It’s Time to Retire the National Nominating Convention

It’s 2016.  Why are we still nominating our presidential candidates the same way we did in the 19th century?

It doesn’t make any sense, yet we continue doing it.  This isn’t just a Republican or a Democratic problem – both parties nominate by convention, despite how anachronistic it is. Sure, conventions had a purpose in the days before such wondrous modern inventions of air conditioning, the internet, global instant communications, air travel and the kegerator.  Today, they are nothing more than a mess of unnecessary rules and expense designed to frustrate the will of the voters of each party to nominate who they choose without coercion or veto power from party bosses.

The prime message that has been driving the successful insurgent campaigns in both parties this year is that the system is rigged against regular Americans. Whether this is true probably depends on where you are sitting. But one thing is clear – if you want a more obvious example of where this belief is actually true, it’s in the nominating processes for each major political party.

It’s easy for people to sit back and fold their arms saying “these are the rules.” It’s also easy for those of us who want to see anybody but Donald Trump get the GOP nomination to ignore how patently ridiculous this process is because the convention and the delegate selection process is the last moat we have to keep the guys with pitchforks and torches from storming the castle. And for those who want Hillary on the Democratic side, the rules are the rules and Bernie should never have gotten this far, so nobody really cares. But in the long run, we are fundamentally harming the prospects of each party and undermining our democracy by playing these kinds of rules games. The quickest way to turn somebody who could be a potential activist off is to make them jump through hoops for nothing.

Voters are fed up.  In Colorado, the state GOP dropped their preference straw poll and awarded the entire delegation to Ted Cruz without even a primary vote. In Wyoming, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic caucuses by 12 points and will likely get the same number of delegates, and with the Democrats “superdelegates” will likely end up with more delegates there than Sanders. How does that make any rational sense?

Each state has different rules, and the only people who know them are party lawyers and rules geeks. The average voter doesn’t know or care – what he does know is that somebody is trying to screw him and his chosen candidate by playing games with the rules. Normally, it doesn’t matter, because these races are usually not this close. But like 2000, 2016’s close races in both parties are highlighting the inherent flaws in the process. 2016 turning into another year where the scales begin falling from the eyes of many who weren’t paying attention before.

Instead of the mass of arcane rules and constant conventions and caucuses that make up the modern nomination process for both parties, an easier to understand, tried and proven method exists that should be employed instead.

Look at the electoral college. Each state votes, the top vote-getter wins the electoral votes for that state. The first to get to 270 wins the nomination. Given that this only tends to work in races where there’s two nominees, each state should have a runoff system, one that reduces the number of candidates until somebody gets to 50%. You can run the first round in January and February, with runoffs set for March and April. By May, everybody knows who the nominee is and this nonsense doesn’t need to drag on and on.

This makes everything more fair, focuses time and resources on the same states they will need to move to win in November, and allows for less game playing and rules rigging than currently exists in both parties.

The base of both parties is tired of elites rigging the system for their preferred candidates. To solve it, take the reins out of the hands of the party bosses and put them back in the hands of voters. Get rid of the convention process. Run primary elections in every state, two elections at most, both parties at the same time, and stop with this antiquated nonsense.

A brokered convention is the best chance for the GOP to avoid Donald Trump, but it will come at the price of permanently hamstringing the party. If we are going to go this route, it is critical that we repair the breach afterwards with some serious reform. The same for the Democrats.

It is long past time to retire the national nominating convention. There are better ways to pick a president than this.


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