Donald Trump is howling like a stuck pig over getting his ass kicked by the Cruz campaign last weekend, which won all 34 of Colorado’s delegates to the Republican National Convention in July.
The Donald is claiming (loudly) that he was robbed in Colorado by “phony politicians” who changed the rules to rig the game against him and deny a million Colorado Republicans a chance to vote for the Republican presidential candidate of their choice (i.e. himself).
“The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”
Trump’s loss and subsequent whine reminds me of an old Borscht Belt joke — that can be updated like this:
Every day Donald Trump prayed to God to let him win the lottery.
“Please, God,” he would pray, “please, please let me win the lottery. Just once is all I ask. Just once. Let me win the lottery and I will never ask you for anything again. Please, please.”
This went on for 20 years. Then one day a giant cloud gathered above Trump Tower, and a great beam of light emerged from it that bathed the building in a magnificent golden glow. And God uttered his voice before The Donald.
“Trump!” The Almighty thundered, “Meet me half way! Buy a ticket!”
Trump didn’t get beat because the rules were unfairly rigged against him. He got beat because he chose not to play the game by the rules — or even to play it at all. In short, he didn’t buy a ticket.
The rule Trump seems to be most exercised about was the decision by the Colorado Republican Party to forego conducting a straw vote for president at the party’s precinct caucuses last February. This is presumably what he is referring to when he says a million Republicans had their vote taken away from them by phony politicians.
I thought cancelling the straw poll was a dumb idea, but Trump’s characterization of the decision as rigging the game is flatly untrue.
There is a reason that the straw poll is called a straw poll. It’s an expression of preference on the part of precinct caucus attendees that is no more binding on delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland than, say, the straw poll taken at the Iowa State Fair. It’s not a primary by another name, as Trump seems to think.
However, Colorado’s delegates to the national Republican convention will be bound. That’s because a party rule stipulates that if someone running for national convention delegate declares a preference for a particular presidential candidate while he is running, he’s bound to that candidate through the first ballot.
All the delegates Cruz won had expressed such a preference.
And contrary to what Trump thinks, Colorado’s 900,000-plus Republicans did have a voice and a vote in the selection of the party’s presidential candidate. All they had to do is go to their precinct caucuses and take part. That is because the principal business of precinct caucuses is selecting delegates for their county assemblies. In turn, delegates to county assemblies do two things: 1) they select candidates for county offices like county commissioners, county clerks, county assessors, county coroners, and so on, and 2) they select delegates for the Colorado Republican State Convention and for the seven Republican congressional district conventions.
Delegates to the congressional district conventions 1) select candidates for Congress in their respective districts, and 2) elect three delegates and three alternates from each district to the national convention in Cleveland.
The delegates to the state convention select 13 delegates and 13 alternates. (Democrats use a similar system.)
In other words, the delegate selection process is a three tier exercise in representative democracy — precinct caucus, county assembly, and state and congressional district conventions. The process starts with registered Republicans voting — voting, Mr. Trump — in their precinct caucuses.
Every registered Republican in the state is eligible to attend and vote in their precinct caucus, provided they have been registered Republicans for 30 days before the caucus.
An amazingly small number actually choose to do so, only about one in 10 in most years.
Woody Alan once said 80 percent of life is showing up. When it comes to caucuses most voters choose to live the other 20 percent. Nothing wrong with that. America is a union of consenting adults. If you don’t want to participate in the country’s political process, that’s your right. All it means is more political clout for the happy few who do show up. But freely choosing not to participate in the system doesn’t mean the system is rigged against you.
Given this state of affairs, what’s a presidential candidate to do?
1) Identify your supporters well in advance and get as many of them as possible to go to their caucuses, 2) Get them to elect as many of their number as possible to their county assemblies, 3) Get your county assembly delegates to elect as many of their number as possible to their congressional district conventions and the state convention, 4) Get your delegates to the congressional district and state conventions to elect delegates to the national convention who are pledged to you — and endorsed by you. (The last wrinkle is important, because there can be hundreds of people at a state convention who are running for national convention delegate who declare their support for a particular presidential candidate. If the candidate doesn’t designate a slate of “official” delegates, his supporters’ votes will fragment and a rival candidate with fewer but more focused supporters might win.)
Ted Cruz campaign followed the foregoing script to the letter in Colorado, allowing it to skunk Trump.
As for Trump, he didn’t bother setting up a ground game to get his supporters to the caucuses in Colorado. He didn’t even organize teams to give him a presence at the state and congressional district conventions until a few days before they were to occur. When the Trump campaign finally got organized enough to offer a slate of national convention delegates, the effort was so slap-dash that it misspelled the names of some of the people on it and put out bad information about how to vote for them.
And then Trump had the chutzpah to claim the game was rigged against him and that the Colorado process was corrupt.
The truth is brother Trump is pretty clueless about Colorado Values, starting with straight shooting and playing by the rules.
Want a one-word explanation about why The Donald got his clock cleaned? Try hubris.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.