as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Friday, March 25, 2016
By TOM HENRY
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.” — George Washington in his Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
Historically American voters have almost blindly followed and supported candidates from one political party or the other without examining their stand on the issues or their party’s platform. Also, with the Republican and Democratic Parties being deeply divided and with voters being woefully uneducated on the issues, elections honestly have become nothing more than beauty contests manipulated by selectively edited sound bites and subliminal propaganda. Therefore, in the words of Washington, “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men” have been “enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”
Washington, the father of our country, clearly was a wise man. He ascended to the Presidency as the one man that could unite a much divided nascent nation. He masterfully stood astride most divisions…even within his own cabinet. He knew the tendency of men to conquer by dividing. He also perceived the building Federalist and Anti-Federalist split. He witnessed first-hand the maneuverings and rivalry of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams (both Federalists) and Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican). He recognized that once he left the Presidency, the real test would be whether the two factions could come to a peaceful Constitutional solution or split the infant nation in two. It was not a foregone conclusion at the time.
Wisdom sees into the future, and often people make prophetic utterances without even knowing it. Washington was surely speaking to the politics of his day, but he is also clearly speaking to us today.
Time for a civics lesson. Most people believe that when they vote in a party primary, that it is just like voting in a general election and the one with the most votes wins. It’s more complicated than that. The government counts the votes, but what happens as a result is entirely up to the parties. Essentially, it is the party, not the general public, that nominates a candidate. Therefore, party rules must be followed in order to secure the nomination. The one with the most delegates must get 50 percent plus one. Simply having a plurality (the most delegates) is not enough. If the deliberate threshold is not attained, then the parties hold a “brokered convention.”
During a “brokered convention” the delegates are obligated by law to vote on the first ballot (in most but not all states) according to how their state’s voters voted. However, if the threshold is not attained, then party delegates hold a second ballot. That is when deals get made. For example a candidate like John Kasich could make a deal, “pledging” all his delegates to the front runner and putting that candidate over the threshold in return for being selected as the vice presidential candidate. Any number of other deals can be made as well, including on the party platform.
At some point, others might emerge that didn’t even campaign before the people. That was acceptable in a day when no candidates publicly campaigned, but it is not acceptable today — legal but not acceptable. Some candidates, like Hillary Clinton, are anointed by party bosses before the process even begins. No serious opponent even entered the race for the Democratic nomination. Some nominees are chosen in the metaphorical “smoke filled back rooms” of power while the campaign is in process. That is what is happening right now in the Republican Party.
Party insiders have flipped and flopped numerous times (via endorsements and robo calls) in an attempt to secure the nomination for an “establishment” candidate. Honestly, neither Ted Cruz nor Donald Trump are establishment candidates. But the establishment, including John Kasich, are attempting to orchestrate a scenario where they can select a bought and paid for establishment candidate in a brokered convention.
So what is the solution to this? Though legal, the way to end this is twofold: first, Kasich should drop out of the race so that his supporters can rally behind a candidate before the convention and secondly, voters should, in the future, force the process to be all about issues and less about media propaganda. Locally, Arkansas can pass legislation that requires our delegates from any party to be required to vote according to our actual election results throughout all party nomination ballots. Other states have done so.
Like the mythical Washington that could not tell a lie, I must not either. Increasingly our Republic is facing incredible constitutional threats almost on a weekly basis…we must remain vigilant and fight when we see these things happen. Power is supposed to lie with the voters, but increasingly it is held by an invisible oligarchy of media network owners, party bosses, large financial interests and corrupt politicians. E Pluribus Unum!