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No, We Don’t Live In a “Democracy,” Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

There are far too many Americans who simply do not understand how the Republican nomination process works. Consider this a tutorial, particularly for those of you who cannot stop screaming about the “rigged” nature of the Colorado GOP caucuses. If anyone has the ear of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, or Donald Trump himself, please pass this information on. They seem to have missed its importance when they took Civics 101. In high school.

First, let’s get one thing straight. The United States of America is not now and never has been a democracy. I don’t care if your indoctrination text in college was called The People Make a Democracy. The Founders didn’t want a democracy. They wanted a republic. A democracy is a form of mob rule, in which everything—including your individual, inalienable rights—is subject to revocation if a sufficient number of citizens can be convinced it would be best. The Founders created a system that protects those rights, even when the majority would like to take them away. The system of checks and balances is designed to prevent any one branch of government from being superior to the other two, and the Bill of Rights forbids the Congress—regardless of their overwhelming majority vote—from violating your rights.

The United States is a representative republic. “We the People,” though sovereign, do not directly elect our President. Instead, when we mark our ballot for the candidate of our choice, we are electing a representative to act on our behalf in the Electoral College. The representative members meet in their states in December and cast ballots—one for the president, and one for the vice-president. Donald Trump will be unhappy to discover this, but it is possible for the candidate who obtains the largest popular vote to end up flunking out of the Electoral College (ask Al Gore about this. No, don’t—still too soon.)

In order to select our president, we have developed a party system—primarily a two-party system. Members of parties determine who they feel is their best standard-bearer, and those candidates compete in the general election. The parties are not democratic institutions. This selection process (and this part is very important) is entirely up to the parties themselves.

Let me say that again: It is entirely up to the parties to determine how those candidates are selected. In theory, the head of the Republican National Committee could call every Republican governor and ask them who they want, put all the names in a hat, and pick one out—and that would be just as legitimate a candidate as any that has ever run.

Currently, within certain rules, each individual state is free to design its own system for the awarding of delegates—which are the essential equivalent of electors–the people who represent the state in casting their votes at the national nominating convention. Because the entire point of a nominating process is to end up with a candidate that can win the general election, the requirement to gain the nomination is and always has been a majority of the available delegates—fifty percent plus one. This year, that number is 1237. No candidate will get the nomination without at least that many delegates. The Republican National Committee’s job is to build and maintain the strongest possible candidate to compete in the general election. A candidate who does not even have a majority of Republican convention support starts with a deficit, making it more difficult than necessary to win.

Just man-up and do the work it takes to get the majority. Like every other candidate in history has.

As to Colorado, contrary to popular misinformation, there was voting in Colorado. There was, in fact, a series of votes. First, ordinary Colorado Republicans (not the “establishment”) went to caucuses in their precincts (small areas of geography; neighborhoods, more or less.) Then, people elected at their precincts ran for election at their county caucus. Finally, the people elected at county caucuses moved on to compete to be state delegates. After that, the state delegates competed to become national delegates in the national convention in Cleveland in July.

What there was not in Colorado was the “beauty contest” presidential preference primary that had been conducted in the previous two presidential election cycles. In 2008, the voters gave their votes to Mitt Romney, and the unbound delegates went to convention and voted for John McCain. In 2012, the voters picked Rick Santorum, and the delegates went with Mitt Romney. So, when the Republican National Committee ruled that if a state held a primary, it would have to bind its delegates, the state GOP decided to skip the primary and have a caucus, leaving their delegates unbound for the convention. Holding a primary (that the state has to pay for) that might result in delegates ending up bound to candidates that had dropped out seemed like an expensive and useless proposition. So Colorado did away with the primary and kept the delegate-selection caucus (that didn’t cost the taxpayers anything).

Nothing to do with Donald Trump. Sorry, conspiracy-mongers, but facts are stubborn things.

Incidentally, to those who think the RNC is only using a majority requirement to stop Donald Trump, and insist (as he and his campaign continue to do) that he should be given the nomination on the basis of having acquired “the most” delegates (or, as he is now beginning to argue, “the most votes,” because “that’s what should count”), I guarantee you your complaints will fall on deaf ears at the RNC. Current Chair Reince Priebus began the Chairmanship election in 2011 with the most votes, but it took seven rounds of voting for him to get the requisite majority.

Now, everybody get back to swearing at each other on Facebook.

Image: Bernie Sanders Rally via photopin (license)

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Dr. Mom

Dr. Mom is a married mother of three boys and the author of Souls, Bodies, Spirits: The Drive to Abolish Abortion Since 1973. The hills she chooses to die on are the Bible and the Constitution, in that order. In addition to her American Studies doctorate, she also holds a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and is, therefore, perfectly equipped to interpret the current Administration. She also tweets as DrKC4.