In the tumultuous months following the 2000 presidential election, in which George W. Bush narrowly won the electoral vote, supporters of Al Gore lamented (and still do, for that matter) that he should have been awarded the presidency because he won the popular vote. The electoral vote is so outdated and technical and thwarts the so-called “will of the people.” The usual leftist whine, “It’s not fair!”, filled the airwaves of the mainstream media.
Of course, supporters of George W. Bush noted that the rules in place provided that the president be elected by a majority of electoral votes, not the national popular vote. Bush himself explained correctly that he campaigned to win the Electoral College, and that he would have campaigned differently (e.g., campaigned more in areas, like Texas, where he was safely ahead, in order to increase turnout there) if the popular vote determined the outcome. We play by the rules.
Fast forward to today. Republicans have the most fractured presidential field since before World War II, and there is a distinct possibility that no candidate will win the necessary majority of all delegates prior to the national convention. The rules require that a majority of all convention delegates vote for a candidate in order to make that candidate the party’s nominee. Not just who has the most delegates (i.e., a mere plurality), but a majority (i.e., more than 50%). This has been the established rule in both major parties for well over a century.
Opponents of Donald J. Trump are holding out hope that, if Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed for the majority, convention delegates can coalesce around a different, more electable candidate. This would require a second or subsequent ballot, at which time most delegates are no longer bound to support the candidate who won them in their state’s primary or caucus.They act as delegates, i.e., people to whom party members have delegated the task of choosing the party nominee.
Trump supporters (as well as hostile media seeking to discredit Republicans at every opportunity) refer to that time-honored process pejoratively as a “brokered” convention. Even as reputable a conservative as former RedStater Erick Ericksen, who actually started the #NeverTrump movement, laments, ” If Donald Trump has the delegate lead headed into the convention, even if it is short of 1,237, the GOP would destroy itself if they did not make Trump the Presidential nominee [emphasis part of quoted text].” Erickson concludes, ” I am very much opposed to Donald Trump . . . , but if he heads to the convention with the most delegates and the GOP does not make him the nominee, I’d call foul on them as well.”
Huh? Really? Following long-established rules would, in Erickson’s words, “steal from [Trump] the nomination when he gets the most votes”? As best I can figure out, voters are thought to have an expectation that the candidate with the most delegates, even if it’s just a plurality, should get the nomination; and if their inaccurate expectation is not met, they will pout and not vote any more.
When did the “It’s not fair” mentality of Al Gore’s sore losers morph into an “It’s not fair” movement to change retroactively the rules of nominating a candidate? This seems a lot like campus movements to create “safe spaces” to “protect” vulnerable, hypersensitive students from arguments or theories they are not already predisposed to believe.
Unfortunately, in today’s world where feelings always trump fact (pun not intended, but acquiesced), Erickson may be right. Voters have every right to pout and cut off their collective noses to spite their many faces, and elections are decided exclusively by voters who actually vote. While the apparent extortion by Trump supporters actually or implicitly threatening to bolt if they don’t get their way is an extreme form of bullying, totally consistent with their candidate’s personality and tactics, the rules of the general election give them every right to do so.
I write this not as an advocate of a “brokered” convention, but simply to lament to what our society has dumbed down. It’s sad.
But I do agree with Erickson on one point. “The way to beat Trump is to beat him in the primaries and caucuses.” The time to coalesce behind one Trump alternative is now.