Yesterday, in Primary Problems, Part 1, I described what, exactly, a political party is and how it is structured from local to national levels. I also talked about who makes decisions for the party and how those decisions are made.
In Part 2, I will move on to how the different state party organizations conduct their respective primary elections.
To demonstrate how this works, I will use a real-life example of the Republican Party and how the primary process, and the problems associated with it, played out in 2016.
Basically, here are the different ways the State Republican party organizations have decided to operate their primaries (as determined by the actual voting members of the party):
1. Open Primary – Any legal voter in the state can participate in the primary election. This means they not only don’t have to be an actual member of the Republican Party, they don’t even have to claim to be a Republican voter in any way. ANYONE can just show up and vote for the Republican nominee whether or not they even believe in the Republican platform or even know what it is.
2. Closed Primary – In this scenario, only “declared” Republicans can vote. They still don’t have to be actual members of the Republican Party. Rather, when they register to vote, they declare themselves a “Republican Voter”. So, as long as they register or change their registration in time, anyone can declare themselves a Republican and vote in the primary, again, whether or not they actually believe in the Republican platform or even know what it is. Although it is a bit more controlled for actual Republican voters than an open primary, it is still wide open for abuse.
3. Caucus Primary – With caucus voting, the general public is not able to participate. This means that only actual members of the Republican Party will have a say in who will represent their party as the nominee. What a crazy concept, huh?
On top of those three basic ways of holding the primary, each state can award the delegates to the nominees a little differently, which further confuses many people. Again, this is determined by the members of the Republican Party in each state.
Some states award all delegates to the winner (winner takes all), with one variation of this in that some states award all delegates to the winner only if they get more than 50% of the vote. If they get less than 50%, then the delegates are proportioned out.
Some states directly proportion the delegates in accordance with the vote, whether or not anyone gets 50%.
Other states operate more on a congressional district level so that winners of each district will get those delegates for that district.
Yet other states have some combination of all of these methods.
The bottom line is that each state, by vote and decision of that state’s party members, determines for themselves how they will award their state delegates to the candidates. The grassroots people in the party have control of that, not the “big bosses” of the national organization.
Ok, so what does all of this mean?
This process may seem very convoluted and crazy at first glance, but what it does, in essence, is ensure that a candidate must work extremely hard to garner a broad range of support throughout the country and in order to do that he/she must create a very organized campaign which is only possible with more and more support.
What it doesn’t mean is that the centralized, national party bosses (aka, “the establishment”) have total control over it and rig it to achieve some predetermined outcome. If that were the case, their preferred candidates would have fared much better, wouldn’t they have? Instead, the remaining 2 candidates in the 2016 primary are the very 2 candidates that they supported the least.
So now let’s tie this all together with what Trump did during the primary. He was out there claiming that the whole system is rigged and corrupt. It’s 100% crooked, using his terminology.
He claimed that “the people” were being disenfranchised and the “will of the people” was being thwarted.
He fomented outrage in his supporters and threatened that riots would happen if the Party “steals” the nomination from him.
He exploited his supporters’ ignorance of the process.
Trump was either fully ignorant of this whole process himself, or he was blatantly lying to his supporters which could have ended is some disastrously violent actions (which is unconscionable). There really are no other conclusions to be made from his statements and actions.
Because this whole system in some states allows for just anyone to vote in the Republican Primary, this benefits someone like Trump.
He was the “net winner” in this, yet he was the one whining about it.
He can go out and attract people who have never had any affiliation to the Republican Party, are certainly not actual members, and many who probably have no idea what the Republican Party platform is, and convince them to come out and vote for him as the nominee.
Seriously, does that sound rational to you? If being intellectually honest, no right-thinking person would believe so. Of course the actual members of the party should have more say in the nominee than just anyone having no affiliation!
Essentially, Trump hijacked the Party at the expense of all of the regular members who have spent years of work and vast amounts of money helping to promote the values and principles of the party.
Trump claimed to be “self-funding” his campaign. On the contrary, he co-opted (aka stole) all of this hard work and money that these people have put into the party for years.
Instead of running as an independent, he saw that the Republican party was ripe for a hostile takeover, so he decided to use their already formed apparatus and resources for his own self-gain.
Isn’t it interesting that the closer we got to the actual vote of the actual members of the party, the worse Trump did? The Primaries that he has won, for the most part, were open primaries, the farthest from the actual membership of the party.
Cruz pretty much dominated the closed Primaries, where the voters at least have to identify as Republicans.
And when it’s only the actual members of the party who get to vote, as with the caucus primaries (such as Colorado), Cruz absolutely crushed Trump, nearly unanimously.
When you think about it, it would make more sense for all of the states to operate more like Colorado, where the actual members of the party choose the nominee that will represent their party as the Presidential candidate.
Having said all of this, I will add that I do not agree with how the Republican Party and the Primaries are being held.
First, I don’t believe Trump should have been allowed to run on the Republican ticket at all. He simply did not have the credentials, history of support, or even the basic knowledge of the platform of the Republican Party to justify his running as a Republican.
There must be some criteria to establish this in order to prevent an interloper from taking over the party.
Second, I would put tighter controls on who is voting for the nominee to ensure the actual voters are indeed Republican minded voters. Otherwise, why would actual members continue to volunteer their time and efforts and money toward a cause, if they see that anyone can come in and steal all of that away from them? It makes no sense.
Third, aside from the Primary process, the debate process is ridiculous. These cage-fight, entertainment centered debates put on by media personnel who have no interest in the success of the Republican Party need to end. We need actual, bonafide, Republican/conservative stalwarts moderating the debates in a way where we can actually learn something.
Also, in order for a candidate to run in the Republican Primary, they need to be REQUIRED to participate in any debates that the party holds. It is ludicrous that a candidate (Trump) can simply refuse to debate, especially when it gets down to an essential one-on-one race where we can learn the most.
In the end, if you do not like the way the Republican Party handles its primary process, you have a number of options:
1. You can choose to align with another party that better meets your needs or
2. You can actually join the party as an actual member and then work within the party to change things more to your liking or
3. You can start your own party or
4. You can shut the hell up.
Photo by DonkeyHotey