The primary system that the individual political parties use to determine their nominees is a very confusing, convoluted process that few people understand. The vast majority of voters in the country don’t understand it AT ALL and believe that it is (or should be) some sort of Constitutionally provided, democratic, voice of the people, majority rules election process. It’s not. Nor should it be.
First, we have to understand what a political party is.
A political party, such as the Republican Party, is essentially a private organization that was created by people (aka voters) who believe in a particular philosophy of government that includes a platform of positions on various issues. The party is created in order to consolidate support for candidates who believe in that same philosophy. The party has no official affiliation with government, and is not controlled by government. The members of the party are in charge of who they will put forth as their nominee for President or any other political office.
Next, we need to understand how the party works.
The party is basically organized first at the county level, then at the district level, then state, then national. Each county has its own members and leadership. The members have monthly meetings, various events, and fund-raising activities with funds to be used to support candidates for office.
Once a year, these MEMBERS of the local Party meet at their caucus to choose their delegates to represent them at the District level caucus. These delegates are voted for by “the people”. That is, “the people” who are actually members of the Party.
Honestly, WHO ELSE should decide who the delegates should be for their party but the actual members?
So then these elected delegates represent the County organizations at the District caucuses. At these meetings, they will elect delegates that will represent the District at the State caucus.
Finally, at the State caucus, they (the members of the Party) will elect the delegates that will represent the State organization at the National Caucus.
Please, tell me, what exactly is the problem with this process?
Let’s pause for a moment here and consider another scenario to demonstrate this situation.
Suppose that you are not happy with your current choices of political parties. None of them really meet your beliefs on the various positions on issues and such. So you decide to start your own party, let’s call it the ItsMyParty Party.
You create the platform of the party with positions on the issues that meet your own beliefs. You then spend the next 3 years traveling around the country promoting your party and recruiting like-minded people to join the party.
After 3 years, you’ve got millions of members across the country, you’ve created local branches of the party in every county of the country, each with its own members and leadership. Now it’s time for the ItsMyParty Party to hold its primary elections in order to determine who it will put forth as the party’s Presidential candidate for 2020.
Three basic questions for you to consider:
1. Who should the ItsMyParty Party allow to run as a candidate for the party’s nomination?
2. Who should the ItsMyParty Party allow to vote in the primary to decide who will be the nominee?
3. Who should decide the answers to these questions?
The answers to those questions should be quite obvious to any rational, clear-thinking, and intellectually honest person.
First, the organization itself should have predetermined criteria in place which specifies who would be eligible to be a candidate in the party’s primary. Logical criteria would include such things as a demonstrated and clear belief in the positions outlined in the party platform, a history of supporting such ideas and philosophies, and a clear understanding of the issues.
For the second question, it seems obvious to me that the actual members of the organization should have ultimate voting rights as to who will be the nominee to represent them.
And for the third question, as a private organization, the members and the leadership (as elected by the membership) should certainly have total authority to decide these issues.
There is absolutely nothing corrupt, rigged, illegal, or wrong about these basic concepts.
So this brings us back to the current, real situation with the 2016 Republican Party primaries.
Like the ItsMyParty Party, the Republican Party is free to determine how those primaries will operate, who will be allowed to run as a candidate for the party nomination, who will be allowed to vote for the nominee, and ultimately how the final decision will be made.
This is as it should be.
The actual members of the party make these decisions through their own voting. In 2016, Trump and his supporters claimed that it’s a rigged system and the “establishment” leadership makes all of these decisions.
“It’s a rigged system. It’s a crooked system. It’s 100% crooked.”
– Donald Trump, Presidential Candidate, 2016
That is completely false and displays either a complete ignorance of how it works or a deliberate attempt to deceive his supporters in hopes of getting them all riled up, even threatening riots if he doesn’t get his way.
The reality is, the process is confusing to many people precisely because the national leadership has little control on how each state handles their primaries. Again, the actual members of the Republican Party within each state vote and determine how they will award their own delegates to the process.
That is the opposite of what Trump is claiming. This is a “bottom up” process, rather than a “top down”. The real decisions come directly from “the people”.
This is not to say that the national party does not have a direct hand in the problems with the primary system. We’ll talk about that and specifically how the State parties choose to operate their respective primary elections in Primary Problems, Part 2.
Photo by DonkeyHotey