count, but that’s another issue in which I must object. Hard delegates?  Soft delegates?  Last minute changes to delegate distribution?  It seems to me that the whole question of delegates is so thoroughly muddied by all of the rule changes, and the manipulations makes the delegate count suspect in a variety of ways.  Put bluntly, I don’t see how the RNC can have a rule in place that says no contests may be winner-take-all before April 1st, but then permit them to be winner-take-all.  Something doesn’t add up, but I suspect I’m using the wrong formula, which is roughly: Whatever the GOP Establishment decides:  Sum equals “Inevitable.”

Of course, with Super Tuesday looming before us, it is entirely possible that even with his win on Saturday in the state of Washington, Mitt Romney will not carry all of the states contested.  Santorum may win in some, and Gingrich will almost certainly carry at least Georgia.  What emerges from this picture is that while Romney may indeed get to 1144 delegates, it’s not clear that this inevitable nomination will translate into a victory over Barack Obama.  With his negatives on the climb, he faces an uphill battle in which he may find himself portrayed as he is widely seen, even in the Republican party: Wealthy, out of touch, and hopelessly incapable of defeating Barack Obama.  In a world in which perception too frequently drives reality, this may spell doom for the GOP come November.  I ask once again: Can we afford an “inevitable nominee” who is widely perceived as capable of no more than  inevitable defeat?


Brokered Convention Talk and Sarah Palin Create a Stir

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

So It Began

Eric Bolling’s hand was stretching across to Governor Palin to thank her for the interview at its conclusion, when my phone rang.  I answered, and the first words I heard were: “How do we have a brokered convention?” I explained it in broad terms to my friend, who was ready now to go to war with the GOP, Democrats, or anybody who might stand in his way. I heard the call-waiting beep, and I excused myself, and fielded the next call. “Did you see that?  How do we make sure that if there is a brokered convention, she’s picked, and not somebody else like Jeb?” I asked only: “Who’s speaking?”  My hearing is failing as I get older, and sometimes I can’t differentiate particular voices over the phone. Nevertheless, once I knew to whom I was speaking, we discussed the matter at hand. Everybody who called wanted to know how a brokered convention could be forced, or how it would work, and if it could really work at all.

This went on from the moment of the conclusion of the Bolling-Palin interview until late into the night.  Friends, associates, activists, and many others called me, and all of them wanted to know how to go about making sure of two things, and precisely two things:  How can we make sure there is a brokered convention, and how can we make certain that Sarah Palin is the choice?

I will tell you now what I told them in simplified terms, as I’m sure over the next twenty-four hours, we’ll see people with more facts on the specifics: It still all comes down to delegates, but not merely numbers of them, but instead also who will be those delegates.  To accomplish the reality of a brokered convention isn’t all that difficult in terms of the mechanics.  Simply put, you just need to deny 1144 delegates to any of the candidates, and the best way for that to happen is to spread them around.  If Santorum wins one, and then Romney wins one, and Gingrich wins one, and maybe eventually Ron Paul wins one, and this cycles around long enough to deny any that magic number of delegates, what you will have is a brokered convention.  That’s a fact.

The infinitely more difficult part is seeing to the outcome of a brokered convention.  If any of them are too strong, they will be in a position to wheel and deal for the support of another candidate’s delegates, but more than this, the GOP establishment will have a strong hand with at-large delegates and also because the number of at-large delegates will swell this year due to the early states holding their contests earlier than the rules permit.  Those states  automatically have yielded half of their delegates to the party, to be made at-large delegates.

There is also the question of who the delegates will be.  Having a bunch of Santorum delegates who would lean toward Mitt Romney in Santorum’s absence would be bad.  Of course, this is where we get into the weeds of process, because delegates are selected differently in the various states.  I would therefore refer you to those within your state who can explain it to you in the context in which your state’s rules apply.   The point is that a brokered convention becomes difficult in several ways, including the manner in which a nominee is eventually selected.

The real messy part is the inevitable floor fight, that is one of the reasons the parties try to avoid this spectacle before television cameras at all costs.  Here’s an article from the Washington Post that discusses some of the possibilities.  I point all of this out not to dampen anybody’s spirits, but instead to make sure you understand what the pursuit of this will entail.  For those of you motivated enough to carry it out, there will be pitfalls, and dangers, and no shortage of potential heartbreaks.  Is it possible? Yes. Will it be a snap?  Not a chance.

Of course, all of those who phoned me on Wednesday evening don’t seem to be the sort who will be easily deterred.  They have a goal in mind, and have had this one in mind for some time as one possible way to see their preferred candidate lead the party into the general election.  I can’t fault them, as I have harbored that same hope ever since Governor Palin made her announcement of October 5th.  Of course, in all of this, we should recognize we are a long way from a brokered convention, and while I would like to see it, as would many others, there’s no certainty that we will get one, or that even having gotten one, it will have the outcome we envision.  There hasn’t been a brokered convention in the GOP since 1948, and Dewey was the result.  It came close to happening in 1976, when Ronald Reagan almost upset Gerald Ford.  What you must know is that such an avenue is tricky at best, and dangerous at its worst, because much of it will come down to the delegates, and the character they possess.  If they’re interested in currying favor with party bosses, it could be trouble, but if they’re ordinary Americans interested in victory as the path to restoring the country, it just might work out.

GOP Scandal: Florida Violated Another Rule?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Another Victory Lost?

Most of you will remember that Florida, by moving its primary up to January, waived half of its delegates to the national convention.  As it now turns out, they may have violated another rule, and it stands to benefit Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, all to the detriment of Mitt Romney.  It seems that there is another rule that forbids “winner-take-all” primaries and caucuses prior to 1 April.  This is being covered by a variety of outlets, but Burns and Haberman at Politico have given in-depth coverage.

They have outlined the problem, and actually quoted the GOP rules:

“Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting held for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention which occurs prior to the first day of April in the year in which the national convention is held, shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis. (Rule No. 15(b)(2))” (emphasis mine)

Uh-oh Mitt. You see, if we are to accept that the Virginia GOP mustn’t change its rules to permit others who just missed qualification for the ballot access in that state, we must also conclude since the GOP is a party that follows its own rules, it must follow this one.  I have read accounts that the Gingrich camp is already pursuing this, as they should because as the Romney camp  hurries to remind us about Virginia, “rules are rules.”

Myself, I think this is perfect justice.  The Florida GOP hurried up its primary to help Mitt Romney sew up the nomination early, and waived half of its ninety-nine delegates, but now it seems that if this turns out the way the rule is written, the Florida party will have no choice but to apportion the delegates by percentage of vote, and if so, Romney will get twenty-four delegates rather than fifty. Gingrich would come away with fifteen or sixteen.  Instead of handing Romney the ninety-nine delegates they might have handed him later, they may now hand him one-fourth of that number, and I think this is a perfect answer to the entire fiasco of the accelerated schedule.