Donald Trump has been complaining that “Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal.” He was talking about the delegate selection process for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Trump was apparently blindsided by Ted Cruz going around to various state conventions and caucuses to snap up a few delegates here and a few delegates there. Here and there have put up to about 66 delegates in Cruz’s camp in recent weeks.
“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,” he said recently. The delegate selection process is set by the state parties and varies from state to state. You have to know how to work the system in order to be successful. Mr. Trump should know this. He has used complex systems before. He knows the complex rules of the US bankruptcy courts very well and has used it on four occasions. He told Mike Wallace:
“Because I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera.”
The (bankruptcy) chapter laws have done very well for his company and him: rather better than for his investors. He has no objection to using these complex laws and regulations when he can gain an advantage but complains when other arcane rules work against him.
Likewise, Mr. Trump has stated that “eminent domain is wonderful”. He has attempted several times to use government’s power of eminent domain for his own benefit. Eminent domain, as defined in the Fifth Amendment to the US constitution, is the taking of private property for public use. Private property is an essential part of personal liberty as defined by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Government. If a person cannot be secure in the possession of his property then he has no rights. Eminent domain is a conditionality to the absolute right to our property. It allows the government to take our property but only for public use and only with just compensation. The power has been abused in the past by perverting the interpretation of the public use to the benefit of private interests (usually in the generation of greater tax revenues). The target of these schemes is usually the landowner or homeowner standing in the way of some project. Mr. Trump is very comfortable in taking other people’s property by convincing local governments that their exercise of this power will bring greater development and a larger tax base. It’s “wonderful”.
So if Mr. Trump’s objection to complex party rules rings hollow, why is he pursuing a tactic that makes him appear whiny and weak? We have to remember that Mr. Trump is a master manipulator and marketing prodigy. While he began his career as a real estate developer he has morphed into a brand. He no longer builds or owns buildings. He licenses his name to other developers who want to tap into the luxury branding that he associates with all his endeavors. He may even want to put his brand on the Republican Party (don’t laugh, it has been done before: Peronism in Argentina for example).
But mostly he wants to push the Republican National Committee to give him the nomination and to avoid a contested convention that he might lose. He has brought in many new voters and Republican voter turnouts have spiked along with the television ratings of the Republican debates. If party leaders are successful in naming a different candidate, many of these voters may bolt the party or sit out the election. Alternatively, Mr. Trump could run as a third party candidate which will likely result in a Democratic win. Mr. Trump thinks he has the Republican leaders over a barrel.
But contested conventions are nothing new. In fact, they were standard operating procedures until recently. And dark horse candidates can make viable nominees. In the 1860 Republican Convention, NY Governor and Senator William H. Seward was thought to be the favorite and he won a plurality of the first round votes at the convention. But he couldn’t get the majority and a former Congressman from Illinois won the nomination on the third round. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
The Republican National Committee and the Convention Chairman, Paul Ryan, should not allow themselves to be bullied by Mr. Trump’s tactics. If he wins the necessary number of delegates then he should be the candidate. But if he falls short, it is the delegates’ responsibility to determine who best represents the party and has the best chances of winning in November.
(Yesterday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominated the New York Republican and Democratic primaries and solidified their position as the front runners of their parties. Either way, it looks like there will be a lot to write about over the next four plus years.)