On Monday, March 23, 2015, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) became the first to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, foretelling a merciful end to the Obama era… what history is certain to record as the low-point in American history. Before all was said and done, an unwieldy field of sixteen additional Republicans would announce their intention to seek their party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
After many months of primary campaigning, and after subjecting the American people to an embarrassing series of “debates,” more closely resembling no-holds-barred mud-wrestling contests than grown-up discourse, the Republican field narrowed from seventeen candidates to just two… Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the long and bitter primary battle, punctuated by unruly and self-serving debate rhetoric, caused the most able and competent candidates to be sidelined.
While Donald Trump initially ranked among the top candidates, primarily on the strength of his assurance that he could run the country as well as he runs his own multi-billion dollar business empire, his performance in the debates and on the campaign trail created an unseemly spectacle unmatched in American political history. His lack of knowledge of the political process, his lack of knowledge of the issues, and his constant resort to the sort of name-calling most often heard on grammar school playgrounds, quickly turned the contest into a mudslinging embarrassment. His unmitigated arrogance, his boorishness, his apparent ignorance of Republican principles, his complete lack of an identifiable value system, and his total lack of good manners and graciousness, whether in victory or in defeat, is unparalleled in U.S. political history.
But now that Trump’s has become the presumptive Republican nominee, nowhere has his ignorance of the political process been more evident than in his response to Sen. Ted Cruz’s ability to win large numbers of delegate votes in non-primary states… in particular, his childish response to Cruz’s success in winning all 34 of Colorado’s delegate votes.
If Trump and his advisors had even the slightest familiarity with the intricacies of the nominating process from state to state, they would have known that some states have chosen to have closed primaries, in which partisans are limited to deciding among candidates only of their own party. They would have known that the citizens of other states have chosen to have open primaries, in which voters are allowed to cross party lines and vote in opposition party primaries. And they would have known that other states, such as Colorado, have chosen to manage their affairs through the caucus/convention system. It’s up to the people to decide.
Upon learning that Senator Cruz had captured all 34 of Colorado’s delegates, Trump is quoted as saying, “I’ve gotten millions of more votes than Cruz, and I’ve gotten hundreds of delegates more, and we keep fighting, fighting, fighting, and then you have a Colorado where they just get all these delegates, and it’s not (even) a system. There was no voting. I didn’t go out there to make a speech or anything. There’s no voting.”
He went on to say, “They offer them trips… they offer them all sorts of things, and you’re allowed to do that. I mean, you’re allowed to offer trips and you can buy all these votes. What kind of system is this? Now, I’m an outsider and I came into the system and I’m winning the votes by millions of votes. But the system is rigged. It’s crooked.” Referring to the Colorado result as “totally unfair,” he later tweeted, “How is it possible that the people of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican primary?”
The people of Colorado, especially those party activists who’ve elected the state’s 34 delegates, would be quite surprised and angered to learn that Donald Trump considers them to be the sort of people who are motivated not by principle, but by “what’s in it for them,” and that the system they’ve devised to elect national convention delegates is “rigged,” “crooked,” or “unfair.”
What Trump apparently fails to understand is that, while he was having his way with politicians around the globe, buying with cash whatever governmental decisions he couldn’t win by simple persuasion, millions of other Americans were doing whatever they could to further the interests of their country, their community, and their party. Millions of concerned Americans were serving as party precinct chairmen, as county chairmen, and as state committeemen. Millions of others spent their evenings licking envelopes, putting up yard signs, and distributing campaign literature door-to-door. Many others spent much of their spare time recruiting good people to run for public office, chairing or participating in precinct meetings and caucuses, or serving as delegates to county, district, state, and national political conventions… all at their own expense.
Such people are the backbone of the political process and it is they who are in the best position to match their party’s principles with the best possible candidates. And it is they who have earned the right to decide who are the most knowledgeable and deserving partisans to represent their county, state, or congressional district in the U.S. Electoral College and at county state, and national conventions. But when Trump and others criticized the list of candidates for national convention delegate slots listed on the Colorado GOP ballot… complaining that no one knew who those candidates were or who they supported… they simply did not understand that the citizens of Colorado who performed all of the party function listed above knew who they were. If some Republicans in Colorado were unfamiliar with the candidates for national convention delegate, it could only be because they were not in the political arena, doing their part.
Those of us who’ve been sharing in those responsibilities for many years have learned the value of the caucus/convention system in which the planks of party platforms are generated at the local precinct level, from where they eventually become planks in state and national party platforms, and where delegates are elected to represent local party units at the state and national level. We learned that the caucus/convention system that Donald Trump apparently fails to appreciate is in many ways far preferable to the primary system in which our most apolitical friends and neighbors… often members of the opposition party… make their uninformed voting booth decisions from nothing more than watching dozens or hundreds of 30-second TV ads.
Trump is quoted as saying that he “doesn’t care about rules.” If the rules of the Republican Party require 1,237 votes for nomination at the quadrennial nominating convention, he apparently felt that that rule didn’t apply to him. If he was to arrive at the national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with less than a majority of the pledged delegates, that was good enough for him… so long as his vote total was more than whoever is in second place.
As Trump apparently sees things, as in horseshoes and hand grenades, close is good enough. However, unlike the rules for horseshoes and hand grenades, close is not good enough in politics. A majority is a majority, and that means at least fifty percent, plus one. The party rules will not change to benefit Trump’s inflated ego.
In a recent interview following the Colorado Republican convention, Trump insisted with great bravado that, like Ted Cruz, he “could have gone to Colorado.” He insisted that he could have met with the “head guy” out there (presumably the chairman of the Colorado Republican State Committee). He expressed the conviction that, had he been given the opportunity to “wine and dine” the guy, he could have won his share, if not all of the Colorado delegate votes.
In other words, what Trump was saying is that all he needs in order to have his way in this world is a pen and a checkbook. With those two things in hand, he can accomplish whatever he has in mind. But it doesn’t work that way in grassroots Republican politics where honesty and integrity are the coin of the realm. What Trump has done is to question the integrity of nearly every Republican in the states of Colorado and Wyoming, as well as in dozens of other states.
What GOP establishment candidates totally ignore is the fact that Americans, in general, and conservatives and Republicans in particular, have been yearning for nearly thirty years for a presidential candidate with the courage to “tell it like it is.” They’ve longed for a conservative willing to take on the mainstream media, bare-knuckled, a leader with enough “rough edges” on him/her to scare the crap out of liberals and Democrats, both inside and outside the mainstream media. Trump’s success, to date, tells us that he may be such a man, although he appears at times to be a bit too “rough around the edges.”
What voters need to consider as they make their voting booth decisions in November is that the candidates of both major parties are essentially irrelevant because, for the first time in U.S. history, the presidential candidates of both major parties are the opposition’s greatest assets. Since neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton have demonstrated that they are of presidential caliber, the 2016 presidential election will be the first in which the voters’ primary consideration will be, not the candidates themselves, but the kind of people… senior advisors, cabinet secretaries, judicial appointees, and agency heads… that the respective candidates will bring into government with them.
What is at stake in this election is nothing less than the future of our country as a constitutional republic, and it is a dead certainty that, if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States, the decline of this great 229 year experiment in self-government will have passed the point of no return. And since we cannot allow that to happen we have only one choice in November. Although we may not know what Donald Trump stands for or what he may attempt to do as president, our only hope is the expectation that he will bring the right kind of people into government with him. That being the case, it appears he will be the only candidate we can possibly support. And while we may never want a man such as him as a personal friend, we absolutely must elect him. GO TRUMP!!
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.