Are the primaries rigged?
Is the GOP presidential selection process rigged?
In a revealing comment, a Colorado Republican leader, rebutting Trump’s charge that the outcome there was rigged, exposed the fault line in the modern GOP. He said, “We’ve had these rules for a hundred years.”
Exactly. The rules come from a time before blacks had the vote, before women had the vote, before U.S. Senators were elected directly by the votes of the people, instead of by state legislators (A change made by the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1912).
The GOP presidential selection process is a hold-out against democracy and the direct expression of the will of the people in elections. This anti-democratic animus is at the heart of the so-called “Constitutional Conservatism” of Ted Cruz and other reactionaries.
When Cruz says the Constitution intended “limited government,” he means that, like the “Framers,” he prefers that the people have a limited opportunity to direct the established elites and their policies.
Cruz would, for example, limit the capacity of the federal government to respond to the demands of the people to enact regulatory measures to guard our water from poisonous lead, protect taxpayers, depositors and investors from the bankster, free market parasites or accommodate changing social mores.
The “Founders” and “Framers” – Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and the rest – were the 1 percent and establishment of the time; men (only) of wealth, education and property; or like Hamilton, they fronted the money.
Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence enumerated our “inalienable rights” as “life, liberty and property.” Jefferson was a slave holder, who bequeathed those slaves to his daughter as his property. It was Franklin, the prototypical American from what he called the “middling classes,” who changed “property” to “pursuits of happiness.”
Maybe the most important edit of all time.
Those famous 1 percenters of American revolutionary lore feared democracy and the uneducated “masses,” and kept the people several steps removed from direct access to government decisions by all sorts of rules, many of which survive in one form or another to this day.
But over time, the people asserted themselves and voting was expanded. The elites have been fighting a rear guard action all the way. That is the calculation behind campaign finance laws which allow vast and unaccounted for sums of money to pour into elections from the 1 percent: “Okay. We lost that one. They got the vote. So, let’s just buy the elections.”
The GOP is not called the Grand “Old” Party for nothing, and its myriad and convoluted presidential candidate selection rules represent the old way, keeping as much of the decision making as is possible in the hands of party leaders, representing their local elites; and keeping decisions as far removed from a direct and popular election as is possible.
In an age when average citizens have access to the same information as their 1 percent “betters.”
Pennsylvania is a good example of this fault line in the GOP. There will be a Pennsylvania GOP primary vote for president. An appearance of democracy. But of the seventy-one delegates, seventeen will be selected by the GOP State Committee insiders, pledged only on the first ballot to the winner of the vote. Another fifty-four (three for each congressional district) will be selected in the primary election - way “down ballot” and perhaps overlooked by many voters - pledged by the rules to no one.
Who are these people? If history is any guide, they will be faithful party insiders. And if elected, if history is any guide, they will function as a team, led by the county chairperson, who will broker those votes with the other county chairs and the state chair, right up to the convention, when it will be announced on the first ballot that “The Great State of Pennsylvania proudly casts all seventy-one of its votes for…”
Or maybe not. Who knows? What you will know is that whatever the delegates do, it will all be within the law and the rules. But it may not be even remotely democratic. And that is Trump’s complaint. It is another battle in the long fight to establish a working democracy in the United States.
Trump is on the side of Lincoln, and a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The GOP, the “Party of Lincoln,” is on the other side.
Some readers may note the irony.