Two things are worth noting about Donald Trump’s whining over what he suddenly perceives as the “rigged” GOP nomination contest.
1. Trump is powerfully illustrating the fraud at the core of his case for the nomination. He claims that because he is a successful businessman he would be much more adept than conventional politicians at mastering the intricacies of problems and processes. He will, he brags, figure out how to deal with challenges in a way that maximizes American interests, assembling the best, most competent people to execute his plans of action. As a result, we are told, American will “win, win, win” with such numbing regularity that we will be bored to tears by all the success.
But look what is happening. The process of choosing a Republican nominee for president, while far from simple, is not as complicated as many of the challenges that cross an American president’s desk. There are, moreover, countless experienced hands who know how the process works and how to build an organization nimble enough to navigate the array of primaries (open and closed), caucuses, party meetings, varying delegate-allocation formulas, etc., exploiting or mitigating the advantages and disadvantages these present for different kinds of candidates. Yet, Trump has been out-organized, out-smarted, and out-worked by the competition – in particular, Ted Cruz, whom I support.
Trump is not being cheated. Everyone is playing by the same rules, which were available to every campaign well in advance. Trump simply is not as good at converting knowledge into success – notwithstanding the centrality of this talent to his candidacy. Perhaps this is because he is singularly good at generating free publicity (and consequently minimizing the publicity available to his rivals). Maybe he underestimated the importance of building a competent, experienced campaign organization. But he can hardly acknowledge this because it is a colossal error of judgment – and his purportedly peerless judgment is the selling point of his campaign.
At The Transom, Ben Domench succinctly describes the Trump campaign’s recent performance:
How terribly did the Trump team mismanage their delegate slate? Last week they fired their organizer and hired a new one, who promptly made an official flier which sent votes to the wrong delegates. http://vlt.tc/2cp9 “After firing the organizer initially put in charge of Colorado last week, Trump’s team hired Patrick Davis, a GOP operative from Colorado Springs, to put together a slate in an effort to win some of the delegate slots to be elected by just fewer than 4,000 party activists at Saturday’s assembly… Trump’s last-minute organizing effort did not go well. The leaflet his campaign handed out listed a slate of 26 delegates. But in many cases the numbers indicating their ballot position — more than 600 delegates are running for 13 slots — were off, meaning that Trump’s team was mistakenly directing votes toward other candidates’ delegates.” And even when they tried to fix the screw-up, they still failed to get it right. http://vlt.tc/2cqs “The mistakes were exposed at the worst possible moment … Trump volunteers frantically printed new lists with new names and ballot numbers – but those lists also had mistakes.”
Trump is constitutionally incapable of admitting errors – a flaw exacerbated by a campaign premised on a personality rather than a program. So his now familiar, repulsive reaction is to smear his opposition as cheaters, liars and even law-breakers … while Roger Stone, one of Trump’s brass-knuckles specialists, threatens to extort delegates. The stubborn fact, however, is that Trump has a management problem – namely … Trump. He grossly miscalculated the task at hand, he is scrambling to find suitable staff way too late in the game, and in a vain effort to divert attention from his own failings he is slandering others. This is the kind of candidate he has been, and the damage someone of his judgment and temperament could do if he were president is blatant.
2. Trump is so out of his depth he fails to see that the chief beneficiary of the process he now indicts as a “rigged” and “corrupt” insider’s game is … Trump himself.
NBC News points out that, despite having won only a little over a third of all votes cast in primaries to date (37 percent), Trump has been awarded nearly half of the delegates (45 percent, for a current total of 756 delegates). That is, the undemocratic features of the process Trump has suddenly decided to malign have actually boosted his campaign with 22 percent more delegates than his mere vote total would justify. That easily surpasses the 14-percent premium earned by Senator Cruz, who has been awarded 32 percent of delegates upon winning 28 percent of the popular vote.
There is no doubt that the bias in favor of the frontrunner is a feature Republican Party leaders (aka, the GOP establishment) built into the process. They clearly hoped to help whatever candidate they preferred (neither Trump nor Cruz) wrap up the nomination early, unite the party, and turn the focus to beating the Democrats in November.
The fact that this process is “undemocratic,” as Trump now complains, was immaterial to Trump as long as he appeared to be the beneficiary – i.e., as long as it might get him the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination before he had enough raw votes to justify that total. But the “democracy” claim is specious in any event.
Our constitutional system has never been, nor aspired to be, a pure democracy; the Framers designed a republic. Similarly, the process of choosing party nominees for president has never been a pure democracy; it is and has always been a mixed bag of popular vote and various arrangements that give elected delegates and party leaders considerable influence.
The rules for 2016 state contests have not been changed in midstream; they have been known from the start. How each campaign applies them tells us a great deal that we need to know about the candidates. That is why it is a fantasy to believe the GOP establishment can get away with rigging the convention process to insert a white knight candidate who has not been campaigning. The only way to run for president is to run for president.
The ultimate check on the process is political, not legal. If the party’s grass-roots supporters are inflamed into a mob mentality and generate enough votes to nominate an unfit candidate, the general electorate will punish the party at the ballot box in November. On the other hand, if the party bosses use their influence over the process to override the will of the grass-roots and anoint their own factotum, their grass-roots supporters will punish the party by not showing up to vote in November, assuring victory for the opposition. This means party officials must both heed and lead the public. That is how a republic is supposed to work … but no one ever said it was supposed to be pretty.
Trump spent years trying to buy the establishment insiders he now purports to run against, contributing mightily to the progressive system he now purports to oppose as a tribune of “the people.” He delighted in the frontrunner advantages of the nomination system as long as he was benefitting effortlessly. But now that we have reached the inevitable stage of the long campaign in which effort and judgment are shown to be crucial, Trump’s lack of fitness becomes increasingly obvious.
The mogul’s business career is a stream of “win, win, win” braggadocio interrupted by lots of huge losses resulting from huge miscalculations. Don’t expect his political career to turn out differently.