In July 2016, on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a small group of Republican delegates made a final stand against Donald Trump, pushing in vain for a roll call vote on the convention rules, an idea party leaders shot down.
The #FreeTheDelegates and #NeverTrump supporters, led by Colorado delegate and high school teacher Kendal Unruh, aimed to change the convention rules to allow the 1,447 delegates that are required to vote for Trump (in accordance with state voting results) to vote for whomever they wish, which could potentially stop a Trump nomination. The Rules Committee previously voted down the suggestion by an 87-12 margin — and that, and the decision not to hold a roll call vote, should be viewed as the right decision by all people, whether far right, far left, or somewhere in between.
Make no mistake, Donald Trump is a monster, and it is encouraging that some conservatives oppose him. Yet to those who care about democracy, and believe voting should not be a masquerade, the #FreeTheDelegates idea is immensely foolish.
As common citizens, the only political power we have is the ballot. We elect local, state, and national leaders to represent our interests, even if they fail to live up to their assignments. There are few interests every person agrees on, but surely two of them are that if you cast a ballot it should be counted and the candidate with the most votes should get the job. This is not complex and should not in any way be controversial.
Yet here we are, with people in Cleveland and around the country who actually believe that the person with the most votes (and the required minimum number of delegates, 1,237) should not be the party nominee! Had Trump not earned the required number of delegates, this would be a slightly different conversation, though this writer also questions how democratic it is when a candidate earned the most delegates, but didn’t hit the magic number, and through the convention process was not the victor.
We have Americans who actually think a small group of 100 people on a committee, or a small group of about 1,500 delegates, should be able to “do what’s in the best interests of the people” and throw out the candidate who won fair and square — directly contradicting the interests of the people as expressed by the ballot. What that is, dear reader, is centralized control rather than decentralized control, power to the few instead of power to the people, authoritarianism over democracy.
That is not how voting should work. That is not how a democracy (nor a republic) should operate.
When the few can throw out a victor they think is wicked or not actually what’s best for all the silly voters, they can likewise throw out a victor that you think is just what this nation needs. Would you not feel your vote a fraud, democracy itself under attack, had your chosen candidate won fairly and then been turned away by the few? A candidate you thought could do tremendous good, but authoritarians thought would do tremendous harm?
There was fear on the left that this very thing would happen to Bernie Sanders — that he would win fairly but the Democratic superdelegates would hand the election to Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, that did not occur. Clinton won fairly, and though I am disappointed, as a Sanders supporter, I am pleased democracy won the day.
The very possibility of the few overruling the votes of the many, whether it’s superdelegates, a rules committee, or regular delegates, should not exist. A small group should not be able to decide voters were wrong.
Yes, democracy is messy at times. Sometimes voters choose a monster, someone dangerous and wicked. Yet it is the people’s mistake to make. Not that of a centralized committee or convention. That’s why democracy is important. If a small group makes an horrific mistake or grows corrupt, the consequences are inflicted upon the people against their will. If the people make the mistake, there is no one to blame but ourselves, and we will have to work to change the political views of our neighbors and the ideologies of our parties. The burden of the failure lies with those who have power — a power we should refuse to yield no matter how heavy the burden. That’s democracy.
All this is not to say we get rid of checks and balances, impeachment proceedings, term limits, and anything else that can get a madman out of office. It is not to say we, whether conservative or liberal, stop fighting people like Trump. It is only to say that a candidate who fairly wins the primaries, as Trump did, should be the nominee.
Anything else means the one thing ordinary people have power over is gone.