Mar 30, 201601:10 PMBlaska's Bring It!
with David Blaska
The party convention will decide the nominee
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Did you miss me?
The Squire took a sabbatical to bond with #1 son but now I’m back in the saddle to ride out the bumpiest Wisconsin primary since Kennedy/Humphrey in 1960.
In my absence, I learned of the passing of two friends. The first was Don Heiliger of Stoughton, a true American hero who proved his mettle by bravely bearing 5½ years of maltreatment at the Hanoi Hilton. I subsequently served with Donald for 10 years on the Dane County Board. He used to describe communicating with his fellow captives, including John McCain, by tapping Morse code on the pipes that separated their cells. More than once, he was lined up and blindfolded before a firing squad to hear the click of their rifles.
The other loss was UW professor Jim Baughman, who I first met in the early 1990s. A scarce commodity: a conservative on campus. He represented true diversity, intellectual diversity. It is in short supply at Wisconsin’s flagship campus.
In a few days, we’ll run the punch cards through Old Smoky, our Eisenhower-era mainframe computer, to predict how Wisconsin will vote next Tuesday. But here is my prediction: Wisconsin will help produce a contested convention.
A plurality does not win the nomination; only a majority wins. A plurality doesn’t win the presidency, either. Yes, Bill Clinton was elected with a plurality of the popular vote but he won a majority of the Electoral College. That is what elects a president.
For their national convention, Wisconsin Republicans will choose three delegates in each of the eight congressional districts. They are bound by the winner of that congressional district; 18 more delegates are selected statewide. Those are pledged to the statewide winner. All the delegates must hold true until either their candidate releases them or until that candidate falls below 35% of a roll call vote. (Full disclosure: I am running to be a delegate in the Second Congressional District.)
But each state’s rules are different. Pennsylvania’s 54 congressional district delegates are elected directly on the primary ballot and are free agents even during the convention’s first ballot.
By the second ballot, more than half of the national convention delegates will be free. By the third, nearly 80% are free agents.
The Rules Committee will have a lot to say about who is nominated if Trump does not claim a majority of the delegates; it meets a week before the July 18–21 convention. At the 2012 convention, it adopted rules to freeze out Ron Paul. This year, it could well relax requirements like Wisconsin’s and many others binding delegates past the first ballot.
James Madison, in devising the Constitution, realized that a direct democracy was a recipe for mob rule. He devised a representative government that would “refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.”
“Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power,” either Madison or Hamilton argued in Federalist Paper #63. A mediating body (the author was talking specifically about the U.S. Senate):
“… may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions … or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men. … In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens … until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind?”
It is each political party’s choice as to who to nominate. That doesn’t prevent anyone from mounting his or her own campaign, either as an independent or the nominee of another political party. Bob La Follette did it. So did Ross Perot.
As I wrote for RightWisconsin, party “bosses” chose Harry Truman. Not too shabby. A key rules fight handed the 1952 nomination to the more electable Dwight Eisenhower — who had never been identified with the party — over “Mr. Republican,” Robert Taft.