Donald Trump has been complaining that the nominating rules for the Republican National Committee are “rigged” “phony” and a “dirty deal” designed to keep interlopers like him on the outside of politics looking in.
I don’t know about the “dirty deal” part, but I’m with Trump on the rest. The RNC rules (and the Democratic National Committee rules, too, for that matter) are created by the most powerful people in the parties to keep the ultimate control in the hands of … the most powerful people in the parties.
Why does Trump act surprised by that? Why else would Democrats have super delegates, or Republicans have unbound delegates, other than to make sure that once the voters have their say, party insiders have the final word about who will represent them in November?
It isn’t especially democratic, but it prevents unwanted surprises when it comes to choosing the face for their party in the fall. It turns out, one of those unwanted surprises is Donald Trump.
There’s a big difference, however, between a rigged system and a corrupt system, which is what Trump is now alleging. As members of a private organization, which both parties are, Republicans have every legal right to create a primary process to produce an outcome they can support. If Trump didn’t like the RNC’s rules, he shouldn’t have run for the RNC’s nomination.
With $9 billion, he could have run as an independent or even started his own party to nominate him as its leader. He could have given the party a Trump-themed brand: maybe the Retrumplicans, or the Birth Certificates, or the White Hot Rage. He could have built his platform via Twitter polls and picked a running mate through a spinoff of Naked and Afraid. Talk about ratings gold.
But Trump chose to run for president the old-fashioned way and he’ll have to win the old-fashioned way, too — by learning the rules and exploiting them, just like everybody else. Boring, I know. But the silver lining behind having a rigged system to elect the president is that it usually produces a president prepared to navigate all of the other rigged systems that come with the job.
Is Trump naive enough to think Congress is a pure democracy, too? The House and Senate both have rules, just like the RNC. Who is going to tell President Trump that the Senate just blocked his Beautiful Border Wall Bill with 41 votes? Cloture has been around since the Senate voted to end debate on the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but why do I think Trump will be shocked when he finds this out? “I had 59 votes for the wall — Congress is PATHETIC!”
Since Trump seems especially incensed by the idea that Colorado Republicans changed their rules within the last year, someone should also probably let him know that the House changes the rules for nearly every bill it votes on. The legislative process may not seem fair to him, but it will take more than a bunch of Tweets calling Chuck Schumer a ‘LOSER’ and Paul Ryan ‘LYIN RYAN’ to get a Trump agenda through Congress.
I’m concerned that the U.N. Security Council may cause Trump some fits, too. “A veto?? Why does ONE COUNTRY GET TO VETO? Rigged!!” How about the World Trade Organization, where he’ll take his complaints about China always winning? “America is GREAT AGAIN, too bad the WTO is too dumb to know it!!”
Trump can nominate whomever he wants to the Supreme Court, but does he know he can’t sue justices just because he disagrees with their decisions? “I will sue RBG who knows nothing! Lawyers say she has judicial immunity, but I say ‘SEE YOU IN COURT, RUTH!!'”
Running for president, especially as delegates become involved, requires more than Tweeting, staging rallies and calling in to morning shows. It requires building broad coalitions, hiring a large team, developing a multi-tiered electoral strategy and executing that strategy over and over and over. Being the president requires all of that and much more.
The primary process is not a direct democracy, nor is the general election. (Note to self: Someone tell Trump about the electoral college). If Americans want to change the process of electing the president, they should, and it’s hard to argue changes aren’t necessary.
But as long as elections function as they do, it’s up to the candidates to figure out the rules and live by them. Plus, I’m not sure anyone should be the president if they can’t handle what it takes to get the job in the first place. If you can’t make it here, Donald, you can’t make it anywhere. Or at least not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for the Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill Bureau Chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane. Follow her at @1patriciamurphy.
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