Sturm: My delegate dilemma: To be conscientious, in good conscience
My son brought this telling joke home from camp: “If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a fatal car accident, who survives? Answer: America.”
If this joke resonates, you’re like the 81 percent polled by AP/GfK who are scared by one or both of the presumptive presidential nominees, the two most polarizing, distrusted and unpopular candidates in U.S. history.
Since Clinton and Trump emerged as front-runners, Americans of varying political persuasions have despaired that the 2016 presidential election comes down to two famously flawed celebrities, candidates who’d wage an unrelenting, insult-filled slugfest, not a clarifying, solution-focused debate. Hence the now-popular T-shirt “I already hate our next president.”
Midway through this turbulent summer, with the nation reeling from terrorist attacks and fraying race relations, majorities of dispirited Americans wish the parties would Think Again about their nominees, neither of whom engender trust or confidence in a citizenry craving both.
Like last month’s Brexit vote that reasserted the “consent of the governed” principle, America’s voter revolt reflects the cleavage between elites who profit from the political system and those who feel fleeced by it. It’s also a cry for Washington to address — not exacerbate — pressing problems including immigration, Islamic radicalism and economic stagnation.
Yet Washington is so politicized and agenda-riddled, even agencies charged with equal enforcement of laws — the IRS, the Justice Department and now the FBI — ride merry-go-rounds of evasion and unaccountability, aided by partisans who defend the law’s unequal application and media that are more lapdogs than watchdogs.
Consider FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to prosecute Clinton despite meticulously detailing her lawlessness and lies. In conceding that “individuals engaged in this activity … are often subject to security or administrative sanctions,” he advanced the banana-republic notion that laws apply differently to the powerful — an injustice our Constitution was designed to prevent.
Whether voters in November reassert their pledge of allegiance to “liberty and justice for all” depends on their presidential options, a choice I hoped to influence when I was elected to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
An outsider and staunch critic of the Republican Party — as readers of my column know — I wanted a nominee who’d unite the party of Lincoln around its bedrock principle that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” as Abraham Lincoln declared at the height of the Civil War.
My campaign platform echoed President Gerald Ford, who reassured at his swearing-in: “Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not men. Here, the people rule.” To their credit, Watergate-era Republicans put country and the rule of law before their man Nixon, heeding Thomas Jefferson’s warning: “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”
Today however, many frustrated Republicans are willing to discard these American precepts, believing we’re now a nation that only one man can fix, so screw the laws since they’re not being enforced anyway.
As a delegate, I reject this premise and can’t ignore that Trump rarely speaks of liberty, constitutional guardrails and the increasing concentration of governmental power, preferring instead to campaign by insult and bombast.
Feeling more like a “Republican in name only,” I am discouraged by Trump’s “get behind me or else, you loser” posture toward those who disagree and the acquiescence of Republican National Committee insiders. If the presumptive nominee and his party allies won’t try to win over grassroots Republicans like me, how will they secure additional voters in November?
I respect the democratic process, the “will of the people” and Trump’s record-setting 13.4 million votes. But I also know that 17 million Republicans voted for other candidates, creating fissures that must be addressed.
That party rules supercharged Trump’s weak 44 percent performance — the smallest share ever won by a modern-era GOP nominee — into a 62 percent delegate haul, cutting off debate without majority support, should concern delegates.
Conventions aren’t coronations, and recent court rulings confirm that party delegates aren’t rubber stamps untethered from their consciences and emerging facts. That’s why I support liberating the delegates to debate and ultimately vote their conscience in an open convention, whether voluntarily for Trump or someone else. They should do so in good conscience, knowing there is no such thing as coerced unity.
It’s not about elevating a personality to lead the party; it’s about leading the Republican Party back to the elevated ideals on which it was founded, recuperating the alienated.
Most importantly, it’s about defeating Clinton, the most corrupt and deceitful presidential candidate in modern American history, thereby dismantling the two-tiered justice system before it’s entrenched.
Think Again — imagine a car accident in which Clinton, Trump and America all survive, because Americans have restored “liberty and justice for all.” Isn’t this what we owe our children?
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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