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Stop Whining About Delegate Selection Process

April 13, 2016

While I enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page rarely do I agree with the opinions.  But every now and then a topic will arise where there is perfect alignment when their views and mine are one.  That occurred with the editorial about Donald Trump needing to stop whining about the delegate selection process for the national convention.

I have edited their editorial to highlight the main points.   Points that are sound and perfectly stated.

As the prospect of a contested Republican presidential convention increases, so does the brawling over delegates—and the whining from the losers. If someone decides to run for President, is it too much to ask that he or his campaign managers understand the nominating rules?

The state politicians in Colorado did exactly what they are entitled to do under Republican Party rules: set up a process that allocates delegates to candidates in any way a state party sees fit.

None of this was “crooked.” Mr. Trump is claiming the process was rigged because the Colorado GOP cancelled its usual straw poll held on Super Tuesday (March 15 this year). But the state party made that decision last August because such a poll would have been binding under new national GOP rules, and the Colorado party wanted its delegates to be free to support the candidate they liked in what was then a crowded field. The decision wasn’t aimed at Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Trump hasn’t taken the time to understand how the GOP’s state parties work, and he’s now paying the price as delegates are chosen.

The larger point is that none of this is undemocratic or dishonest. A political party exists to nominate candidates to run for election with the goal of winning. Political parties are private entities independent of government and can set up the nominating process any way they want. Candidates are obliged to follow party rules, not vice versa.

This principle has been legally endorsed by no less than the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2008 opinion by the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, as our friends at the New York Sun reminded us on Monday. A reform-minded judge, Margarita Lopez-Torres, sued after she was denied a Democratic nomination to run for the New York Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia rejected her claim for a unanimous Court, writing in New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres that, “A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes, and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform.” He added that “party conventions, with their attendant ‘smoke-filled rooms’ and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates.”

All of this is worth keeping in mind if the GOP does find itself at the first contested convention since 1976. It’s democracy at work, and the candidates who want to be President should spend more timing learning the rules and less kvetching on TV.

 

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