Suggestions for Fixing the Republican Party Nominating Process

I believe it goes without saying that most true conservatives and certainly the bulk of people here are Redstate (me included) are not happy about Donald Trump being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.  Although we can certainly point a finger at many culprits in his rise to power, it is important that we also make certain that another Donald Trump does not evolve in the future.

Donald Trump is not a conservative and one doubts he is even a Republican.  His rhetoric is all over the map and, at times, dangerous- a hodgepodge of ideas, policies, beliefs and solutions.  Trump is certainly populist in that regard.  And it is populism that our Founders warned us against and created safeguards in our system of government to check the worst impulses of the electorate.  It is important that as we move forward, we too make sure there are checks against a future Donald Trump.

If Trump is elected, his remaking of the Republican Party will necessitate a generational rehabilitation process for conservatism.  His view of governing is Democratic-Lite coupled with isolationism cloaked in “patriotic” language.  If he loses, we are saddled with Hillary Clinton for at least four years and an extension of the much-disliked Obama era.  There are no realistic third party options.

Part of the problem is the RNC and reform has to start there.  Whether Trump wins or not, we can assume that Reince Preibus is out as chairman.  He’ll be blamed for the loss, or he’ll be replaced by a triumphant Trump.  His hands-off policy to the nomination and tepid condemnations of Trump’s behavior and rhetoric contributed to Trump’s ascendancy.

Some of the debates, sponsored by the RNC, were a sham devoid of any serious conversation about policy and solutions to the many problems facing this Nation.  When the top talking point from a debate is the size of one’s hands or penis, there is a problem.  The RNC must exert greater control over future debates to ensure that embarrassment of the Party does not occur. Making sure every candidate gets their views out is important, not just the top 8-10 highest in the polls at any particular moment in time.  The so-called under-card debate format was too dependent on media interpretation.  Perhaps two debates over two nights with differing pools of candidates rank-ordered with top tier candidates in either debate is an option in the future.  Regardless, with so many candidates on one stage at one time, there is a greater chance for the chaos we witnessed.

There is some argument as to whether the GOP should use the primary or the caucus system.  Caucuses are traditionally low-turnout affairs and certainly to the advantage of candidates with better grassroots organization, or those considered “movement” candidates.  On the Democratic side, that was obvious as Bernie Sanders far out-performed Clinton in caucuses.  On the GOP side, Ted Cruz did better than Trump, but Trump performed admirably despite the lack of grassroots organization.  That is because they both represented a “movement;” Cruz for true principled conservatism and Trump for populism.

At first glance, one would think that the caucus would be a better check on people like Trump than a primary.  But, Trump’s success in primaries when the race was competitive was due to some flaws in the primary process and system.  First and foremost, if Republicans are going to nominate their Presidential standard-bearer, only Republicans should have a say in that decision.  Trump performed not as well in closed primaries.  Therefore, we should abandon the caucus altogether and move exclusively to closed primaries.

Some will argue that this discourages new voters.  My guess is that there were many unaffiliated, independent and even Democratic cross-over voters in the GOP primaries because it was more interesting than that of the Democratic Party.  Were these people ones who truly shared Republican ideals and conservative principles, or were they those hoodwinked by the rhetoric and bombast of Trump?  My guess is the latter.  Only registered Republicans up to 21 days before a primary should be allowed to vote in a GOP primary.

Obviously these people would not be entitled to participate in early voting.  But early voting is not mandatory, and even less necessary in a primary election.  The reason for it is simply convenience.  If there is to be early voting in primaries, then it should be reserved for the already-registered Republican.  If convenience is the goal, there is also no valid reason to hold a primary election on a Tuesday.  Several states hold caucuses and primaries on a Saturday.  Additionally, another option should be presented to voters- “None of the above.”  I believe Nevada is the only state that gives voters such an option.  Why not offer that option nationwide in a GOP primary?

We also need to get rid of the winner-take-all primaries and move to a straight proportional system.  In many cases, a plurality candidate garnering 40% of the vote got all the delegates.  This was especially true in Florida with their 99 delegates and Ohio and their 66 delegates.  A proportional system may not have stopped Trump; he won states that had such a system.  But, it would allow second and third place candidates to continue to amass delegates and possibly keep them in the race longer holding people like Trump’s feet to the fire.  And if there is to be any winner-take-all scenarios, then a runoff between the top two statewide winners, like those in many Southern and Midwestern states, should occur.  In order to take all the delegates, one should get at least 50% of the vote.

Another reform is to change the delegate allocation system with respect to the states.  States like California and New York have an inordinate amount of political clout in the process compared to their electoral history.  These are solidly blue states that have many GOP delegates by virtue of their population.  For example, in every state the GOP awards three delegates to each Congressional district despite the number of Republican voters in those districts or whether they are represented by Republicans.  It has been estimated that a GOP voter in a blue New York district has nine times the voting strength in a primary than a Republican voter in a red Alabama district.

Red states must be rewarded in the delegate allocation and blue states penalized.  Currently, California has the most GOP delegates, yet has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984.  They, like New York, are Democratic strongholds holding too much sway vis-a-vis the number of delegates.  Perhaps an allocation system that awards three delegates to every district represented by a Republican and one to every district held by a Democrat is a better system.  Of course, “bonus” delegates for GOP electoral success at the state level should be awarded.

The final suggestion is the creation of  five “Super Saturdays.”  These would be held every two weeks and states would be grouped, or bracketed much like the NCAA creates brackets, into five groups.  They would not be regional as some have suggested, but rank-ordered based on the number of delegates.  The traditional first four- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina- would represent the first group and would vote in mid-February.  Then every two weeks, another group would vote.  Based on the allocation system, states could move up or down in the rank-ordering system based on intervening electoral success between presidential elections.  Further, groups would rotate from cycle to cycle.   In a simulation run by me using this system, there would be great regional diversity where no single area of the country dominated in any group, nor did red, blue or swing states dominate.

In this manner, there would be no “Southeastern Conference” primary, no “Super Tuesday,” and no Northeast state-dominated “Mini-Super Tuesday” primary.  It would also shorten the primary season considerably and the GOP nominee would be decided by May 10th at the latest.

In the end, these suggestions may not have stopped Trump from becoming the GOP nominee.  But they are needed reforms regardless.  No single state should be the deciding factor in whether a candidate continues or drops out.  Placing greater emphasis on particular states or particular constituencies is what our Founders warned against and attempted to thwart.  The unbridled wishes of the masses- populism- is something that our Constitutional system was devised to prevent.  The Republican Party must make every effort to emulate our Founders with respect to the nominating process.  It may not stop a future Donald Trump, but at least it is an attempt and that is better than accepting the status quo.