OPINION – I have friends abroad who are asking: “What’s up with this primary-caucus thing?”
It’s a valid question.
In case you haven’t noticed, this whole primary season has been a cluster of deception and connivance that leads us to the possibility of not one, but two brokered political conventions this summer.
There are caucuses where, despite clear-cut winners, delegates and the power-brokers called super-delegates — party shills who will do the bidding of the national committees — are selected by whim it seems.
The same goes for the primaries.
This political season is a witch’s brew of peculiarities that — thankfully — does not include an eye of Newt, who is, so far, out of the picture.
But it is also a signal that, well, the whole system is due for major overhaul.
As it is, winners can be losers, and losers can pocket delegates apportioned in the smoke-filled rooms, which still exist. Looking at the recent super-delegate tallies, one has to wonder what exactly is being smoked during those closed-door sessions.
The thing is, the rules are ever-changing, making transparency almost impossible and ensuring suspicion that secretive deals and maneuvers benefiting certain segments of the electorate are at the heart of who will run at the top of the ticket come November.
It’s why this late into the game, the 2016 nominees are anything but settled, no matter what the spin doctors say.
How important are delegates anyway?
In 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey avoided the primaries altogether, focusing instead on delegates from non-primary states. His rationale was that the Democratic Party’s two front runners, Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, had a groundswell of support in the primaries as anti-war candidates, while Humphrey supported the ongoing tragedy that was Vietnam.
Humphrey won the nomination but not without cost.
Kennedy was assassinated that June, enabling the cigar-chomping thugs who ran the party to brush past the much weaker McCarthy. As the old-line Humphrey machine chewed up and spat out McCarthy, angry youth rioted in the streets, turning Chicago into a bloodbath not only politically but literally.
To top it off, we ended up with Richard Nixon as president, launching one of America’s darkest hours.
The heat has been turned up on both burners this time, the one on the left by the Clinton Machine and the one on the right ignited by party leaders intent on saving the GOP from a small but radical wing that is pushing a Trump candidacy.
Now, although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came off the line at full speed, both campaigns have lost steam in recent weeks as the Democratic vote has veered ever stronger in the direction of Bernie Sanders and the cooler heads of the GOP have come together in an “anybody-but-Trump” blitz.
The surge appears to be strong enough to prevent Trump from sweeping into the convention with enough delegates in hand for the nomination. On the Democratic side, Sanders has found new life despite the depth and strength of the Clinton Machine.
Although I would be hesitant to lay any real money down on anything related to the 2016 election, the prospect of a brokered Republican convention seems the best bet. The Dems? Slightly longer odds.
Now, for political junkies, this is a possible daily double.
The drama of a brokered convention beckons our attention to the minutia of the assemblage, casting a greater spotlight on those who have lesser roles than delivering keynote addresses during prime time.
Who speaks and when they take the podium will be as important as the roll call voting. I only wish I had a key to one of those smoke-filled rooms where the deals will be made.
It will also be a novelty because of the infrequency of such conventions.
The last time it happened to the GOP was in 1948 when it took three ballots to nominate Thomas Dewey, who lost to President Harry Truman. The last time it happened to the Democrats was in 1952 when it took three ballots to nominate Adlai Stevenson, who lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Although delegates are supposedly bound to a certain candidate — at least for the first round of voting — there is a way around that.
In the days leading to the conventions, individual party rules committees could suggest changes to the party’s convention rules committee to unbind delegates and allow them to vote for anybody they wish on the first ballot. The recommendation would then go to the convention floor for a vote, and the delegates themselves could decide whether they wish to approve or reject the recommendation.
My guess is that the Republicans would probably reject such a proposal because it would benefit Ted Cruz, who also represents a small but radical faction of the Republican Party.
What is most likely is that unless Trump captures enough delegates to secure a first-round nomination, the party will choose not to make the rules change and slug it out for a couple of vote cycles until either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan is brought out of the bullpen to finish the game.
The same could happen on the Democratic Party’s side where the only one who could reasonably come off the bench at this point is Vice President Joe Biden.
Whatever happens, I guarantee it will not be dull by any means, and the intrigue will not end with the elections.
We could see major changes in our system. This could be, for example, the last hurrah of the Republican Party as we know it. Dissolution of the GOP would, of course, lend itself to a third party, which would leave us with a three-party system structured along the lines of conservative, liberal, and moderate ideologies.
Of course, that would necessitate not only some different thinking but also the elimination of the outdated Electoral College, which doesn’t do anybody any favors.
It would be a huge effort all the way around, but it would make sense and would result in some much-needed reform to our outdated, corruption-riddled system, which is why it probably won’t happen.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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