The System Is Not Rigged

For the past month, a media narrative has taken hold that something must be done to reform, simplify, streamline, and democratize the delegate selection system of the Republican presidential nomination process.

Is our GOP presidential primary system rigged, meaning it is corrupt because it favors the establishment?  Is it convoluted, arbitrary, arcane...and too often "voteless"?  Is it wrong to allow "Trojan horse" delegates to change their vote on the second ballot of the national convention?  Why do we have a separate election for delegates after we vote for candidates?

The system is not rigged, convoluted, arbitrary, arcane, or voteless.  It is a system that encourages the grassroots to participate in party platform issues, the selection of candidates, the choosing of a candidate winner, and the allocation of party resources.  The system is designed to keep the party alive and well by allowing current ideas and candidates to be tested and new ideas and candidates to be heard.

Here is what I mean.  If you think the primary system we have now is no good, try imagining this: each state and territory holds an open election, the delegates are assigned proportionally to reflect the vote, and those delegates are committed to hold to that candidate for, say, the first 10 ballots.  That way you have a pure vote, a fairly precise correlation between how the people vote and how the delegates vote, and no double-crossing on the subsequent ballots.  Simple, clean, and easily explained to the voters by the news media.

Under this imagined Pure-Vote system, you would have chaos.  In this 2016 cycle, Trump would have 20% fewer delegates as of today, with little chance of getting a majority, ever – unless he were to negotiate for Kasich's and Rubio's delegates before the convention.  And Cruz would be doing the exact same negotiating, also prior to the convention.  This means all this horse-trading would be done in secret between the candidates and their staffs, not among the delegates.  The delegates would have no say, as they are bound by the proportionality of the vote.

Imagine if the presidential candidates could choose their own delegates, rather than allowing delegates to be nominated and voted on.  A complete bribe-fest would take place.  This is what you would call voter disenfranchisement by elites in smoke-filled rooms.  No one would work hard to become a delegate, because the delegates would be robots of the elite, accused of selling their vote to the highest bidder, behind closed doors.

If you would like to see what a Pure-Vote system looks like in real life, in a reasonably corruption-free country, try Singapore.  Your vote will be counted, and your vote will count.  But there won't be a precinct-level meeting à la Colorado to choose delegates to the Congressional District level.  So if you and your like-minded political buddies want to go to a neighborhood meeting to show some strength for your candidate, you're out of luck.  In fact, you may not even know who the candidates are.

The point is that voting without the freedom to assemble and push your political agenda is not a very satisfying experience.  Participation at the grassroots is what allowed Sarah Palin to climb the GOP ladder in her state.  Think of Dave Brat of Virginia.  He used Tea Party organizations in his state – the types of people who become delegates to the national conventions – to overcome a 40:1 spending disadvantage and win the nomination.

The delegate selection process that we have encourages civic-minded people to take ownership in the presidential nominating conventions.  Without all of the local meetings, discussions, and votes, we would not have a participatory democracy.  Any country can have elections.  But great republics like ours encourage citizens to willingly accept the responsibility to present and argue their points of view.

It is depressing to see media talking heads moan about our democracy.  "Why does it have to be so complicated?" they ask.  The most positive spin you hear on TV is "the rules are the rules," as if we live as hapless subjects in an authoritarian state.

New people and new ideas are needed in the GOP.  Many Republicans believe that the party has abandoned them and gone over to the Dark Side.  We have a grassroots system to incorporate fresh winds, and support outsiders.  Ignore the TV.  Use the system.