Election 2020

No, Mr. Trump, We Are Not 'Supposed to Be a Democracy'

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The incessant whining from Donald Trump and his supporters about the presidential-primary process is growing deafening:

“I’m up millions and millions of votes on Cruz. Millions. Now I don’t mean like I’m up by two votes. I’m up by millions and millions of votes. I’m up by hundreds and hundreds of delegates,” he said before accusing Cruz of “some nonsense” that cost him delegates in Louisiana.

The GOP frontrunner then told the revved up crowd that whether or not it was Sanders or him getting the shaft, “We’re supposed to be a democracy. We’re supposed to be you vote and vote means something, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

More absurdly, at the end of his “Cashin’ In” program on Fox News this past Saturday morning, Eric Bolling, seemingly one of Mr. Trump’s biggest fans on that network, similarly bemoaned the situation, saying that the Founders would be appalled at the situation.

Now, there’s no evidence whatsoever that The Donald has ever read the Constitution or the founding principles of this country, let alone understands them, but the appeal of his argument to people like Bolling is a testament to the utter failure of the educational system to teach basic civics and history.

There is a once-famous story (though apparently no longer as well known as it should be) of the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that created the founding document of the current United States of America. As Benjamin Franklin, one of the key actors in the founding, left the convention hall in Philadelphia, a woman asked him, “Dr. Franklin, have you given us a democracy or a republic?” He replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” That a populist demagogue like Mr. Trump has so much support should raises concerns that Franklin’s fear is becoming true; a republic is lost when people ignorantly believe it should be a democracy.

While the Founders would indeed be appalled at the current process, it is not for the reasons that Mr. Bolling thinks in his own ignorance. In fact, they never intended for the president to be elected by individual voters. The president was to be elected by the states, via the electoral college, with representatives from each state.

Moreover, there is nothing in the Constitution about the electoral college representatives of each state being popularly elected. Article II, Section 1 simply says that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.” [Emphasis added]

That is, they could do it by popular vote, or the legislature could draw names from a hat, or have an elimination by pistols at dawn, or even have the electors selected on the basis of whoever survived a reality-television show (a method that might be appropriate in the case of Mr. Trump). Any of these would be perfectly constitutional.

Beyond that, the Founders would be appalled at the very notion of political parties, organizations for which there is no constitutional basis (they aren’t mentioned in the document). But given that they exist, there is no reason to expect them to be democratic, either (despite the fact that the name of one of them implies that).

There is a reason that the Republican Party is named that; in theory, it is a party of federalism, states’ rights, and…well…the republic. It was founded as a reaction to defend it from the populist excesses of Andrew Jackson’s racist “Democratic” Party and the anti-immigration “Know-Nothing” Party” (the latter of which has apparently re-arisen in the form of Trump supporters). The first resolution at its formation in 1856 was “That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.” [Emphasis added]

So when Donald Trump, long-time Democrat, with Democrat family members, Democrat friends and business associates, complains about the process being insufficiently democratic, perhaps he and his fans should consider the possibility that he is seeking the nomination of the wrong political party.