Part One: the REPUBLICANS
Monday, April 18, 2016
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
It may seem hard to believe- at least to those of you reading this piece within a short time of its posting- but, exactly three months from the day this one is posted (in fact, the next time the 18th of a month will fall on a Monday), the 2016 Republican National Convention will be first gaveled into session in Cleveland, Ohio. How long ago- as I now type this- the Iowa Caucuses of this past 1 February now seem; how long into the future the Conventions of both Major Parties here in the United States also now seem: yet, soon enough, these very events will be upon us and, by the end of July, we will know just who the presidential (and vice-presidential) nominees of both Major Parties will be.
But, right now, we are still in the thick of a battle for the presidential nomination in both Parties, especially among the Republicans; the question of moment regards just how much longer that particular battle within the Grand Old Party will last: will it all be over by the time the results of the voting in the final Presidential Primaries (those of Tuesday 7 June) are known?-- or will the battle continue on into the GOP Convention in Cleveland itself? We are now just about on the verge of, perhaps, answering that very question.
I will here give you, the reader, a number: 925.
925 is currently, in my own opinion, the Over/Under re: just how close to a contested GOP Convention we might actually be: for 925 represents the number of delegates (based on the current delegate count on this website [which has Donald Trump at just under 760-- some 200 ahead of his nearest rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz]) Mr. Trump must have, in this website's delegate count, after the Presidential Primaries of Tuesday 26 April in order to still be well on his way to picking up at least 1237 delegates (the majority necessry to be nominated for President by the Republicans) without any help at all from the 100+ unbound delegates (meaning those officially "unbound" by the respective State GOP rules, including the 54 Congressional District delegates to be chosen directly by the voters in Pennsylvania on 26 April) by the time the Republican Convention in Cleveland so meets three months from now.
Simply put: if "the Donald" has at least 925 before the end of this month, his campaign is in pretty good shape: the more delegates he has over 925 by then, the better (for it, quite obviously, means having to pick up even less of a percentage of the remaining delegates in order to get to that 1237 mark). However, if Trump is seen as having fewer than 925 (and even more so should his total be significantly below 925), we will still be then where we seem to be today: still living with the real possibility of "the Donald" coming up short at the very end of the Primary/Caucus "season" early this coming June.
Why 925? Simple!: the Presidential Primaries of 19 and 26 April are all in the Northeast USA (not exactly Cruz-friendly territory and an area where, if Ohio Governor John Kasich is to show any political traction, it would certainly be in this region of the country!). But, should Trump gain the lion's share of delegates out of New York State (say, at least 70% of the 95 up for grabs tomorrow [Tuesday 19 April]), not only would it signal a signal failure on the part of- in particular- Kasich's own campaign (which, in turn, would not bode at all well for the Ohio Governor doing all that much in those States [Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island] voting come the following Tuesday), it would already put Trump within 100 (if not more, depending on how well he does in New York) of that very 925.
Mr. Trump thereafter winning both Delaware and Pennsylvania would give him 33 more (Delaware is 'Winner Take All' and Pennsylvania's at-large delegates go to the winner of the Keystone State's GOP Presidential Primary statewide) and also just doing well enough (that is: winning, even if short of a majority in each case) in Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island would net Trump a minimum of, say, another 54 (for a total of 87 all told on the day: doing just a little better in those last 3 States and/or doing even better in New York the week before than I have herein opined would then get Trump close to, if not right to, if not even over 925!
After the Republican Presidential Primaries of 26 April, there will only be but a little more than 500 National Convention delegates still available to presidential contenders: thus, right at 925, Mr. Trump will only need to pick up some 60% (give or take) of these remaining delegates throughout May and on into early June to lock up that majority of 1237 necessary to nomination. But "only" here is something of a loaded word, considering that Trump has, to this point, gained but little over 45% of all the delegates distributed amongst GOP presidential contenders so far: gaining nearly 80% of the delegates up for grabs over the next two Tuesdays (which is what would bring Trump up to at least 925 immediately thereafter), however, could well be seen as making an at least 60% "run" the rest of the way a real possibility for "the Donald".
Therefore, the very thing to watch for by the middle of next week, then, is- with 925 as the expectation, by just how much does Trump either exceed it or, conversely, miss this mark (and, in addition, by just how much in either case)? Once we can know the answer to that question, the better we all can thereafter judge the likelihood of a contested Convention in Cleveland (absent, of course, something we can't possibly foresee happening between then and the Convention itself).
I want to now address something that has lately come up in the course of the Republican presidential nomination process and that is the question as to whether or not the Republican presidential nomination process itself is inherently unfair as well as the concomitant complaint that it lacks the truest trappings of democracy as it has come to be expected by most Americans (this complaint is often coupled with the additional question as to whether or not Donald Trump should still be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee if he should, indeed, fail to reach the requisite number of delegate commitments to him [again, 1237- simply, a mere majority of the 2472 delegates total at the Convention in Cleveland this summer] by the time the Roll Call of the States on Presidential Nomination gets underway during the course of that Convention; in other words, the question here is: shouldn't a mere plurality of the National Convention delegates in hand- especially where the nearest competitor for the GOP presidential nomination might be well behind in this regard- still be enough to have earned the leading presidential contender [presumably, in this particular case, Donald Trump] no little special consideration?)
Answer: No! (on all counts)
First of all, the rules are most clear here: a majority of the delegates voting on Roll Call of the States on Presidential Nomination is, indeed, necessary to nomination; that majority (of 2472 delegates total) is 1237; and 1237 or more votes is at least this necessary majority. Meanwhile, even as many as 1236 is not 1237 and neither is any other number of delegate votes less than 1236.
Secondly, let us now take a real good look at just which Party we are talking about here!
The two Major Parties in the United States of America are the Democratic and the Republican and this, indeed, has been the case since the end of the American Civil War now over a century and a half ago. While these Parties have each gone through significant changes over the decades since that time (for example: the Democrats, once the repository of so-called 'State's Rights' [something of a misnomer, by the way: States- like any other Polity- do not have Rights, instead they have Powers (and, in addition, in a Federal Republic such as our own, there are constitutional restrictions on such Powers: the Politics is over just how much a restriction and on which Powers!)], is no longer so; instead, the Republicans- once the Party of standardizing [even, at times, progressive!] national authority- are nowadays much more the 'State's Rights' Party), the essential element behind each of these Parties' own respective names largely remains.
The Democrats have ever been what they say they are: champions of democracy as unfettered as possible-- letting as many amongst The People, regardless of station or status, participate as directly as possible in the political process and generally (with admittedly some exceptions, mainly those that oxymoronically "prove the rule") supporting such things as registering people to vote on Election Day itself and/or at many State agencies for purposes other than overseeing elections (hence, nearly a quarter century ago now, "Motor Voter"). From the Age of Jackson, that Party has been 'the Democracy' (an older nickname), the "Party of the People" (one more recent).
However, the Republicans have ever been no less than what they say they are: a "Grand Old Party" dedicated to the concept of a Republic based on civic virtue-- one seemingly relying on more indirect means of filtering the popular passions into political action and acceptable policy options (in order to the better hold the less than virtuous, in this civic regard, at bay).
While both Parties have had an element of what can fairly be termed Conservatism within their respective histories (going all the way back to the 1860s), there is little- is there any?- real doubt that the Republican Party is, and generally has ever been, the conservative Party in the United States, whether this term harks back to an Abraham Lincoln conserving the Union in the midst of a bloody civil war or a Teddy Roosevelt conserving natural resources or to whatever the very term 'conservatism' might well mean now, in the still-early 21st Century (does it mean conserving traditional values?-- or conserving the wealth of the so-called 'investor class'?-- or conserving the opportunity of others not yet [but still potentially] financially there to eventually, perhaps, join this last?-- all of the above?-- none of the above [as various and sundry detractors of the Grand Old Party mainstream themselves might claim]?).
One of the best definitions of Conservatism I have ever seen is one that describes that particular political philosophy/ideology as one seeing either custom or tradition, where not both (along with political structures that have changed but relatively slowly), as the very necessary "glue" holding culture and society together: innovations, whether in society or politics (or, for that matter, the economy) are not necessarily frowned upon per se but they are, nonetheless, only to be applied where they have come to be seen (often after much debate and discussion) as being altogether necessary to overall stability of the political system and/or social relations in general. Constitutionalism is to be preferred to mere Legality (or, for that matter, that General Will once expressed as the very essence of the French Revolution); Democracy is to be at least somewhat limited at best and ever checked and balanced (a Senate cooling the political passions of the People as expressed in the House; a popular President able to act decisively, yes, yet still subject to checks and balances on his/her power; a sober and independent Judiciary applying Rule of Law only to specific cases at bar and in hardly an activist manner).
Thus, is it any real surprise that this more conservative Republican Party does not have the same "from the top down"- at times, seemingly bureaucratic- rules of National Convention delegate selection that the Democrats now have? Proportionality is not at all a requirement in the GOP, nor is any proportionality as might be utilized always based on a 15% threshold of the vote. While the expansion of Presidential Primaries from some 16 or 17 as late as 1968 to as many as 40 but a quarter century later- an expansion engendered by the Democrats reforming their own delegate selection rules- was welcomed by some more 'progressive' State Republican Parties, the Grand Old Party was dragged into utilizing Presidential Primaries in more than a few cases "kicking and screaming".
Ted Cruz has made much headway of late (slowing- although not really stopping- Donald Trump's momentum with what took place as a result of the Wisconsin Primary the other week) declaiming that "the Donald" is not a real Republican, not truly a conservative. For his own part, Trump decrying a seeming lack of democracy in what is, after all, the Republican presidential nominating process actually does much to make Cruz's own case (although Cruz has yet to show that this same argument helps him electorally in the long run: somehow, what is [in essence] 'He wants much too much democracy, but I still need your vote' doesn't really cut it!).
The problem here, however, is that the Republican Party- on the level of its national leadership- has, over the past two decades (or, perhaps, even a little longer), sought at least some oversight (one hesitates to here use the word "control") over its own National Convention delegate selection process (including the binding of National Convention delegates to presidential contenders for at least the First Ballot, especially should that ever prove to not be the only ballot re: the GOP Presidential Nomination) without becoming too much like their rival, the Democrats. But how much democracy proves, in the main, to be too much for those who are, after all, Republican?...
thus, within a 'superstructure' of Republican presidential contenders trying to best one another now in early 2016 is an 'infrastructure' of various, and competing, answers to that last question (itself wrapped up with the battle for this year's GOP presidential nomination). The result may not, indeed, be bureaucratic as much as it might, instead, prove byzantine!