Are We Now or Have We Ever Been... a Democracy?

A large question rears its head as we move toward the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer -- to what extent is it possible to have a democracy, or even a democratic republic, in a country whose population is in excess of 320 million? When the Constitution was written, we were slightly over three million, not counting slaves that might have added another half million or so -- in all, approximately a third the population of present day Los Angeles County.

The more people the more possibility of chicanery, you would think, and the less possibility of any serious direct democratic representation.

That was the conundrum running through my head as I emerged from a breakfast at one of those Washington, D.C., bistros people go to be seen and talk politics, roughly in that order. The news was in the air that Donald Trump had hired Paul Manafort -- the reportedly hard-nosed power broker who had represented Gerald Ford in his successful floor fight against Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1976.

That was the last time the Republicans had had a contested convention, but it looked as if, after forty years, they were about to have another. But would the contest just be between Trump and Ted Cruz, far and away the frontrunners -- or would the often-reviled establishment be throwing a candidate into the mix on the third or fourth or even sixth ballot, a Paul Ryan, perhaps, or a revived Marco Rubio or even a Mitt Romney himself (speaking of resuscitations)?

A lawyer at the breakfast -- the kind of person in a position to know -- was skeptical. Rule 40 of "The Rules of the Republican Party" specifies that only someone who has won the majority of delegates in a minimum of eight states can have his or her name placed in nomination. That means only Trump and Cruz -- not even John Kasich and certainly not Ryan, who did not even compete.

But then, as I understand it, you can still vote for them (Kasich, Ryan, etc.) even if they're not placed in nomination (go figure) and more importantly and most obviously, rules are made to be broken -- or, if not broken, rewritten.

And who would rewrite said rules? Why the rules committee, of course (said Alice to the Mad Hatter, or vice versa). And who determines who is on the rules committee? Well, that depends. (Didn't you just know that?) Actually there really are rules for who sits on the committee, but they vary from state to state and can be rewritten themselves. (Didn't you just know that too?)