By Tommy DeSeno
In the 18th century, Bonnie Prince Charlie, aka Charles Edward Stuart, was the last Jacobite Pretender to the throne of England. The Bonnie Prince thought the English throne was his birthright, so he traveled the countryside picking fights with anyone who disagreed.
Donald Trump, our current Bonnie Prince, acts very much the same. His intemperance and penchant for vengeance is manifest in response to any challenge to him, with no crack too lowbrow, be it McCain’s heroics, Carly’s face or Megyn’s menstrual cycle. Only a Jacobean sense of entitlement could bring a Wharton grad into the gutter. Even Jeb knew the Presidency had to be earned, not inherited or claimed.
Bonnie Prince Donnie entered a Republican race with rules – rules made clear to him along with everyone else: A candidate either wins a majority of delegates, or he subjects himself to a contested convention.
Don’t like the rules? Don’t play.
Trump wants us to ignore the rules. He wants to be declared the winner even if he doesn’t win the majority, citing nothing more than his personal sense of entitlement, like a little-leaguer to his participation trophy despite not winning.
Let’s look at the rules. The rules from the previous convention (2012) always remain in place and act as temporary rules for the next convention until new rules are passed at the start of the new convention. By joining the race Trump and all the other candidates agreed to use the 2012 rules until the convention started.
The Republican rules are very deferential to the people under Rule 16. Voters get to decide on the nominee by voting for who the delegates in their state will be bound to vote for at the convention. If a candidate earns a majority, 50 percent + 1 (this year it’s 1,237 delegates), they will win the first vote at the convention and be the nominee.
However this isn’t Athenian Democracy. It’s not “most votes wins” as Trump is crying. It’s a pass/fail test. The people only make a valid decision if their votes reach 50 percent + 1. If they don’t, they have not made a decision. The closest candidate doesn’t score any points – this isn’t horseshoes, hand grenades, or bocce.
Think of a criminal jury, whose rules say they have to be unanimous. If they fall short they are hung – they have not made a decision. The Court doesn’t see if there were more guilty or not guilty votes and decide it that way. The defendant is found neither guilty nor not guilty. Double jeopardy does not attach and the jury keeps voting until they do make a decision under the rules.
There is a good reason for having the 50 percent + 1 threshold: Any number of candidates are allowed to run, so the opportunity for manipulation or failure to represent the will of the people is a danger. Imagine if all 17 Republican candidates stayed in the race. The leader could have as little as 6 percent of the vote, so 94 percent of the people would have rejected the nominee. It makes no difference if it’s 6 percent or 46 percent — neither reflects the people’s will and that’s why they both fall short under the rules.
Being even more deferential to the people, the Party allows the states to decide how long the delegates get bound to the candidate. Some are bound for the first vote then released. Some states release them after the second. After a third vote, nearly all are free to vote their consciences. That’s why the people’s vote is for delegates not candidates. If it were otherwise, they could vote forever and not have a candidate. Delegates are a fail/safe to ensure a candidate is chosen when the people fail to choose.
Now Trump is demanding we ignore the people’s will, ignore the party rules and ignore math; the Bonnie Prince wants the kingdom with less than a majority because he says so. Like Bonnie Prince Charlie’s violent foray into Scotland, Bonnie Prince Donnie has warned of riots at the Convention if we don’t see to his whim.
It is interesting that a contested convention requires a candidate to have one particular skill to win it – negotiation. A candidate has to convince recently freed delegates after the first vote to vote for him. Isn’t negotiation skill the raison d’être for Trump’s candidacy? Anyone so persuasive as to make Mexico pay for a wall and China to ditch all trade deals should relish the opportunity to go head-to-head negotiating against Ted Cruz or anyone else who joins the fray. Yet he foreshadows riot instead of negotiation.
Beware what that portends for a Trump presidency. Business tools are not political tools, so it is a fallacy that we need someone to “run the government like a business.” Were that true, Jon Corzine would be New Jersey’s greatest governor instead of its most recent one-termer.
A business negotiator can always run to the bankruptcy court if he doesn’t get his way, as Trump knows quadruple well. In diplomacy, bankruptcy means war. Since diplomacy is owed first to the soldier, careful of a man whose art is running from the deal and hiding behind the protection of others.
Much press has been given to Rule 40, which is claimed to say a candidate has to have won eight states in the primaries to win the nomination. It doesn’t say that. Note first if a candidate carried the 14 biggest states, he wouldn’t have enough delegates to secure the nomination. Eight states are what a candidate needs to be considered for a vote.
But take a closer look at Rule 40. The requirement that a candidate has the majority of delegates in eight states has to be certified one hour before a vote. That means as delegates become free in rounds two, three, four, etc., anyone who can secure a majority of delegates in eight states can be on the roll call vote, even if he hasn’t run before. He or she will still need to get to 1,237 to win.
Speaking of eight states, Trump also agreed to be bound by Rule 32. A majority of delegates from eight states can make a motion to suspend the rules (but it still has to pass a full vote). That ought to twist his knickers, but again, thems the rules going back to when he joined.
In short, Prince Donnie, you have to win. Don’t be a loser. A “winner” gets the majority to vote for him at the convention. Winners don’t include the best in a plurality. Those people fall into the category of loser. Republicans don’t hand out participation trophies. You have to win here and abide the rules.