The Inconvenient Reality of the Democratic Process

Volume 11, Issue 34


Democratic National Convention


Republican National Convention

The American public continues to reflect apprehension in reference to the future of the country. This misgiving, first demonstrated as an almost universal distrust of national government and institutions, has extended to the election process. Recent survey research conducted by NBC News found that 83% of voters are fearful that democracy cannot handle an election wherein a former President and candidate has been indicted for federal crimes. They further indicate that, even though 50% believe it is possible that former President Trump is guilty of some crime, only 17% believe that the Department of Justice is acting in good faith and is fairly prosecuting the former president. What is meant by the opinion given that democracy is in peril by not being able to handle an election is the failed national confidence that the general population will not accept the compromise of the ballot box rendered from historic election process. Where might relief from this anxiety present itself?
It will not be from the Republican or Democratic National Convention. 
Political parties nominate their candidate for President of the United States at a national convention comprised of delegates from each state. Delegate votes are allocated partly by state population and partly by state party loyalty. The classic axiom of one man, one vote is not the ruling principle. For example, Texas with 28.9 million people will have 228 pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention. New York with only 19.5 million people will have 274 pledged delegates. Similarly, at the Republican National Convention, Ohio with a population of 11.7 million people will have 82 delegates compared to Pennsylvania with a population of 12.8 million will have just 34 delegates.
A pledged delegate is required on the first ballot to vote the will of the people from their state as tabulated in the primary. After the first ballot, they are released to vote for whomever they choose. In addition to pledged delegates, both parties appoint super delegates. These delegates are not bound by any stipulation to vote for a certain candidate. Super delegates emerged in the party process following the 1972 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Establishment Democrats believed that outside radicals had overrun their party and were determined that that would never happen again. Initially super delegates represented approximately 30% of the total convention vote. Under criticism for not recognizing primary voters’ intent, party leaders were forced to amend the rules from election to election to account for the democratic preference for pledged delegates. 
The rules have not been finalized by either party for their upcoming national conventions in 2024. Currently, all elected Democratic Members of Congress, along with certain union leaders, party officials, party donors, and special interest representatives are automatically designated as super delegates. In 2020, these delegates were not allowed to vote on the first ballot. This has not been absolutely determined and finalized for the 2024 convention. Super delegates as constituted are approximately 15-20% of the total delegate vote. 
Currently, Republican elected Members of Congress are not automatically designated as super delegates. They must apply through their state parties and attend the convention as pledged delegates. Certain party officials are automatically appointed super delegates representing approximately 5-7% of the collective delegate vote. They have never been allowed to vote on the first ballot. 
A brokered, contested, or open convention occurs when no candidate is able to secure the majority of the votes on the first ballot. Delegates are then released to vote for any candidate of their choice. Each party has its own established protocol for conducting successive ballot counts. In an open convention, new nominations can be submitted from the floor allowing for non-primary candidates to be considered for nomination. Super delegates, along with party officials, have great influence in maneuvering the convention selection process.
Pledged delegates to the national convention are appointed or elected by local state parties. Traditionally, being a delegate is a perk for party workers and loyal activists. If all they do is vote for a candidate who has won their state primary, the official action is ceremonial. However, on the second ballot, they are representing the people of the United States.
It was George Washington’s desire for and admonition to his country that political parties never gain undue influence. He worried about special interests that did not have the best intent for the unifying aspects of American citizenship. In the late 18th century, nominees for President were selected through caucuses by Members of Congress. As these caucuses became more complicated, parties emerged as organizing influencers. The first national party convention was held in 1831 by the Anti-Masons, a minority party. Within a year, both the Whigs and the Democratic Parties held national conventions.
The last Republican brokered convention was in 1948 nominating Thomas Dewey on the 3rd ballot. The last brokered convention for the Democrats was in 1952 nominating Adlai Stevenson on the 3rd ballot. Stevenson had earned fewer pledged delegates than Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver in the primaries.
The public is digging in their heels on rejection of both front-runners projected to win the Democratic and Republican nominations. Consistently 65% of all voters have stated they do not want either President Biden or former President Trump to be the next President of the United States. Recently, this rejection has escalated for President Biden. Now, 77% say they won’t consider him under any circumstances. On the same question, 49% say they will not consider former President Trump under any circumstances. The problem for President Biden is personal. He is simply deemed to be too old. There is nothing he can do to change that. President Trump is considered corrupt, dishonest, and untrustworthy. However, there is something he can do about that. This rejection intensity gap between President Biden and President Trump is 28% in Trump’s favor. It comes into play if there is an international crisis or economic disturbance at the time of the election. The more fearful people are for their future, the more likely they are to vote for a leader who is not only decisive, but capable of making logical decisions.
For President Trump to be dead even with President Biden in the general election polls means that Independents are splitting 60-40 in Trump’s favor. The Democratic grassroots may rise up and demand another candidate. If so, this could be the first brokered convention of the Democratic National Committee in 72 years. If former President Trump is compromised by being forced into trial prior to the Republican Convention, the Republican grassroots may demand an alternative. Republicans are presenting a spirited primary season with over eight viable candidates. This too could presage a brokered convention. 
The inconvenient reality of the democratic process is that national conventions operating under Byzantine rules of order incorporating super delegates and special interests may select candidates positioned to enhance party power rather than the personal desires for government policy demanded by the American people. 
If political leaders continue to arrogantly scorn the will of the people, the people may have no choice but to support a third party candidate that is surely to emerge. Democracy is like life. It finds a way…
And when it comes to the democratic process, the American people have always found a way to exercise their collective wisdom and will.
My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?