The Conscience of a Conservative Delegate

The freedom to vote according to your conscience is a key freedom we all enjoy, a cornerstone of our democratic system. It’s a right in the DNA of the Republican party and built into the rules and traditions of the Republican national convention.  The #FreeTheDelegates effort is asserting the right and power of delegates to vote as their conscience dictates, and seeking to make GOP convention rules explicit in allowing a conscience ‘opt-out’ of support, with the end-goal of enabling a majority to reject Trump and start afresh with a new candidate.

As it is, delegates NOW have the right to vote according to their conscience, its just many don’t know that. RNC rules committee member Curly Haugland has been beating this lonely drum for many years, pointing out that, notwithstanding the existence of state rules and laws, and the threats and considerations that delegates are required to do what they are ‘bound’ to do as bound delegates, that in fact, delegates have in actuality been unbound all along.  The principle that every delegate may vote according to their own conscience, once stated and made clear,  is both plain and common sense: Delegates are not robots, and while they may have signed up to be bound, their real rights and responsibilities do not mean they must abandon their conscience and vote for an unfit person to be nominee.  Delegates are called to the convention, delegates dictate the rules of the convention, and those rules override the dictates of state parties and state law. The history of individual delegate choice and free action and the current state of the rules is explained in a book “Unbound” that he co-authored with Sean Parnell.

Now, it may be asserted that a delegate may have a ‘right’ to do something, but that it is still not the right thing to do.

First, delegates have not just the right but the DUTY to act according to their conscience. Second, delegates are within their power to fix the rules and allow delegates to vote according to their conscience without penalty. Pledges are not legally enforceable (there is SCOTUS precedent on that), so this really comes down to honor. Is there ‘honor’ in following a pledge that requires you to nominate an unfit, unqualified, unelectable terrible candidate that will hand the election over to Hillary? Or more honor in determining that the 40% of GOP voters who went for Trump erred, and we should correct that error and save the party and country?

The whole point of being a delegate is to represent the party and the party members, but to represent what is best for them, and not be slaves to a primary result that occurred some months prior.  This conservative principle of representative government was expressed by Edmund Burke in his message to the electors of Bristol. In it, Burke explained that a duty of a representative, in this case to Parliament was to obey his conscience above all, and while respecting the wishes of constituents, to not sacrifice his own reason, judgement and conscience for the wishes of those who chose him:

“Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmund Burke

The GOP voters interest is usually best served by the delegates fulfilling the pledge, unifying, and getting behind the presumptive nominee.  But not always and this is not such a time.  Breaking a vow or pledge of support should not be done for light or transitory reasons, but this is different because there are many reasons and justifications where the presumptive nominee Trump has broken with us.

The ‘contract’ of a nominee is to be the best representative for the party and do his best to win the election. In his self-inflicted wound of intemperate statements, in his lackluster campaigning and fundraising, in his unorganized and insufficient campaign that spent millions on Trump-related businesses, raised a fraction of the Democrats in May, and wasted a month getting further behind.  Trump has disqualified himself in the eyes of many voters with a parade of ugly, insulting, slanderous and hurtful statements towards others, including women and minorities, including lashing out at a Federal Judge sitting in on Trump’s civil fraud trial, that Speaker Ryan called ‘textbook racism’.  As a consequence of Trump’s long history of ugly statements, slanders and other outrages, Trump has completely failed to unify the party, and has become unelectable to the point of being a toxic weight on the ballot, and as such imperils not just himself but many other candidates down-ballot.

There is more than enough that Trump has done, just in the past month, to justify breaking the usual bond and pledge that a delegate has to support a presumptive nominee. The contract that binds delegates to vote for Trump is now null and void, Trump’s own actions have served to render the pledge a nullity. He is owed no loyalty.  On this point, half of Republicans already agree, as 48% support the GOP finding another nominee.

The move to #FreeTheDelegates is the only way to save the nation from a Hillary landslide. It’s the only way to free the Republican party from the stench of the charlatan Trump and his klown-kar kampaign.  Conscience not only allows it DICTATES that Trump-bound delegates reconsider, vote “Abstain” on the first ballot, and join the search for a better nominee for the Republican party.


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