Wry & Dry

Trump and the politics of politics

Wannabee US President and liketobee Ruler-Of-The-Free-world, Donald Trump has been threatening something horrible if he doesn't win the Republican nomination despite going into the nomination convention with more delegates than any other contender.

Trump in the head

The hand actually is not Trump's.  It is a ventriloquist's, using a finger to operate Trump's mouth.

Tough, says W&D.

The nomination process is not designed to give victory to the person with the highest number of votes on the first ballot.  What's the point of a convention if the result is already decided?

W&D's observation is that it is designed to be complex, representing regional differences and preferences and going over what seems a labourious period of time to expose and test the candidates.  And to be a safety net to prevent disasters, as much as possible.  W&D thinks its a crazy system, but it sort of works.

But 2016 is anomalous, with a maverick and charismatic candidate leading one party's race and a capable but hated candidate leading the other.  In the latter case, the convention is a foregone conclusion.  In the former it's not.

And not a foregone conclusion for the first time, in spite of Trump's protestations.  W&D has dug into his dusty archives, and found (on the Republican side) the following.  

(By the way, the balloting process does not eliminate the lowest placed vote getter.  It just allows for negotiation between ballots.  And remember another wrinkle: in the first voting round many states' delegates are bound to vote as the majority voted in that states' various caucuses/ primaries.  But after the first round many states' delegates are free to vote as they wish.) 

1940: Thomas Dewey led with 36% of votes, but eventually lost to Wendell Wilkie (who started with 10%) on the sixth ballot.  Wilkie lost to Roosevelt in the presidential election.

1920:  Warren Harding trailed five candidates on the first ballot but won on the 10th.  Harding won the presidential election.

1880:  Ulysses Grant had the most votes on the first ballot ahead of six others.  One of the others was James Garfield, with 0%.  After 36 ballots Garfield was nominated and was subsequently elected president.  

Ironically, Garfield, who started with zero votes, ended his political career with a zero.  A few months after taking office he was assassinated.