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The RNC is the DNC in Red

Donald Trump is right: The Republican

nominating process is a scam

Josh Barro

APDonald Trump.

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veiled shot at

If Donald Trump arrives at the Republican National Convention with less than a majority of
delegates bound to him, his message will be simple: I got way more votes than anyone else,
and party insiders are conspiring against me to give the nomination to somebody else.
This complaint will be true, it will be valid, and anti-Trump Republicans will dismiss it at their
There has been a weird epidemic of short-sighted schadenfreude among Republican insiders over
the last week, as they have watched Trump's campaign blunder through the intricacies of
delegate selection.
It is true that Trump's campaign is doing badly at the small stuff, and it's costing him
delegates. Trump failed to organize for Colorado's complex delegate conventions, in which
voters never got to express a direct preference for a candidate. He has just started the process of

selecting hundreds of delegate candidates in California. He has failed to stack relevant

convention committees with his allies.
When Trump has called the nominating rules a "scam" and a "disgrace," the response has been
mainly that he should stop whining. Here's Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican
National Committee:
Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It's the responsibility of the campaigns to
understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break
Reince Priebus (@Reince) April 13, 2016
But here's the thing: Democratic legitimacy is not just about following the rules as written. It's
about having a set of rules designed to produce a result in line with voter preferences. In some
states, the Republican nominating rules are designed to ignore the will of the voters.
Trump is right: These states' rules are a scam, and saying so is not whining.
Take Colorado, for example. Voters in Colorado didn't get to vote in a primary or a caucus
because the state's Republican Party executive committee decided last summer not to hold any
presidential preference vote. Instead, voters had to gather at far-flung, time-consuming
conventions to choose individual delegates.
Why wasn't there a caucus with a presidential vote, as Colorado had held in previous years?
Because this time the Republican National Committee had ordered states to bind their delegates
to actually vote in line with voters' presidential preference. Colorado Republicans didn't want to
do that, so they got rid of the presidential vote.
That is, the purpose of Colorado's rule change was explicitly antidemocratic. It took power away
from regular voters and handed it to the sort of activists who would be likely to spend a lot of
time and energy participating in party conventions.
These were the rules, but they weren't democratic rules.

Thomson ReutersRepublican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Similarly, North Dakota chose to disenfranchise its voters by holding no presidential vote and
electing delegates at a convention. Pennsylvania voters will vote for a presidential candidate, but
will also have to choose unbound delegates from a list of names, a system designed to put voters
in a position of flying blind and choosing representatives to the convention whose intentions are
These are not systems designed to reflect the voters' presidential preference. If you think the
nominating process should be democratic, you could well call them disgraceful, as Trump has.

Now, think ahead to a convention, and the arguments that will inevitably ensue if Trump's
popular-vote lead does not translate into a nomination.
Trump will point to the Colorado delegation and say it's illegitimate

that the voters of

Colorado were disenfranchised because they never actually got to vote for a presidential
candidate. Cruz will say that rules are rules, and these rules were unanimously adopted by the
Colorado Republican Party executive committee all the way back in August 2015.
The latter argument will certainly be good enough to get the Colorado delegates
support Cruz

all of whom

credentialed at the convention. But it will not be good enough to convince

Trump's supporters that he lost fair and square.

The perception of legitimacy is important. A political party is a voluntary association, and
Trump's voters have no obligation to stay Republican or support Republican candidates. If he is
seen as having lost because of rigged rules, anti-Trump Republicans will win a Pyrrhic victory, as
many of his backers will walk away in the general election.
If that happens, the only group enjoying schadenfreude will be Democrats.