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?)
So we all have to wait for the convening of the rules committee, which takes place the week before the convention, now slated for July 18-21 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
So what happens, I asked the lawyer, if they get to a fourth or fifth ballot and no one has the magic number of 1,237 delegates that’s been so ingrained in our heads by now that we remember it better than pi? If they have to stay extra days, will there even be hotel rooms for all the myriad delegates and (gasp!) media?
Cleveland in July? the lawyer replied, rolling his eyes to imply there’d be lots of rooms. I took his point. These guys are sharp. That’s why they get the big bucks.
Going further the lawyer averred that the convention, in his view, was too early and didn’t give the warring sides sufficient time to come to terms, i.e. calm down. But Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus had wanted the convention to be even earlier, in June.
Fortunately, Lebron James stepped in to save the day. Lebron, as most of the Western World well knows, was returning to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers. No way would the Quicken Arena be occupied by a convocation of (gasp again!) Republicans — unless Steph Curry was running.
So there we were with the Republican National Convention wedged in by the Cleveland Cavaliers and what…? I consulted the Quicken Arena website to see if the Republicans would have space to prolong their convention should they need more time. Fortunately nothing was scheduled at the arena, at least publicly, until the Janet Jackson Unbreakable World Tour on August 28, plenty of opportunities for the Republican delegates to vote themselves silly to find their favorite candidate. But would that be democratic? By then, the primaries and their humble voters would be far in the rear view mirror, a distant memory of one man, one woman, one vote.
But whatever the Republicans do, when it comes to being anti-democratic, they can’t hold a candle to the ironically named Democrats whose convention will be manipulated by the Super Delegates. The “super people” — straight out of the backroom party bosses of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — are so super important and powerful Hillary Clinton can lose to Bernie Sanders in New York and practically every other state from here on in by landslides and Her Chappaquaness still gets the Democratic Party nomination.
To paraphrase the investigations of the 1950s, are we now or have we ever been … a democracy?
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His next book – I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Country, If It Hasn’t Already — will be published by Encounter Books in June 2016.
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