Politics Ain’t Bean-Bag

Beginning with the Colorado caucuses earlier this month, in which Ted Cruz won all the delegates to the Republican National Convention this July, and continuing through similar results in Wyoming and through last weekend’s Republican District conventions in Georgia, there have been plenty of blog posts and op-eds decrying the way the nominee of the Republican Party for president is selected. Virtually every argument rests on the idea that the candidate with the most votes should be the winner. A related argument is that it’s unfair that a delegate bound to candidate X might really be supporter of candidate Y. These arguments reflect at best, an obfuscation of what a representative republic is, and at worst a lack of knowledge of American civics.

America’s founders specifically did not want a direct democracy, which they thought was dangerous. Instead, they created a representative republic. While members of the House of Representatives were voted on directly by the people, Senators were originally selected by the state legislatures, and the President was elected by the Electoral College. In order to become president, a candidate must win a majority of votes in the Electoral College. If no one gets a majority, the election is thrown over to the House of Representatives, which selects the President, and the Senate which gets to pick the Vice President. The Electoral College is why we can have a president, like George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, that did not receive a majority of the popular vote.

That same principle holds within the Republican Party. In order to become the presidential nominee, a candidate must win the vote of a majority of delegates to the party’s national convention. In a nod to the country’s federalist principles, the national party specifies the number of delegates each state and territory will have at the convention, but does not specify how those delegates will be chosen within a given state.

While many state parties, like Georgia, bind its delegates to support a candidate based on the results of a primary election, others do not. States use a combination of winner take all delegates, proportional delegates, and even conventions to choose which candidate its delegates will support. Some states have primary elections, while in others,party members caucus. In Colorado, prospective delegates declare the candidate they support, and are voted on in county, district, and state caucuses. (That model of convention instead of primary has been proposed for Georgia as well.) State parties also have the right to decide how long its delegates will be bound to vote for their candidate.

In the end, the Republican candidate is not chosen by We The People. It’s chosen by the delegates who represent the People.

And that brings up the next question. While in recent memory, one candidate has amassed the number of delegates to win in the first round of balloting, that hasn’t always been the case. It took a third round of balloting back in 1860 before Abraham Lincoln became the GOP nominee, primarily because different factions within the party supported different candidates, not unlike the situation we find ourselves in today. Because RNC rules require a majority of delegates are required to win the nomination, it will be up to the delegates the people selected to represent them at the convention to come to a consensus on whom to choose. That’s not unlike the case when no candidate gets a majority of electoral college votes in the presidential election, and the House and Senate must decide.

Ultimately, some delegates are going to have to support a candidate they were not originally bound to in order for a later round of balloting to pick a candidate. As a result, delegate selection can be as critical as the result of a primary or caucus. Delegates are not chosen by “the establishment,” by the way. They are elected by party members who were nominated at county conventions in March to represent them at district and state conventions.

While some complain that the process of selecting a presidential nominee is confusing, or it takes too much time, or it doesn’t really represent the will of The People, there’s a method to the madness. Chicago writer Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional character Mr. Dooley famously said that “Politics ain’t bean-bag.” Those who refuse to learn the rules of the game, and then are amazed that they don’t get the results they want deserve what they get, and have no right to complain.

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blakeage80
blakeage80

Trump supporters should read this now. Cruz supporters should have this in their back pockets to read after the second ballot. The party bosses should have a digital copy for the projector as they parachute in The Chosen One from the rafters before the third ballot.

Yuppie Pundit
Yuppie Pundit

We love to romanticize the Founding Fathers. We admire the courage and wisdom they had in 1776 and years following.

Compare the minds of 1776 to 2016. We’ve got some great folks on the list of delegates to Cleveland. However that list does not represent the roster great thinkers we have in Georgia.

xdog
xdog

“RNC rules require a majority of delegates. . .”

About those rules.

Is that a majority of total votes available, ie the well-cited 1237, or a majority of votes cast?

As a followup, do the rules permit a delegate to abstain or vote present or none of the above? Specifically, could NeverTrump delegates who are bound by the rules to Trump on the first ballot just refuse to vote until later rounds?

davidmac
davidmac

Rule 40(d) requires a majority of votes entitled to be cast. Assuming Rule 40(d) survives the Committee on Rules, and that delegates are seated in the number currently allocated by the Committee on Credentials, this would mean 1237 votes are required to win a nomination.

Those two aforementioned committees are the “secret power brokers” – as none of rules 26-42 are guaranteed to be in place unless adopted by Rules, and no delegate is actually permanently seated until Credentials approves him or her.

xdog
xdog

Thanks, davidmac.

dunwoodymoderate
dunwoodymoderate

I presume the RNC is printing up thousands of t-shirts and other merchandise to hand out at the convention that says “Lincoln was chosen on the third ballot”, he is after all the only person Trump allowed might be more presidential than him in one of his endless interviews.

MikeSilver
MikeSilver

Correction ….. It’s chosen by the delegates who represent the PARTY. The party is their first and only loyalty. If the people want a say, they need to contribute and do work for the Party. Their club, their rules.

I’ll bet there is another shoe to drop at the State Convention. Perhaps, the rules committee will decide that all delegates go to Ted Cruz or John Bolton.

Bart
Bart

“About 60% of delegates who are bound on the first ballot will be free to do whatever they want to on the second ballot. I’m increasingly optimistic that there may be a second ballot.” Amazing that the man identified as a liar on the senate floor by the candidate who benefits from a second ballot is so optimistic about getting there. McConnell now a TrusTed guy? Based on McConnell’s ill advised statement above along with many others from the entrenched power core, it is obvious the only goal is to beat Trump no matter what that causes in November. They… Read more »

Yuppie Pundit
Yuppie Pundit

Jon, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The contempt, wait… CONTEMPT of states like Colorado, and a lesser extent GA to thumb their noses at votes is reckless. The GOP needs to stand in the corner, think about what’s it’s done and is not allowed to use term “outreach” the rest of the election cycle.

Joe Pettit
Joe Pettit

There has been a movement the last few convention cycles to move Georgia to a nominating convention. People like myself, Jon, and Charlie have spoken out against that movement, any time it rears its head. We see the danger and potential illegitimacy of any candidate that is chosen purely by the few that attend conventions. In Georgia, the majority of voters voted for someone other than Donald Trump. The majority did a better job of organizing at conventions than the minority that voted for Trump. Many of the delegates from Georgia do not support Donald Trump, and they are legally… Read more »

Yuppie Pundit
Yuppie Pundit

Record amounts of votes coming in, you yourself in this article discuss past elections being a plurality. Either these voters are welcome or they are not. If welcome, then welcome them.

There’s going to come a time your life that Georgia won’t be an “in play” purple state that always stays red. Here’s your swing votes, weak R votes, etc. I fear when these voters are truly needed they won’t be there.

Bart
Bart

Cruz supporters too stupid to vote on their own at district convention – http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2016/04/18/the-confidential-memo-behind-the-ted-cruz-victory-over-donald-trump-supporters/ – seems the text system worked as they got their delegates. Mindless myrmidons performing as directed by party establishment, same ol s(hit)tuff.

Corby
Corby

GAGOP rules say a delegate is bound for only the first ballot (with some exceptions), but Georgia law states it differently: § 21-2-196. Qualification oath of delegates and alternates to national convention Any person selected as a delegate or delegate alternate to such national convention shall file a qualification oath with the Secretary of State pledging support at the convention to the candidate of their political party or body for the office of President of the United States for whom they are selected to support. The oath shall state that the delegate or delegate alternate affirms to support such candidate… Read more »

A. Walker
A. Walker

As I said in the opinion piece linked to above, the rules are the rules. The Republican Party is a private organization; and as a private organization, it is absolutely legal for the Republican Party to choose their presidential nominee as they see fit. I’m not arguing rules, and I’m not arguing process. I am arguing perception. Politics is perception; and in politics, perception is reality and the truth is negotiable. Think about it. Democratic Party of Georgia chairman DuBose Porter has the same exact record on gay marriage and the Confederate flag as former federal judicial nominee Mike Boggs.… Read more »

blakeage80
blakeage80

There is a great campaign slogan about nuts waiting to be created.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Absolutely none of this matters. Republicans have known for at least 4 years, if not 8 that they would need to come up with a candidate who could win in the Electoral College against Hillary Clinton. Cruz is not that candidate. Trump is not that candidate. The games being played here are of little consequence in this cycle though of course there are other ramifications for later years. The only real surprise as of late has been the fight left in Bernie Sanders but he faces the same numbers game as the Republicans do in the Electoral college in the… Read more »

blakeage80
blakeage80

For a moment there I thought the Democrat Party had hired their own Tokyo Rose.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Don’t shoot the messenger. The only Republican candidate that is polling above Clinton in possible general election scenarios and who is still in the race is the one with the lowest delegate count:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/#

The state polls vary widely but for example even Sanders is a +32 to Cruz in New York. In the national polls only Kasich leads Clinton consistently in the popular vote and who do you think would win those precious Ohio Electoral College votes?

chefdavid
chefdavid

The system seems quite antiquated to me. I could see back in the old days when one had to travel by horseback or correspondance was delivered by a pony. I like the way some other states do it When you vote for a candidate you then pick a number of delegates from a list. Those are supporters of that candidate.