Muftic: Is the process of party nomination of their presidential candidate democratic?
A friend of mine, a Bernie Sanders supporter, was thrilled with her ability to participate in a caucus and that she had a voice. At least she thought she did. Great, I said. Now let us see if other caucuses send enough delegates to the county, district and state conventions to reflect the state support for Sanders. What? Do you mean it is possible my vote could not count? she asked. I explained the Colorado process was set by state party rules. The numbers of delegates sent to the state convention via their delegates to district caucuses would chose the delegates sent to the national convention and they were to be chosen proportionately. So it was. Sanders got 59 percent, or 38 delegate votes for the national convention. Clinton receive 40.3 percent of the state delegates and received 28 delegate votes. “Proportional” is the national Democratic party rule for both primary and caucus states.
That is not the way the GOP works. Winner takes all is permitted but is not required. The Republican party meeting in Colorado Springs’ state convention last week did not hold caucus preference votes in advance, with delegates to the state convention totally unbound. The result was that Ted Cruz ran away with nearly 100 percent of the delegates (three reserved for party officials), and any Donald Trump supporters were left with virtually no voice at the national convention.
To complicate matters, both parties send some unpledged delegates to the national convention and even most pledged delegates are only bound through the first ballot. All can flip. Flipping those delegates is now the focus of the battle between Sanders and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
What sort of a democracy is this, you ask? That question is up to your party organization’s interpretation. Take it up with your party leaders in the next four years if you do not like it.
There are two basic kinds of democracy: winning popular vote rules or we elect representatives to make decisions for us. The United States is the latter. We elect representatives to vote for president for us in the Electoral College and we elect representatives to Congress to make decisions for us. The political parties have adopted the representative democracy approach even though there were no political parties at the time of the writing of the Constitution nor are political parties even mentioned in that document or amendments.
Why did our founding fathers form a representative democracy? Stability, is likely the answer. Our founders had had some bad experiences in the colonies with populist movements, and they knew that public opinion was quick to change allegiances and easily manipulated by the media of the times: newspapers and pamphlets. They wanted to give greater voice to the ‘establishment’ to insure lasting stability of the system and to slow down extreme fluctuations. Others wanted the ability to give disproportionate power to small states by allocation of the number of their representatives. Their wisdom was born out by the French revolution that resulted in chaos, disillusionment with democracy, with even the inventor of the guillotine later to become its victim. This resulted in the dictatorship of Napoleon and restoration of monarchy. It is a lesson from history we should not take lightly.
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