Tag Archives: election

After Trump’s Election, Pomona Orchestra Can Opt Out of Playing ‘Don Juan’

On Thursday, the Pomona College Orchestra informed its musicians that they could opt out of performing the song Don Juan in their upcoming concert because the piece—which centers around the libertine Don Juan character—could be insensitive to students who were upset by the election of Donald Trump.

“When I programmed Don Juan, the presidential nominees of the two major parties were known, and the smart money was on a Clinton victory…You have worked immensely hard on this piece, and it is a great musical accomplishment…I would prefer not to cancel our performances of it,” the conductor of the Pomona College Orchestra stated in an e-mail to the orchestra. “But I understand that some of you may have serious reservations, especially in the wake of Tuesday’s results, about appearing to embrace a narrative that presents women as objects to be pursued by wealthy males who can get away with it. And I need you to know that I respect those reservations…I extend to each of you the invitation to opt out of our performances of Don Juan.”

“The character of Don Juan was introduced in 1630 Spanish stage work. It was intended as a satirical morality play, the lesson being that, no matter how hedonistically one might live one’s life, sins must be atoned for at the end,” the email continues. “Don Juan is what we would charitably refer to as a ‘womanizer,’ and that with clearer vision we would identify as a sexual predator,” the e-mail states, adding that “the question of how to engage art that has a troubling backstory is always complicated.”

The e-mail added that the orchestra “will try to find guests to fill in any holes that get created…Assuming we still have enough of an orchestra to present the piece, the show will go on.”

Ultimately, no member of the orchestra chose to drop out of the performance, according to an e-mail update.  “I enjoy the music of Don Juan purely for its musical value rather than its programmatic inspiration,” stated a member of the orchestra in a message to the Independent.

The concert set featuring Don Juan will take place on Friday, November 18th and Sunday, November 20th at Pomona College’s Bridges Hall of Music. The Pomona College Orchestra consists of students and faculty of the Claremont Colleges as well as members of the community.

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Image: Flickr

After the Election: Trump, Clinton, and the Death of Dialogue

No matter which candidate wins tonight’s presidential election, the American people have already lost. This isn’t because both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump are poor choices; as I have written before, I think Secretary Clinton would make an excellent president. Rather, the American people are losing because we’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other

It is easier than ever today to entomb oneself in an echo chamber. Schools today are more homogeneous than ever, social media allows for the selective consumption of news, and political gerrymandering has created an environment in which likeminded individuals are lumped together in the same congressional district. In our society, there are now far fewer places in which dialogue between differently minded groups can occur and our dysfunctional schools, bottom-line-focused media, and politically drawn legislative districts exacerbate this trend. Trump supporters and Clinton supporters no longer have access to fora in which they can communicate with each other; instead Trump supporters instinctively distrust all things Clinton and Clinton supporters condescend to all things Trump, including his supporters. Have you recently had a respectful conversation with someone who supports a candidate other than your own? American politics has always been rancorous, but this death of dialogue has created a new level of polarization.

Polarization has also gridlocked our legislature—the most recently completed 113th Congress was the second-least productive in history, second only to the 112th Congress. And as our legislative branch has been crippled, the presidency has been endowed with unprecedented levels of power. The president can now effectively unilaterally declare war thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), can effectively enact treaties with a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than having to cobble together a supermajority thanks to the rise and acceptance of so-called congressional-executive agreements, and can wantonly choose which laws to enforce due to lax applications of the Constitution’s Take Care Clause.

This inflation of presidential powers has only served to further exacerbate the polarization in the country. Suddenly, a President Trump could by himself decide to send troops into Syria thanks to the AUMF or withdraw from NAFTA without congressional approval since it’s a congressional-executive agreement and not a treaty. A President Clinton could decide to cease all deportation immediately now that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause is no longer enforced. With so much power endowed to one individual, voters can no longer risk listening to and electing someone who doesn’t share their party line.

So how can this polarization be overcome? The only way forward is to repair basic American institutions so that they promote dialogue between those of differing views. First, colleges should try to enroll politically diverse student bodies and actively promote civic discussion among them, not focus all of their attention onto the proliferation of safe spaces. As a liberal college student myself, I was drawn to write for this publication because of the diversity of political and social views that are professed in its articles and the dialogue it fosters on campus, despite the fact that said dialogue can get rather heated at times. The drawing of electoral districts should be delegated to independent committees. Social media should change their algorithms so that users aren’t just fed articles with which they already agree. And people should reflect on the tone of this election and think about how they could have made it just a little less nasty through proactive engagement. Once this occurs, polarization will return to previous levels, the legislature will once again become vibrant and again become a check on the executive office, which will in turn serve to further decrease polarization as presidential elections become less important and thus less nasty. We didn’t accomplish this in time for this election cycle, but hopefully the sheer vitriol of this race will serve as a wakeup call before the next one.

The Clinton Emails You Haven’t Heard About

Hillary Clinton’s emails have been a thorough topic of debate, but the information that has been made readily public is only a small part of the scandal. Many people simply assume that the only topics of interest in her emails are Benghazi and corporate interests, but the emails contain far more secrets that were hidden until Julian Assange released troves of previously submerged documents with massive implications.

First off, Morocco contributed 12 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation and her campaign. Huma Abedin in 2014 disclosed, “The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months.” This quotation taken directly from the emails draws a clear connection between the two, but Politico later reported that while $1 million can be directly traced, the Clinton Foundation has refused to release reports on the other $11 million given for largely unknown reasons. While it is true that she was not Secretary of State at the time, and that there is no direct wording within the documents that would imply she received these donations for political favors, it does raise the question as to why Morocco would generously give such a substantial sum out of the kindness of their hearts.

Initially, governmental funding of the Clintons may not sound like much, but the problem lies in emails that were sent at the beginning of 2014, where she maps out certain ISIS endowments. Specifically, the email reads, “The Governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Two days ago, Reuters confirmed that Clinton’s charity had received $1 million dollars from the government of Qatar while she was Secretary of State in exchange for a meeting with former president Bill Clinton and John Podesta. In essence, the same government that is currently funding ISIS and has been accused of countless human rights abuses has significant ties to the Clintons, starting when she was still in a major seat of power. Saudi Arabia specifically has donated between $10-25 million dollars under the proxy foundation “Friends of Saudi Arabia” since 1997. The only problem with honing these numbers down to a more specific amount is that finding the information from either the Clinton Foundation or private reports are difficult at best. The end result to take away from this is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two governments that directly support ISIS financially and logistically, have supplied millions to the Clintons and their foundation both during president Bill Clinton’s administration and during Hilary’s time as secretary of state. ISIS and the Clinton Foundation are being bankrolled by the same governments.

During Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, not only were questionable donations made, but she approved surprising arms sales between the Unites States and Saudi Arabia. Julian Assange stated, “Under Hillary Clinton, and Clinton emails reveal a significant discussion about it, the largest ever arms deal in the world was made with Saudi Arabia. More than $80 billion dollars.” Along with the $80 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, the total dollar amount of US arms sales internationally doubled during her time as secretary of state.

Besides the financial support of these Middle Eastern governments, some speculation on the word “logistics” used in Clinton’s emails could imply that guns sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States could have been in turn given to ISIS by Saudi Arabia. While there is admittedly no proof of this, it is curious how a state with as small of a military as Saudi Arabia could make use of $80 billion dollars of US arms on their own. While Hillary Clinton may have only been a part of all these backroom dealings that the American public has been largely kept in the dark on, it must be noted that she has played an instrumental role in the massive sales of munitions between the United States and certain Middle Eastern governments.

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Image: Flickr

Should I Vote?

When the two most popular candidates are as disliked as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it becomes difficult to decide whether or not to vote. Our more ardent friends tell us that voting is a constitutional obligation. They say that it stands for all the people who died for our right to vote, but neglect to say that you ought to vote for your values. Voting for one’s values has been the way that America has operated for generations. This can be seen in the election of 1912, with Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Eugene V. Debbs, and Theodore Roosevelt. The election held four parties: democratic, republican, socialist, and the progressive party, and each one adequately represented a different sector of the voting base. The democrats with Woodrow Wilson took just over 41% of the popular vote, but won by a landslide in the electoral college due to the diverse options that the American people were given. Even the most removed candidate, Eugene V. Debbs with the socialist party, received 6% of the popular vote, which is more than what Gary Johnson is currently polling nationwide.

If the candidate does not represent you, why should you vote for them? Recently, the question has changed from “Who should I vote for?” and has become “Who should I vote against?” With the assistance of party-line voters, more elections are being decided on the lesser of two evils rather than a popularly appealing candidate. This consequentialist mindset can be extremely dangerous. On one hand, it allows an individual to assess the “greatest good,” but it also reduces the possibility for change. Third party candidates are at the mercy of party-line voters, who make up such a strong majority of the voting population that the candidate on the outside has to fight against the predisposition to vote for whichever party the voter is affiliated with. Specifically, the fear that the more radical and ignoble side will win. This encourages a false dichotomy that forces the potentially interested voter to act out of fear of the opponent rather than out of an interest in improving the country because the chances of a third party candidate are almost entirely ruined by party-line voting.

The other major problem with consequentialism is that it devalues individuals’ ideals. In the 1964 election, voters overwhelmingly voted for Lyndon B. Johnson not because they particularly liked him or agreed with his values, but rather because Barry Goldwater was so extreme and bigoted that no one wanted to be associated with his name. The electoral vote was a landslide, with 486 for Johnson and 52 for Goldwater. This doctrine places the consequence of the election above what the individual actually desires. Voters may be forced to compromise their values in favor of a net beneficial effect. Further, when compromise is made, internal party reform becomes challenging. If the individual concedes on topics that may be critical to them, they will have to accept whatever outcome they receive regardless of their ideals. The consequences of these outcomes inevitably degrade the voter’s values. At some point, they may sacrifice enough of their morals that they do not even know their own values anymore. When they come to the point where their moral inconsistency is acceptable, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the opposition they find so heinous.

The conclusion of this argument implies that you should only vote to your values and disregard the consequences, but there are major problems that follow with this train of thought as well, which lie in the neglect of the consequences. This may sound odd given the problems with solely valuing the consequences, but entirely disregarding them can also be problematic. While stating that no compromises can be made does solve the problem of internal value degradation, it implies that if a candidate does not fulfill every last one of your values, then they are not worth voting for. This can lead to an outcome where extremely harmful and disadvantageous political candidates are able to win because their values resonated with the largest group of voters, even though their supporters may be a national minority. For example, if only a tenth of the population held the same set of extreme values, and the remainder of the population held differing moderate positions, then a candidate who represents the smaller portion could win if the remaining eligible voters abdicated their vote because they did not connect enough with a representative. This can lead to harmful long-term effects on the nation as a whole, as the candidate who held the values of that decile of the population now holds the power of the nation.

The final option between values and consequences lies in compromise. Someone can understand that consequences are important but also take into account that they need to consider their values. The difficulty here is finding the proper balance between these ideals. From voter to voter they will be different, and perhaps they will even be indescribable, but as long as people understand that a proper vote requires consideration of both of these things, then perhaps we could have a viable election that balances the ideals of the people. When answering the question, “should I vote?” only the voter can decide by weighing their values against the dangers of the opposition.

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Image: Flickr

The Only Part of Last Night’s Debate You Need to See

Yesterday’s debate featured exactly the Trumpian performance we’ve come to expect: the Donald’s signature one-two punch of incoherence and lies, paired with enough bizarre non sequiturs—“I have a son who’s 10, he’s so good with computers,” anyone?—so as to border on the surreal.

With such a ‘bigly’ amount of sheer ineptitude, however, genuinely important debate moments are being forgotten. It’s easy to miss the insanity buried amidst the absurd, the moments such as when Trump accused Clinton of fighting for her entire 68 years of life against an organization started in 2004. But one of Trump’s less provocative monologues contains the most substantive policy revelation of the debate. It is a microcosm of the debate as a whole; if you don’t have the time to watch the full debate, all you need to do to understand Round One of Trump v. Clinton is to read this three-paragraph transcript of the Republican nominee’s response to the following question from moderator Lester Holt: “On nuclear weapons, President Obama reportedly considered changing the nation’s longstanding policy on first use. Do you support the current policy?”

The first paragraph seems innocuous at first: “Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, she’s very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their—they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not—we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.”

Did you catch it? After Trump’s vague comments on Secretary Clinton, after Trump’s incorrect statement on Russia’s military capabilities, after Trump’s rambling anecdote about B-52s? The part where Trump says he was in favor of a policy that the U.S. has not endorsed throughout the over 70 years in which nuclear weapons have been existent?  Yes, right there at the end, Donald Trump states that he would never use nuclear weapons unless another country had already done so–a policy change that President Obama recently declined to enact, could signal American weakness, and of which Mr. Trump had previously spoken negatively. But in the next section, surely Mr. Trump must explain the rationale for his about face!

Nope.

“I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.”

Trump tries to explain his reasoning, but what he says is so vague as to defy interpretation. What exactly is this “nuclear alternative” of which he speaks? When he says he “can’t take anything off the table,” is he referring to the nuclear first strike policy he renounced seconds earlier?

What’s frightening about these two passages is what’s frightening about Trump and is emblematic of his performance in this debate. Trump tends to take fringe policy positions, and then indemnify himself from risk by making vague or contradictory statements so that he can change his narrative to fit the political mood du jour. This way, if his answer here is brought up in a critical way, he’ll use the hemming and hawing that immediately followed his answer to justify whatever flip-flop he deems to be politically expedient. Or alternatively, Trump just gave the first answer that came to mind and then equivocated to fill his time because he didn’t actually understand the question asked of him.

Oh, I almost forgot the third paragraph I mentioned; that’s actually just the sentence that immediately follows from where we left Mr. Trump. “And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal.”

This passage is the scariest for hardcore Trump supporters. With their anti-immigrant sentiments, one can but wonder how they could ever bring themselves to vote for a candidate who can’t speak English.

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Image: Flickr

 

 

 

Ted Cruz is Not An ‘American Hero’

In his speech to the Republican National Convention, Texas Senator Ted Cruz delivered a much-needed refresher course on his party’s values: liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and the right of citizens to keep more of what they earn. And yet, after he outlined the reasons why a Republican needs to win, Cruz declined to support his party’s nominee, declaring that Republicans should “vote their consciences” in November rather than throw their support to Donald J. Trump. His statement was met with the deafening boos of an arena full of grassroots conservatives. Cruz’s words were not meant to encourage the GOP to support Trump in November; they were a betrayal, a clear nod to the failed #NeverTrump movement.

Sticking to your principles is admirable. Not endorsing someone who violates them also deserves praise. But refusing to endorse the nominee in a prime time speech at the convention looked petty. If Cruz did not wish to compromise his principles, he should have stayed home—like several of his fellow ex-candidates—and accepted the consequences of remaining on the sidelines.

The problem is, Cruz’s reasons for not endorsing Donald Trump were unrelated to principle. In an address the next morning to the dismayed Texas delegation, Cruz defended his non-endorsement by saying that he is “not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.” This argument—legitimate though it may be—cheapened Cruz’s statement of principle the previous night.

Ted Cruz’s convention speech was drafted out of personal pique, not out of fidelity to principle. Failing to endorse the nominee because of a personal insult completely undermines Cruz’s claim that his dedication to conservative principles—principles which Trump will better serve as commander-in-chief than will Clinton—is what is stopping him from endorsing Trump’s candidacy.

Trump should have apologized for the ridiculous things he said about Cruz and his family during the primaries. But Cruz should have moved past the personal insults for the sake of party unity. Cruz’s critique of Hillary Clinton —and his affirmation of conservative principles—was compelling enough to justify an endorsement of just about any Republican, even Donald Trump.

Furthermore, Cruz’s action worked to undermine any long term benefit Cruz might have gotten by putting principle above party. Betting that Trump will either lose or be a failed one-term president, Cruz was trying to set himself up for a 2020 run, just as Ronald Reagan did following his loss of the nomination to President Gerald Ford at the brokered convention of 1976.

The key difference between these two situations is that Cruz did not lose at the convention, and the image of party unity is important—it’s the main reason the leadership tries to avoid brokered conventions in general. So Cruz, not possessing the same precedent (or charm) as Ronald Reagan, outed himself as a political opportunist. As Charles Krauthammer put it, “What Cruz delivered was the longest suicide note in American political history.”

Already, there are rumors of primary challenges ahead for Cruz. On Tuesday, Joaquin Castro, one of the liberal Castro brothers, announced that he would be looking to run for Cruz’s seat. Donors angry about Cruz’s self-serving stand at the convention may not be willing to step in to help him dispatch these threats.

The delegates, the Trump campaign, and the RNC were livid with Cruz’s performance, but the #NeverTrumpers were thrilled. The D.C. insiders and intellectuals who find Trump unacceptable hailed Cruz as an “American Hero.” Leaders of the movement tweeted their approval and offered to back him in a third party run.

Those leaders had their chance to support him, of course, when he was in second place against Trump, and their support could have led to a different outcome. But he was ‘too religious’ or otherwise unattractive for them when it mattered. People who had never even considered voting for Cruz in the primary suddenly applauded his “principled” stand against Trump and the GOP establishment.

Cruz came off as a sore loser, not a statesman. By allowing his animosity toward Trump to guide his convention address, the Texas senator sold his party short—and his career even shorter.

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Image: Flickr

Was Colorado Rigged?

In an opinion editorial published in this morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump unleashes a blistering critique of the presidential nomination process, excoriating the party establishment for “defending a system that for decades has served the interest of political parties at the expense of the people.” The editorial embodies the anti-establishment flavor of Mr. Trump’s campaign as it rails against a “rigged delegate-selection process” while pledging to seek future reforms which maximize “transparency,” “representation,” and “voter participation” in the GOP’s nomination procedures.

Mr. Trump’s words come on the heels of a major setback for him in Colorado’s caucuses last weekend, where Senator Ted Cruz swept every delegate and affirmed the superiority of his well-organized national campaign. The massive loss was full of blunders for the Trump campaign, which printed a delegate slate full of errors and misdirected the votes of many Trump supporters at the state convention. But for Mr. Trump, poor preparation had little to do with his loss. On Monday, the New York businessman took to Twitter to air his grievances, calling the Colorado caucus process “totally unfair” and accusing Ted Cruz of bribing delegates with “all sorts of goodies” in order to gain an advantage.1 In Mr. Trump’s estimation, the corrupt election system dominated by party elites—not his own campaign team’s failure to understand and organize for the Colorado caucus process—should bear the blame for his poor showing there.

To evaluate this claim, I will examine the Colorado caucus process in the context of Mr. Trump’s complaints, focusing upon the history and the political justifications which undergird the changes made to the Colorado process last year.

 

The recent history of the Colorado caucuses

The establishment wins in 2012

In 2012, former Republican senator Rick Santorum won the Colorado caucuses, defeating Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was the preferred candidate of the so-called “party establishment,” by nearly six points. Mr. Santorum’s victory came as a surprise, particularly in light of the fact that Mr. Romney had won the state’s caucuses handily back in 2008 with over three-fifths of the vote.

Yet when it came time for Colorado’s delegates to cast their ballots in the 2012 Republican National Convention, not a single vote was cast for Mr. Santorum. Instead, because the delegates selected for the national convention were not bound by the vote in the precinct caucuses, Mitt Romney received the support of most of the state’s delegation, while the others simply refused to participate. Many party activists and grassroots conservatives in Colorado felt betrayed by this sleight-of-hand, which they viewed as an effort by the Republican Party establishment to force its candidate of choice onto the voters.

Taking back control in 2016

With the rise of Jeb Bush in the early moments of the presidential primary process last year, Republican Party grassroots activists in Colorado became deeply concerned. As the National Review recalled early this week, many conservatives were worried about a repeat of 2012, where Colorado’s state delegation was press-ganged into supporting Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention. At the same time, a binding straw poll—though an improvement over the non-binding presidential preference vote which permitted Mr. Romney to win a delegate majority in spite of losing the state—would favor a well-funded establishment candidate, who could simply spend a few million dollars in the state to buy up advertising and build a traditional ground campaign in lieu of actually investing time and energy to reach out to grassroots conservatives.

For these reasons, party activists pushed for the abandonment of the precinct straw poll in favor of the direct election of delegates by voters in precinct caucuses, a move which gave Republicans the opportunity to elect grassroots conservatives in their communities as delegates to the county caucuses. These county caucuses would then choose delegates for the congressional-district and state assemblies, at which the final delegates for the national convention would be chosen. Unlike in 2012, all of the delegates selected for the national convention are bound to the presidential candidate for whom they have stated a preference, and each delegate’s preference is known to the caucus assemblies prior to the final vote.

The net effect of creating this complex system is two-fold. First, the elimination of the precinct straw poll, which enabled Coloradans to cast a vote for the presidential candidate of their preference, in favor of precinct caucus elections of county delegates ensures that passionate grassroots conservatives, rather than representatives of the best-funded campaign organization, would be favored for election as delegates to the county, state, and congressional-district assemblies. Had such a system existed back in 2012, Rick Santorum likely would have won significant majorities among the county convention delegations, which then could have assured him at least a majority of the state’s delegation at the Republican National Convention.

Second, by binding the delegates to the presidential candidate of their preference at the conclusion of this lengthy process, the state party rules safeguard against efforts by an establishment candidate to woo the state’s delegates and subvert the will of the conservative grassroots activists who participated in the precinct caucuses and organized for the candidate who best represents their views.

 

Evaluating Trump’s claims about Colorado

 Claim #1: “[T]he people of Colorado were not able to cast their ballots to say which nominee they preferred.”

Mr. Trump’s careful wording here is technically correct. Because the presidential preference poll was abandoned, Republican voters in Colorado could not vote for any of the presidential candidates by name.

That said, the alternative was not, as Mr. Trump seems to imply, the coronation of Mr. Cruz by Republican party elites. Though there was no presidential preference poll, Colorado voters participated in precinct caucuses to directly elect delegates—each of whom expressed a particular candidate preference—to the county assemblies, which in turn chose the makeup of the congressional-district and state conventions which would select the official national convention delegates. Therefore, in practice, the Colorado caucuses did permit voters to cast ballots for the nominee of their preference through the direct election of county delegates.

Claim #2: The delegate selection process in Colorado was “rigged” and “totally unfair.”

Complicated, perhaps. Rigged? Not at all.

The rules of the GOP Colorado caucuses are readily available online. Though they are complex, they are not difficult to grasp, and the rules clearly state how the process operates. And with respect to fairness, the mechanics of the caucuses were completely aboveboard. The vigorous debate within the state party last August about dealing away with the presidential preference poll occurred in full view of the public and culminated in a unanimous decision from the Colorado Republican Party’s executive committee to change the process to its current form. Mr. Trump had just as much time as all of the other candidates to prepare a campaign strategy that would succeed, and he was more than capable of posting a decent showing there had he made an effort to organize in the state. But no such effort was expended, and Mr. Trump lost.

Is there a better alternative to the current system?

Turning from Donald Trump’s specific criticisms of the Colorado caucuses, I wonder what sort of primary election process he would propose to replace the unrepresentative and opaque system which he claims we have now.

Mr. Trump appears to desire a simpler system which rewards candidates by proportion to their support in presidential preference elections. If a candidate has “by far the most delegates and many millions more votes than anyone else,” as the businessman tweeted last Friday, he or she should no longer have to “fight” for the nomination. In response to a debate question on the subject last month, Mr. Trump stated that “whoever gets the most delegates should win.”

These comments seem to support the adoption of a national proportional primary system, a similar process to the one which the Democratic Party currently uses. If a candidate wins a certain percent of the vote in a proportional primary, she should receive roughly that same percentage of the delegates from her victory. This sort of system is simple and fair, and I am not opposed to it.

However, Mr. Trump’s contention that the person with only a plurality—not a majority—of the delegates should be awarded the nomination anyway sets a dangerous precedent. A fractured nomination contest with multiple contenders could permit a fringe candidate with minority support to become the party’s representative in the general election, a development which would disenfranchise a majority of the party’s members and create a scenario in which one of the fundamental obligations of the political party—to tie its representatives to a distinct philosophical framework—would be left unfulfilled. It is in these situations, where the democratic process is unable to yield a decisive majority consensus, that political party leaders are so important to have. If Mr. Trump is unable to attain a majority of delegates—or, for that matter, a majority of the popular vote—there is no opportunity to turn back the clock and retry the election until he or another candidate can convince a majority of Republican voters that he is the best choice available to them. In the absence of time travel or do-overs, the delegates at the Republican National Convention must have the ultimate say if a candidate fails to demonstrate the evidence of consensus which a majority represents.

Footnotes

  1. Trump did not substantiate this latter claim, and I was unable to find any evidence for it myself.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Super Tuesday 2.0: The fallout from the March 15th primaries

On the Republican side

Donald Trump marched to victory in four of the five Republican primaries on Tuesday, steamrolling Senator Marco Rubio on his home turf in Florida and holding back an insurgent Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri, Illinois, and North Carolina. His only loss came in Ohio, where John Kasich, the state’s popular governor, won handily. After his disappointing loss in Florida, Marco Rubio suspended his campaign, shrinking the GOP field to three candidates.

The only certainty coming out of Tuesday’s primaries is that the uncertainty of the GOP race will persist for some time. Donald Trump had a good night, but it was not quite decisive enough to make his nomination a foregone conclusion. His dominant performance in Florida, though bringing him 99 delegates closer to winning the nomination outright, also pushed Marco Rubio out of the race and strengthened Mr. Trump’s opponents. According to a new national poll by Morning Consult, nearly half of Rubio supporters back Mr. Cruz as their second-choice candidate, while just one in eight view the Donald as their best alternative. A little more than a quarter would support John Kasich. Taken in the context of Trump’s razor-thin margins of victory in Missouri and North Carolina, where he won by 0.2 percent and 4 percent respectively, these numbers indicate that Mr. Rubio’s political demise may compromise Donald Trump in the long run, giving just enough strength to Cruz and Kasich to mount serious challenges to Mr. Trump in critical states like Arizona, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Though posting strong performances in all of Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump failed once again to demonstrate his ability to expand his appeal beyond his narrow, impassioned core group of supporters. Though he did manage to exceed his average vote share from the previous contests, the New York real estate mogul was yet again unable to obtain a majority in a single state. The longer he fails to exceed the 50 percent mark in these primary races, the more time will pass before he will be able to credibly claim that he is a consensus candidate who can unite the party, and the more opportunities Messrs. Cruz and Kasich will have to topple Mr. Trump before he can clinch the Republican nomination.

Beyond Tuesday, Mr. Trump will need to win just under 60 percent of the remaining 975 delegates in order to clinch the GOP nomination. With winner-take-all and winner-take-most states dominating the rest of the primary season, his path to the nomination is realistic but far from secure. In order to clinch the nomination and avoid ejection at a contested convention, Mr. Trump will need to string together victories in several of the upcoming winner-take-all and winner-take-most primaries and overcome his narrow appeal within the Republican electorate.

 

On the Democratic side

 After a shocking defeat in Michigan on March 8th, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton redeemed herself with a dominant performance in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries. She swept every state, taking Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio by comfortable margins and fending off fierce challenges from Senator Bernie Sanders in Missouri and Illinois. Though winning the nomination is still a statistical possibility for Mr. Sanders, his performance on Tuesday has made his practical path to the nomination impossibly narrow.

Unlike the Republican Party, which permits states to award delegates on a winner-take-all or a winner-take-most basis, the Democratic Party only allows its primaries to award delegates proportionally. This feature makes late comebacks difficult, since overcoming a large delegate deficit in proportional primaries requires not only victories but also wide margins of victory, like those which Mrs. Clinton has produced throughout the South. With Clinton now leading by over 300 pledged delegates and 400 superdelegates, Mr. Sanders will be hard-pressed to come up with the massive wins he will need in order to shift the balance of the Democratic race and overtake his opponent. Barring an extraordinary change in the state of the race—such as the indictment of Mrs. Clinton over her alleged mishandling of classified documents as secretary of state—Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

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Image Source: Flickr