The Truth About Brokered Conventions
Media (and other) Efforts to Steer the Republican Nomination
What IS a Brokered Convention?
The news has recently been filled with alarmism about the possibility of a Republican brokered convention occurring this summer. But since brokered conventions have been relatively rare in our nation’s history, few voters know just exactly what a brokered convention is. The media (as well as some campaigns) feel free to define, re-define, misrepresent and mold brokered conventions into anything they would like them to be.
What a wonderful opportunity for progressives to attack and to discredit conservatives!
Progressives – both in the media and elsewhere – have managed to portray standard Republican in-party conflict resolution rules (like the brokered convention) as something new- as rigging and manipulation by the Republican “establishment,” with a goal of excluding certain candidates or otherwise circumventing the will of the American people.
Note that all the same issues- the susceptibility of any potential brokered convention to manipulation by various groups at war for power, the relevance of primaries, and Party control by superdelegates – these issues exist as well in the Democrat Party. Yet when it comes to these issues, media attacks seem focused primarily on the Republican Party, which is undergoing an inner battle over the preservation of conservative Judeo-Christian values. The Democrat Party actually has more authoritarian undemocratic mechanisms in place to preserve the status quo than do Republicans, yet it seems relatively protected from viscous media attack.
Aside: The characterization of Party Rules and policy as vile and authoritarian is a “progressive” (more accurately “regressive”) view. But defending the right of a private political group to maintain their conservative values can be defended on the basis of our system of government, a democratic republic, which was actually carefully designed with the protection of certain fundamental rights in place, safe even from election manipulation. More on that later!
So let’s examine this question of the brokered convention- how it has been portrayed or misportrayed, why is it misportrayed, and what is a brokered convention, really?
Aside #2 : see also the previous related article,Have We Ditched Democracy? Was the Colorado Primary Rigged?, which discusses the similar misportrayal of the primary system by media and by some candidates, in an effort to damage the credibility and reputation of the Republican Party.
Portraying a Brokered Convention as a Malicious Tool
Some in the media portray the brokered convention as a malicious tool broken out by the Republican “establishment” to take the Republican nomination away from front-runner candidates whom they do not like. They even go so far as to say that the purpose of the brokered convention is to get rid of Donald Trump.
If this were to be the case, Republicans would have to be pretty far-sighted, since brokered conventions are as old as the election of Abraham Lincoln. The brokered convention, a tool for settling conflict methodically, is an old and fair tool and not a recent invention.
It is not highly likely that Lincoln and his colleagues were already plotting against Donald Trump when the brokered convention was first implemented!
So, no, a brokered convention was not invented for the purpose of getting rid of Donald Trump, as Newsweek would have you believe.
Portraying a Brokered Convention as an Authoritarian Throwback
Even some relatively conservative media sources are critical of the brokered convention and they imply that the implementation of these old Republican Party rules reflects the global return of authoritarian regimes worldwide. No, you did not read that wrong, we kid you not, a Fox News article just juxtaposed brokered conventions with a piece on authoritarianism ‘gone global!’
Recently, when Republican Rules Committee member Curly Haugland clarified the Rules of the Republican Party on binding of delegate votes, much of the media jumped to claim that the authoritarian Republican establishment was again trying to get rid of front-running candidates by allowing delegates to abandon the will of the people as expressed in the primaries and caucuses.
And many well educated good Americans are surprised to hear that their vote may not be binding in a Primary. These rules of civics are no longer taught in schools, and few understand why these rules might actually be useful in protecting democracy. These rules are particularly useful in protecting the Republican Party from election fraud, which is a common technique these days, exercised by Democrats and taught by Barack Obama when he was a professor. See Have We Ditched Democracy? Was the Colorado Primary Rigged?
So no, authoritarian control of America is definitely not the purpose or goal of a brokered convention. No more than traffic lights or any other rules of law and order that have been adopted in this country to provide order. So many Americans really don’t understand the purpose of a brokered convention!
Using RNC Rules and a Brokered Convention as a Campaign Tool
And it’s not just the media.
Many politicians misrepresent brokered conventions to their own advantage.
Donald Trump misrepresents brokered conventions and the Rules of the Republican Party. Since we doubt that the Donald is simple-minded or that he has failed to do his homework on the Republican nomination process, that leaves the option that Trump could be misrepresenting facts to suit his campaign purposes.
Trump casts the routine Republican practice of reviewing and revising the Rules of the Republican Party at the start of each convention as an effort to cheat him of his “right” to be nominated.
Despite the fact that RNC rules governing whether the 2016 Convention will be brokered have been available to everyone since 2012, Trump portrays a brokered convention as a recent plot to unseat him from what he feels as his entitled place as the Republican nominee. Trump insists that he must be the nominee because he is the front runner at the moment (the race is not yet over), and ignores the fact that he does NOT have the 51% in eight States that is required by RNC rules since 2012 to even enter the Convention, forget about being the only and “presumptive” Republican nominee.
Trump wants to redefine the rules to suit himself, to run the Republican nomination process like a horse race, where the leading horse can win by a nose, regardless of the margin. Trump refuses to acknowledge that Republicans have never handled the Presidential nomination like a horse race, but have evolved rules over the years, similar to General Election rules, that require a candidate to win the favor of 51% of America before he/she can be President. As of now, Donald Trump has won only 37 percent of Republican votes and is regarded unfavorably by more than 60 percent of general election voters.
Donald Trump has even gone so far as to suggest that his supporters will riot if the Republican nomination is not awarded by the horse race mechanism. Sad to say, these tactics resemble Democrat Alinsky tactics more than they do those of the conservative Republican that Donald a Trump claims to be.
Most recently, Donald Trump’s campaign is accusing the Primary Process of not being democratic. Despite the fact that Primaries are now routinely sabotaged, and some States have begun to lean toward trusting their delegates who support the Party Platform rather than trusting the results of primaries which are susceptible to outside manipulation by Democrats in 24 States – despite these facts, and despite the fact that the Republican system (and even more so the Democrat system!) have safeguards built in to retain control of the Party within the Party- Donald Trump’s attitude is to arrive, to take advantage of the Republican Party infrastructure to gain support for his campaign, to fail to educate himself on the system (or choose to ignore the system), to assume that the system was built that way to make life difficult for him, and to proclaim the system crooked for not agreeing with him. Or, at least, so he claims.
Donald Trump forgets that the Republican Party is a collection of like-minded conservative individuals who have banded together to nominate an individual who represents their values, and they have the right of free speech to nominate a person consistent with their values. Donald forgets that he himself embodies only a portion of Republican Party Platform conservative values, and has waffled dangerously on many other Republican values, including freedom of religion, abortion and gay marriage. Donald forgets that he himself for decades has supported people and groups who oppose Republican values. Donald forgets that he has still failed to win the support of 51% of the American people.
Donald forgets all this, and accuses the Republican Primary process of not being democratic.
Donald also forgets that despite his complaints, the Republican delegate system has actually given Trump a 22 Percent Bonus, according to NBC News.
Donald Trump’s outrage is contagious, is spreading to his supporters, and is very useful as well for getting free media coverage for his campaign.
The squeaky wheel often gets oiled, and so The Donald has many Americans persuaded that the Primary system is rigged. It’s not. See Have We Ditched Democracy? Was the Colorado Primary Rigged?
Donald is actually playing the age-old and primitive, yet effective sympathy card- the “my dog ate my homework, the smart kid in the class is an apple-polisher (that would be Cruz), and the mean teacher (the GOP) is out to get me” routine.
Portraying the Brokered Convention as a DirtyBack Room Deal
Even reputable publications like The Atlantic have succumbed to misrepresentation of the brokered convention. The Atlantic states that nominating Trump is better than a brokered Republican convention, and entitles their article The Convention the GOP Does Not Want.
In the article, The Atlantic not only promotes nominating Donald Trump, but also goes on to suggest that Mitt Romney is the one who is suggesting that Republicans need a brokered convention.
A brokered convention is not held when one famous politician thinks one should be held!
Has The Atlantic not done it’s homework?
So if a Brokered Convention is Not a Dirty Deal, What IS a Brokered Convention?
A brokered convention (related terms include contested convention, open convention) is a mechanism designed for arriving at one nominee when Party members cannot agree during the Primary season. It’s a scripted process of elimination that is based on serious mathematical theories, calculated and predetermined rules designed to be fair to everyone involved. The brokered convention is a sort of Geneva Convention that spells out the rules of gentlemanly conduct when factions of the Party are at war.
Depending on the degree of turmoil or conflict in the party, the brokered convention can help to zero in on one of a few leading candidates, or, if there is a stubborn tug of war between two sides, the brokered convention has mechanisms for introducing a compromise candidate.
A Compromise Candidate- Isn’t that Bad?
Conflict resolution mechanisms similar to the brokered convention are used everywhere when people cannot agree, and where civilized folks want to script the battle to be fair. Some even speculate that Pope Francis was chosen as someone who was not the favorite of either “side,” of conflicting groups. Sometimes these “compromise” candidates can turn out to be the greatest men of history- like Presidents Lincoln and Reagan, and Pope John Paul II.
When the Brokered Convention is Used in American Politics
In American politics, a brokered convention is held on the relatively rare occasion when Republicans simply cannot agree on a nominee throughout the primary season, when the primary votes are insufficient to finalize the choice of nominee, and when further rounds of voting are required to get 51% of Republicans behind one candidate.
A brokered convention is held when the Party is obviously split, or when the Party has too many candidates. There are measures or litmus tests of just how split the party is- these are the 1237 delegate estimates or the Rule 40(b) estimates (plurality in 5 States before 2012 and majority in 8 States since 2012).
When the primaries fail to produce a candidate supported by half ( yes half, not one third) of the Party, a brokered convention is held to follow specific rules for resolution, so that the Party would not split in half, thereby handing victory automatically to the opposing Party, the Democrats.
And speaking of the opposing Party, the Democrat Party rules are actually less “democratic” than the Republican Party rules. Democrat Rules are more “authoritarian,” and they have a larger proportion of unbound super delegates. They also have brokered conventions when races are too close, and Party leadership also holds a considerable amount of power. This is not a dirty deal in either Party- why would you want to allow outside forces to take over and control a private organization, which both the Republican and Democrat Parties happen to be?
Isn’t It Unfair to Have Delegates and Superdelegates for Whom I Did Not Vote Determining the Nomination?
Well, first of all, why would you or I assume that there exists some magical source of people available to serve us, to become delegates, attend conventions, pay their own expenses, campaign, give up their free time, and otherwise participate in the giant mechanism that is the United States Presidential Election, without pay and without assistance from you and me?
If you or I were very invested in politics, we should be doing all the above things. And if we were very active in our State’s Republican Party, we probably would have more say in choosing the delegates, or even become a delegate ourselves. For people like me, who insist on our “Independence,” and neither belong to nor participate in the Republican Party (other than spending 15 minutes to run into a voting booth once every four years), we are lucky that they let us vote and take our opinion into account at all. Our “right to vote comes in at the General Election, and not at this private group’s nomination process- either Republican or Democrat.
Running for President is Complicated- and it’s Not Paid for by the Government
Those who are very invested in politics have to run for office, collect a million signatures, and fill out a myriad of complex application forms to be listed on the ballot in each State– a new set of complex applications and procedures in each of 50 States and 6 territories, and then they have to travel the United States campaigning for votes.
Those interested in running for the Office of President can find a private political organization like the Republican Party, or the Democrat Party, which has done all of the above for them, and which has collected lots of money to boot, and they could try to piggyback on the Republican/Democrat Party and on its reputation, which has been built by active Republicans/Democrats for decades.
If We Don’t Belong to a Group, and it’s Not a Government Group, Why Should That Group Let Us Control Them?
Those of us who do not join a political party and who do not run for political office ourselves should not be too fussy about how much power Republicans give us in return for our optional 15 minutes in the election booth. Basically, people who are not active in an organization can have no gripe when they don’t like the decisions that have been made.
Don’t We Live in a Democracy?
It may seem fair that voters should decide everything in a democracy. But there are very good reasons for limiting a democracy, and that’s what we have in the United States- a limited democracy, a democratic republic. That’s something else that should be taught in Civics class in grammar school – the difference between a democracy and a democratic republic.
A democratic republic is, strictly speaking, a country that is both a republic and a democracy. It is one where ultimate authority and power is derived from the citizens, and the government itself is run through elected officials.
It is presumed that the elected officials are the experts, akin to our doctors, lawyers, architects and other experts who know more about a subject than we do and who help us ignoramuses (ignorami? ) make good decisions in our lives.
We citizens choose the experts whom we trust to carry out the complicated business of government for us when we cannot do everything ourselves. And in a Presidential Primary, those experts are the delegates and superdelegates.
In a democratic republic, popular vote can choose the broad direction that citizens want to pursue, such as a conservative or liberal government, or the specific direction the government takes, like reducing federal regulation of individual lives, or expanding federal regulation of economy. But how these general principles play out and how conflicting priorities can be resolved are things that require highly specialized and professional elected officials to work out.
The choice of candidate who will best serve the interests of a particular political party and it’s platform is not something that can be left to a popular vote, with 24 States allowing Democrats and Independents to vote in a Republican Primary and vice versa.
The Bottom Line
So the bottom line is that our nation is divided right now. Not only between conservatives and progressives, but even within each party.
The friction, split, and superabundance of candidates in the Republican Party today is exactly the type of confusing situation for which the brokered convention was designed. We NEED and must have a brokered convention, and this is a good thing.
Those who assume that Republican liberals will win the scripted battle of the brokered convention fail to realize that there is at least an equal chance that Republican conservatives will have the opportunity to reclaim the Republican Party at the brokered convention.
If if you shy away from a battle, you cannot win it.
That bears repeating:
If you shy away from a battle, you cannot win it.
What to Expect at a Brokered Convention
What do we expect from a brokered convention?
We expect the unexpected.
Nobody can predict the outcome of a war, civilized and scripted or not.
But seriously, there some predictions we can try to project.
So here are some generalizations that will probably hold true for Republicans as we approach the very probably brokered convention in Cleveland in July:
- It is likely that no candidate will get the majority of 1237 (estimated) delegate votes.
- It is likely that no candidate will satisfy the present Rule 40(b), and will not have a majority (>51%) in 8 States.
- Therefore, NOBODY will qualify to enter the convention.
Since a convention cannot be held with NO CANDIDATES, the RNC Rules committee will be forced to change Rule 40(b) in order to allow candidates into the convention.
- NOTE: the Party members are not doing this to be mean, authoritarian, or to exclude anybody. They are doing it so that somebody, instead of nobody, could be considered for nomination at the convention.
- NOTE #2: The people on the RNC Rules committee are NOT mean “establishment” Republicans, but a mix of all kinds of Republicans, including the ones who support conservatives and the ones who support Donald Trump.
Curly Haugland, North Dakota
One long time member of the Rules Committee already announced a year ago, before many candidates had even announced their candidacy, a fair proposal for the Rules Committee. Curly Haugland, superdelegate from North Dakota, proposed that if nobody clears the bar of 1237 or majority in 8 States, that all candidates who received even one single delegate should be included in the first vote.
That would include in the first vote at this point Trump (954), Cruz (562), Rubio (171), Kasich (153), Carson (9), Bush (4), Fiorina (1), Huckabee (1), and Paul(1).
There will be at least a first vote.
Since it has been established that all Republican delegates have the free will to vote their conscience, the counting of delegates can only be estimated.
Nobody can say for sure how many delegates a candidate has until after the first vote at the Cleveland Convention.
So there has to be a first vote.
And in 2016, the first vote could bring some surprises that are impossible to forecast at any point before the first vote occurs.
If anybody wins 51% in the first vote, Republicans will have a nominee.
If nobody wins the first vote, additional votes are held until one nominee gets the required majority. Delegates can change their votes, responding to input from candidates, party leadership, and political maneuvering.
After the first vote, additional names can be proposed and added to the list of candidates, including individuals who did not run in the primaries. So in 2016, for example, somebody could propose adding Sarah Palin to the list. Scott Walker, who did not collect a single delegate before his early suspension of his campaign, could easily be returned in to the running.
It is possible that a party, gridlocked between two candidates, say Trump and Cruz, could compromise and shift votes to a compromise candidate, who could be anyone- Carson, Santorum, Fiorina, Walker, Bush, Ryan, Palin,………….or anybody else. Candidates who have not yet been damaged by the highly combative and money-driven primary process, and who could yield an historical leader like Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan, could enter the Convention as a conservative “compromise” candidate.
Mr. Squeaky Wheel Trump is already declaring himself the Presumptive Nominee today, after yesterday’s victories in several east coast states. Between his derision of the GOP for their 51% rules, and his accusations of rigging if he does not automatically get the nomination with 37%, who knows whether Mr. Trump could succeed in intimidating the GOP to change rules in such a way as to hand the nomination to him. Stranger things have happened in the last 8 years with Barak Obama’s Presidency, with a President taking legal liberties that never could have been imagined or forecast previously.
For more excellent information on brokered conventions and their history, see the non-partisan political information source BallotPedia on brokered conventions.
What Are Our Conservative Prospects?
So no, the brokered convention is not a dirty back room deal, but an opportunity to reclaim America and make it great, with or without Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. One word here about Donald Trump- in order to be that leader of the future whom we are seeking, he would have to get on board with the conservative “social” issues of religious freedom, abortion and marriage, which are actually ethical, not “social” issues, which are encoded in the Republican Party Platform, and which are supported by the majority of the citizens of the United States. We would need a “conversion of St. Donald,” or, in Donald’s language, a HUGE deal, in which Donald sold his soul to God, as most Americans do.
And, speaking of back room deals, Mitt Romney’s supporters were the ones who used a dirty back room deal in 2012 to avoid a brokered convention, in which Mitt Romney would have had to enter a fair fight to win his nomination which so many conservative Republicans opposed at that time. The Big Rule Switch of 2012 was engineered by Mitt Romney supporters, was engineered to exclude Ron Paul from the 2012 Convention, and was the real dirty back room deal that is now actually complicating life for Donald Trump, as he tries to qualify for nomination. Romney’s maneuver also caused 4 million Republican voters to choose not to participate in the 2012 election, with the consequent sad outcome for Mr. Romney.
Depending on what Americans choose, both in the presidential nominations and the General Election, will determine whether the Judeo-Christian principles that built America prevail, or whether regressivism and the eradication of respect for our creator, God, will win.