Whether you are a Trump supporter, Cruz supporter, Kasich supporter, Sanders supporter, Hillary supporter, or a disinterested observer fed up with the whole thing like myself, we can all agree that the nomination process is a complete disaster. Not that any of this is new to this particular election; the 2016 campaign has only exposed the flaws in the process that have existed since the earliest days of the leading political parties.
No, neither Trump nor Sanders are having the nomination ‘stolen’ from them, at least not in a sense where actual ‘cheating’ is happening (best I can tell from afar anyway). The fact that Trump doesn’t understand how the process works does not mean Cruz is doing something wrong. And the irony of ironies where some of Sanders’s delegates are being redistributed…well, Hillary Clinton would never cheat right?
If the argument is that the game is rigged at worst or just a little screwy at best then I can certainly agree with that. The rules and process as was set up long before the 2016 campaign is really what is causing confusion leaving many primary voters angry and disillusioned. While it may be too late to cure what ails the nomination process for 2016, I believe I have a few ideas that would vastly improve the process and I would encourage any political party to at least give this a try.
A National Primary Day
This incredibly long drawn out byzantine primary system has outlived its usefulness. There is no reason to have a few states vote early while other vote later. If it’s good enough to have the general election on one day than the primary should be no different. My proposal is to have every state and territory vote on the same day, say 40-60 days before the party’s convention. If the states want to follow roughly the same calendar as the traditional primaries holding town halls, debates, or even non-binding straw polls then by all means, do so. The days of a handful of states determining who emerges should be done away with forever.
Allocation of Delegates
In the 2016 South Carolina Primary Donald Trump “won” the election with a whopping 32.5% of the vote. To put this another way, 67.5% of South Carolina voters voted for someone other than Donald Trump *but* because South Carolina is winner take all, Trump will be awarded all 50 of the state’s delegates! While I’m not one of these people who think that “majority rule” is a good thing in and of itself (actually it’s often terrible), it seems that in a primary or caucus which purports to reflect the “will of the people” should at a minimum, require that the winning candidate actually earned the majority of the vote.
If the goal of the nomination process is to nominate an individual who represents the “will of the people” in the party then the parties are not doing a very good job in achieving that goal. My proposal to improve this aspect of the process is as follows:
Each state/territory is to have one delegate for each congressional district and two at large delegates. Each would-be delegate is bound to a particular candidate and can only become a delegate if his/her candidate wins 50%+1 of the vote in the congressional district or, in the case of the at large would-be delegates, 50%+1 of the entire state, commonwealth, or territory. The candidates would keep every delegate s/he won (i.e. no winner take all states). The 50%+1 threshold would be easily achieved by implementing instant runoff voting (this is key). This way every vote actually would matter and the “spoiler effect” would be minimized if not eliminated.
Rather than explain how instant runoff voting (a.k.a. alternative voting) works for those who are not familiar, here’s a short video:
The Nominating Convention
The convention would operate more or less like it does now. The delegates would then go about choosing the nominee by either multiple rounds of voting or using the instant runoff method as described above. Because all the delegates would be bound to their candidate (at least to start with) in the former method s/he must vote for the candidate in the first round, in the latter s/he must rank the bound candidate #1 and the candidate of his or her choice for #2, #3, and so on. Whichever way the convention decided to go, the important thing is no winner would be selected without a majority recorded vote (i.e. no voice votes where the Chairperson decides which way the vote went based on his/her opinion).
Oh yeah, one other thing: no other candidates could be nominated who was not running on National Primary Day.
Would this process be perfect? Of course not. There is no system I can think of which will prevent a truly terrible person from being nominated or even elected. If there’s a better way, I would certainly would love to hear it. That being said, I believe this process is much superior than the one either party is using now.
All this makes me wonder though: if the parties are having this much trouble determining the will of the majority of their party members (assuming that’s really what they are trying to do), how can they be trusted to solve the more complex problems they want us to believe they can solve?
One Point of Clarification
If you read carefully, you will notice that everything I wrote is just a suggestion about how any political party can improve its nomination process. None of this in any way is meant to advocate that the law should be changed to comply with my opinion. Its free advice and the parties can take it or leave it (and they probably will leave it…who am I to advise them right?).
I’ve come across some individuals who are upset about how some state parties have gone about choosing delegates (which I can sympathize with; I hate how the Colorado Republican Party chooses delegates). What everyone needs to understand though is that regardless of what they think they know about how the system works, the U.S. is not a democracy. It never was and never was intended to be. Some misguided individuals believe that the shenanigans (as they see it anyway) taking place in some of these state conventions is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution.
For those who think this way, I’m about to drop a giant atomic truth bomb so here it goes…
There is no constitutional right for the average citizen to vote in a presidential election (neither in the party primaries nor in the general election). No, really there’s not.
For those who don’t believe me, the part of the U.S. Constitution that addresses how the POTUS is to be elected is located in Article II, Section 1, Paragraphs 2 through 4. I’ll share the most relevant part (paragraph 2):
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
As stated from the excerpt above, each state determines how Electors are picked to vote for POTUS. This means that if the state legislature wants to choose Electors by drawing names out of a hat or by roshambo, the state legislature may do so. As it happens, every state legislature has decided that the people have a right to vote for the Electors provided they are eligible to vote (as determined by that state’s laws).
Did you notice something else? What about all the explaining about the nomination process of delegates of a particular political party?
Read the excerpt again, no actually read Article II in its entirety because I know some people reading this think that I cherry picked one small part from the U.S. Constitution to make my point.
Did you notice that there wasn’t a single word about political parties, much less how they go about choosing a nominee for president?