Follow the Rules

Linda Chavez
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Posted: Apr 15, 2016 12:01 AM
Follow the Rules

As a Colorado Republican, I'm not thrilled with the way my state party participates in the presidential nominating process. There is no GOP primary in which I can voice my preference for a presidential nominee, as there was in both Virginia and Maryland, where I lived previously.

I thought about running for delegate to the Republican National Convention so that I could play a real role in picking the nominee. But when I checked out the process, I realized it is long and laborious and key dates conflicted with my travel schedule, so I gave up on that plan.

Am I a "disenfranchised" voter, as Donald Trump suggests? Hardly.

Neither party picks its nominee in a strictly democratic fashion. We don't have a national primary in which voters directly select the nominees of the parties. And even if we did, how exactly would we determine who got on the ballot? Either some winnowing system would have to take place at some stage or elections would become free-for-alls.

Trump has benefited from the current system, earning only about 35 percent of the votes cast so far but 42 percent of the delegates. He may well fall short of the requisite number of delegates needed to secure the nomination in the end, but he has as good a chance -- more of a chance, actually -- than anyone else running to earn them.

While other candidates have had to devote time, money and energy into introducing themselves to voters and organizing delegates, Trump has been able to get billions of dollars in free exposure from a fawning media hoping to boost ratings. Now he's whining that the system is rigged against him.

Really? The rules for selecting delegates have been set for months. Trump claims to be the master of detail -- so what happened? I managed to find the necessary information on Colorado's system back in February. I Googled it, found where my precinct's caucus was taking place and realized I'd be out of town -- but urged my husband to attend, even if I couldn't. So Trump, who claims to be a brilliant manager, couldn't manage to get his delegates to run and win at local and county caucuses and, ultimately, at the Colorado state convention and now cries foul?

I don't know what's worse, Trump the megalomaniac or Trump the crybaby.

One of the reasons the parties have in place a lengthy, complicated system for selecting nominees is that it tests their mettle. We don't live in a direct democracy; we are a republic. We choose others to represent us at every stage of the political process. It isn't about accumulating the most raw votes; it's about understanding and working the complicated system each step of the way. Trump isn't trying out for "American Idol"; he's supposed to be auditioning for commander in chief.

Trump has been able to rely on his celebrity status to draw large crowds at his events for months. He's been able to turn those supporters into voters in states that have held primaries, and he's done especially well in states with late or same-day registration and open primaries, in which party affiliation doesn't bar his Democratic and independent supporters from casting Republican ballots. What he hasn't done well is establish grass-roots political operations in caucus states or in primaries in which only Republicans can vote.

Trump hasn't even been able to organize his own family to vote for him in New York's upcoming primary. His daughter Ivanka, who has been a high-profile part of his campaign from nearly day one, didn't change her registration as an independent voter in time to be able to cast her vote Tuesday for her father. And Trump's son Eric apparently wasn't registered at all, yet he's out there telling others to vote for his dad. Any other candidate would be embarrassed by this negligence, but Trump blames New York's GOP for setting rules that don't allow last-minute registration or party crashing.

Grousing about the system has taken Trump about as far as he can go. But it won't get him to the White House. It's fashionable to complain about career politicians these days, but a little professionalism is necessary in politics. Picking a president shouldn't be a beauty or popularity contest. We expect candidates to learn the rules and play by them. If a candidate can't bother to do so, why should we believe he'd follow the rule book of the Constitution once in office?