A brief civics reminder: The United States is a republic, not a democracy. Although we hew toward democratic principles in how we elect representatives and adopt laws, the majority doesn’t always rule.
Our Founding Fathers wanted things that way because the majority doesn’t always want what’s best for everyone. So they crafted a system in which citizens elect politicians to represent our best interests.
That system is about to become an election issue.
The Republican Party is facing renewed debate about whether Donald Trump can and should be blocked from the GOP’s presidential nomination at next month’s convention. The most organized effort to do so is coming from dozens of convention delegates who want to change party rules and unbind all delegates from primary votes in their states. It’s a longshot, but The Washington Post reports that 30 delegates from 15 states kicked off that movement in a conference call Thursday.
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For some of those delegates, it’s about principles. Trump doesn’t represent the party’s policies or ideals, they believe, something that’s become even clearer in recent weeks with Trump’s ethnicity-based criticism of a federal judge and his renewed calls for a Muslim ban in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings.
For other delegates, it’s about politics. Trump’s campaign is floundering. Republicans are abandoning him, including governors, congressmen and members of the party’s national security establishment. Voters also seem to be turning away, with recent polls showing Trump with his highest unfavorables ever – the highest of any candidate in history.
Party leaders fear a Trump candidacy would be catastrophic for the GOP’s hold on the U.S. Senate and House, and state Republicans fear Trump’s potential drag on races for governor. Yes, it’s only June, but Trump shows little sign of changing himself or voters’ minds.
Still, a convention coup is fraught with problems. First, it might not help the GOP, at least in November. If Trump is blocked from the nomination, his supporters could abandon the party, causing as much damage as letting his nomination proceed.
But there’s a larger issue at play: More than 13 million Americans voted for Trump in the primaries. Unbinding delegates not only steals their voices, it weakens the foundation of how we elect our leaders. How can voters trust that their votes will count moving forward?
And yet, we are a republic, not a democracy. Party officials make the rules and can change them if they believe a greater good is being done (or even if not). That greater good may be saving the GOP from catastrophe this November, or it may be saving the country from a man who has shown an indifference to law, contempt for the judiciary and Congress, and an inability to control himself.
For those latter reasons, we reluctantly agree that Republicans should give delegates the opportunity to vote for whomever they want next month instead of being bound by their state’s primary or caucus results. It’s rare that the ends justify the means, but this is an extraordinary election with the extraordinarily dangerous possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. Republicans, for the party’s and country’s sake, should intervene.