Rigging A Party For Success

Last Tuesday’s New York primary pushed the leaders in the race for presidential nominations of the two major parties closer to the finish line.  The “process” for both parties has been under fire to varying degrees this year. As the campaigns arrive in Indiana this week, I feel the need to point out some basic parts of the American process for selecting its executive.

The process we are in right now is the nominating process.  Not the election.  Political parties nominate.  And those parties create their own rules for their own processes.  It’s a lesson that was available to Donald Trump much earlier than now, but apparently he skipped it.

Only he is narcissistic enough to think the rules were written well before he was even a candidate as a plot to keep him out of the White House.

Government rules like the number of signatures needed in Indiana to get on the ballot for U.S. Senate, for example, mean more to me.  Those are laws. Oh, and some need to learn those also.

Describing the process of obtaining a party’s nomination as “rigged” or “crooked” and then continuing to fight like hell to get it, is…well there isn’t a word to describe that.  Is “conflicted” the word?  Or is “childish” more accurate?  The word “presidential” sure doesn’t seem to fit.

Again, these are rules of the parties, not the government.

Ask.com lists the five major functions of a political party as recruitment of candidates, fundraising, campaign support, advocacy of political issues and government.  The first four of their list of five often are described as “rigged” and appropriately so. They are subjective functions of a clique. Asking for fairness there is asking too much.  “Government” on the other hand is supposed to be fair. When it isn’t, public outrage is not only understandable but expected.

The government governs the election. You know, the one in November.

The GOP nomination for president will be decided at its national convention in Cleveland this summer.  That nomination is the functional purpose of the convention. New primary voters have no understanding or context of the process, and are nodding their heads in agreement when the two leaders complain that it isn’t working correctly.  Actually it is working exactly as the rules mandate.  And none of these rules have changed since the start of this campaign.

The parties have formulas for deciding how many delegates exist at the convention, and how many each state gets.  The state parties decide how those delegates are assigned based on the outcome of that state’s primary or caucus.  Some states are winner-take-all states and others are apportioned based on percentages.  In all cases, the first ballot at the national convention is largely, but not entirely dictated by the outcome of the primaries and caucuses.

A “contested” convention only occurs if that first ballot does not result in a simple majority of the total number of delegates.  That minimum number is 2,382 for the Democrats and 1,237 for the Republicans.  I have looked at the formulas establishing the numbers and it looked so much like high school Algebra that I broke out with acne.

The point is that yes it is rigged, but not just to screw Donald Trump. It’s because no candidate nominated on a second ballot at a national convention has gone on to win the presidency since FDR did it in 1932.  And those were good times, right?

The last time one of the major parties made its nomination on the second ballot at all was in 1952, when the Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson on the third ballot.

Some describe the 1976 GOP convention as contested, but while it was competitive and their was plenty of drama, it was ultimately decided on the first ballot with President Ford winning a close one over Ronald Reagan.  Ironically, the debate then was a dispute over the rules.  And that election loss marked the beginning of the new GOP, led by Reagan and his legacy.

The lesson here is that in modern times, a contested convention where the nomination is not made on the first ballot is a game plan for failure. It also may symbolize the beginning of new eras for a party like 1932 and 1976 did.

But the parties have never been accurately accused of fairness. Criticizing them for rigging things is like calling the night dark.

The process is not the reason the GOP is in chaos. The lack of one quality candidate is.