Donald Trump’s lead in primary victories and delegates does not grant him a moral right to the nomination.
Donald Trump has captured the loyalty of a large swath of Americans who believe the established politicians have not served their interests. They believe (and rightly so) that the Democratic Party, with its lax immigration policies, weak trade policies, crony capitalism, socialized medicine and redistributive policies, is moving this country toward moral and financial ruin. But many also believe that the Republican Party, if not actively doing the same, is at least passively aiding the Democrats through inaction and/or capitulation. And to a large extent, they are correct.
To correct the situation, Trump supporters argue the need for a complete outsider, someone unseduced (and un-seducible) by the current political system. Their disdain for the current situation creates such a strong desire for system-wide correction that they are willing to overlook, what would have been in the past, inconsistent and unclear positions on such traditionally conservatives hot-button issues such as abortion, healthcare, and foreign policy. And let’s be clear, given their contempt for business-as-usual politics, their position is not unreasonable.
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Many Trump supporters warn of chaos if Donald Trump reaches the Republican convention with the most delegates and votes, but is denied the nomination. Trump himself has warned of riots if he is close to the needed 1,237 delegates and is not named the nominee. Trump has also not ruled out a third party run for President if he feels that he is not being treated fairly. However, these beliefs by Trump and his supporters represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how the will of the people (in this case Republicans) is expressed in a democracy.
To illustrate my point, imagine five friends going out for a large pizza. However, the local pizza shop doesn’t split toppings, so if you get a topping, it must be on the entire pie. To maximize their satisfaction as a group, they decide to choose the topping that a majority of them agree on. Here are their preferences:
Friend A wants anchovies, and if he can’t get anchovies, he will not be happy.
B also wants anchovies, but if he can’t get anchovies, sausage is his second choice.
C wants sausage and does not want anchovies. C’s second choice is plain cheese.
D wants pepperoni and does not want anchovies. D’s second choice is sausage.
E wants green peppers and does not want anchovies. E’s second choice is sausage.
When they first sit down, everybody votes their first choice. Anchovies wins with two votes and sausage, pepperoni and green pepper each get one vote. A and B demand that they get a pizza with anchovies since they have the most votes and are close to a majority. The others refuse, pointing out that they agreed that the majority must agree on a topping before ordering.
For the second topping vote, C convinces D and E to vote for sausage, their second choice. Sausage wins the second vote with a 3 to 2 majority over anchovies and the group orders sausage.
Was this the best possible outcome for the group? Yes. If they had allowed A & B to get their way and order anchovies, a majority (3 out of 5) of the friends would be very unhappy with their meal. But since they held a second vote and decided on sausage, one of the friends (C) is very happy, three of the friends (B, D, E) are somewhat happy, and only one friend (A) is very unhappy.
Did C, D and E steal the election from A & B? No. C, D and E simply voted for what they preferred.
Were A and B treated unfairly? Again no. The rules were that a topping had to get a majority of votes to be ordered. A and B were simply never able to achieve a majority.
Did A and B have a moral right to have everybody eat anchovies because they had the most votes? Absolutely not. Since the majority of friends did not want anchovies, there is no moral case to be made for making the majority surrender to the will of the minority.
In case you haven’t guessed it yet, Trump is anchovies and Cruz is sausage.
The point of the allegory is that even if Trump has a commanding lead going into the convention, without a majority he has no moral claim to the nomination. Just as it was not the best choice for the friends to order anchovies despite plurality support, it may not be the best choice for Republicans to nominate Trump based on his plurality support. If a majority of Republican delegates end up deciding that Cruz should be the nominee, it may simply be the result of the group seeking out a nominee that the widest cross section of delegates finds agreeable. In such a scenario, the nomination can’t be stolen since it was never Trump’s in the first place. It should be recognized for what it is: Trump simply could not convince a majority of Republicans that he should be their standard bearer.
With his recent loss in Wisconsin, there is a reasonable possibility that Trump will go into the Republican convention with the most delegates, but not with a majority. If this happens and Trump does not receive the nomination, he and his supporters will hopefully recognize that it’s simply because not everyone likes anchovies.