Lurching Towards a Contested Convention

One of the reasons that electing a U.S. president is such a big deal is because once sworn in, there’s little likelihood that he/she could ever be removed from office. Oh, if a president were, let’s say, caught in the Lincoln Bedroom in bed with a dead woman or a live boy, then Congress might rise to the occasion and initiate impeachment, but probably not. If Congress had a pair, they would have impeached and removed Obama for trying to make a recess appointment when Congress wasn’t in recess. Congress has impeached two presidents and both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton survived and served out their terms.

For years now, I’ve held that the primary-caucus system is a godawful way to select a nominee to run for president. But this primary season is illuminating. The rise of Bernie Sanders has shown us that socialism has unfortunately lost its taint; the Left’s long “march through the institutions” (academia, the media, etc.) is now complete, and we’re left with a bunch of young college-educated dummies who think Sanders makes sense. Hillary Clinton shows that some Americans are ready to yet again elect the Leader of the Free World on the basis of genetics, (she has two X chromosomes, you see). Considering the history of the last seven years, one would think that using genetic criteria for selecting a president would be totally discredited. Finally, Donald Trump shows us that Americans are so angry and fed up with the “establishment” that they’ll throw caution to the wind and vote for an “outsider.”

Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries and caucuses has been likened to a “hostile takeover” in the business world. It’s amazing that a longtime “liberal” might actually be able to take over the conservative movement’s home: the GOP. But Democrats gleefully looking at the “disarray” in the Republican primaries should consider that Mr. Trump could just as easily have run in their party’s primaries. And what would have stopped him? After all, the Democrats have a quasi-communist running in their primaries. It’s absurd, but it seems that anyone can run in any party’s primaries.

Should America’s political parties have the right and the latitude to tell their prospective candidates that they don’t fit their party’s profile and that they won’t be allowed on the ticket? If they don’t have that right, then our political parties are of limited value; they wouldn’t seem to have any self-determination.

Consider this: what if the head of the New Black Panther Party or the American Nazi Party wanted to run for president in the one of the major political parties? Shouldn’t the parties be able to say no? It’s an extreme example of what Sanders and Trump are doing. Sanders never identified as a Democrat; he prided himself on being a progressive Independent. And Trump? If he’s glommed onto some conservative positions, it’s been only recently.

America’s political parties are not the people who vote in primaries and take part in caucuses. What the parties really are, or should be, are the people who make up the “apparatus”; that is, the organization, the state and national committees, the party “elders.” As far as I’m concerned, the delegates to the nominating conventions should consist only of those people. Moreover, none of the members of a party’s apparatus should be an elected official. And that is what’s especially wrong with the Dems. You see, the DNC is headed by a member of Congress, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And the Dems have “superdelegates” that are often elected officials. That invites corruption and cronyism, and it further entrenches careerists, the professional politicians that the public is so impatient with.

Some Americans may not be able to wrap her heads around the idea that voters shouldn’t have any say in how nominees are chosen. But they should remember that in our republic, most decisions are made by others, especially on the federal level. Prior to 1913 when we got the 17th Amendment (which gave the selection of U.S. senators to the people), the only federal officials that the people directly chose were members of the House of Representatives, “the People’s House.”

We now turn to the Republican establishment’s “Caliban.” First off, I’ve got to confess: I like Donald Trump. But then I like rogues. Hell, America likes rogues. We like potty mouth Howard Stern. Here in western Missouri, many folks think they’re related to Jesse James. I admire Trump’s energy. I like his humor and nimbleness. I’ve even quoted Trump in an article or two. He’s said some things that resonate, like: “We either have a country, or we don’t have a country.”

On March 3, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece by Michael Gerson that presented four options for Republicans who hate the possibility of a Trump presidency. Gerson’s options include supporting a third-party candidate, as well as sitting out the election. His final sentence: “My inclination? #DraftCondi.” (Last year I myself floated that very idea, and listed other draft possibilities.)

But there’s a fifth option for those whose delicacy is not so exorbitant, and that’s to vote for Caliban. Who knows, Trump is so fixated on greatness and winning that he might surround himself with a brilliant team. He’s demonstrated flexibility; maybe he’ll listen to his crack team; maybe he’s even capable of collegiality. This conservative voter doesn’t dismiss the possibility that Trump might be a good president. So if Trump is the nominee, I’ll vote for Trump. But I’d prefer not to; I’d prefer voting for a “movement conservative.” With the Supreme Court and Senate at stake, this election is too important to gamble on a casino magnate.

Regardless of who becomes the Republican nominee, the conventioneers should have final say on the choice of running mate. That way, if America has a collective Jonah Goldberg-ian “what have I done” moment, then Congress could start impeachment proceedings secure in the knowledge that a suitable replacement is on deck. I’ve always felt that Crazy Uncle Joe was Obama’s insurance policy against impeachment. (Here’s a video of the scene Goldberg refers to; think of it as what we should do to the primary system.)

Just as there have been faithless electors to the Electoral College, there can be “faithless delegates” to a nominating convention. Although The Blaze ran it in Aug. 2012, “Ever Wonder How You Become a Convention Delegate? Here’s a Primer on the Selection Process” by Mytheos Holt is instructive about convention rules and delegate selection. (Not only can anyone vote in any party’s primary, but it seems anyone can be a delegate to any party’s convention.)

With Hillary Clinton all but assured of her party’s nomination, Democrat voters may now feel free to engage in a reverse Operation Chaos. That is, Democrats might vote in Republican primaries for the candidate they feel would be the weakest in the general election. That’s your primary system for you.

It appears that Republicans may be lurching towards a contested convention, and that’s a good thing. Contested (a.k.a. open) conventions are how all nominees should be selected. If the primaries do not produce a clear winner, then the delegates’ choices shouldn’t be limited to just those who ran in the primaries. They should feel free to draft an “outsider,” perhaps with two X chromosomes.

Even if the GOP prevails in November, this tumultuous primary season is telling us that the primary-caucus system needs to be razed and replaced.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

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