By Richard Dreyfuss and Lance Simmens
The rampant hysteria being generated by Donald Trump’s surprising run at the Republican presidential nomination is both needlessly and potentially destructive. It is being exacerbated by Trump’s narcissism and scorched earth campaign but abetted by a complicit media. For whatever reasons the mainstream media is far more interested in political theatre than political history and therein lies the potential for a Greek tragedy that could possibly tear the very fabric of our representative democracy. It is time for journalists to reclaim at least some degree of respectability by focusing on facts and the most salient fact facing our political system this summer is that open conventions do not spell disaster. It is important for everyone to relax and for the media to perform its job, which is to report the facts.
Contested or open conventions were for the better part of our history the norm not the exception. When a candidate did not attain the required number of delegates to secure nomination, even if he was short by one vote, the convention process demanded another ballot. In 1924 the Democratic presidential candidate was selected on the 103rd ballot after nearly three weeks of wrangling. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the product of a contested convention in 1932. Thomas Dewey secured the Republican nomination in 1948 and Adlai Stevenson got the Democratic nod in 1952 after contested conventions. As recently as 1976 Gerald Ford secured the Republican nomination after arriving at the convention without the requisite number of delegates and in 1980 there was an active effort at the Democratic convention in New York to secure enough delegates away from incumbent President Jimmy Carter to give the nomination to Ted Kennedy that failed.
Presidential nominations are secured via the vote of delegates, not the number of states or the popular vote. The two major parties set the rules for delegate selection and the conventions are held to render a process whereby nominees are selected. The current hysteria being generated pays no heed to political history or precedent and for this the Fourth Estate has been contemptable in its refusal to acknowledge this basic fact.
While it appears as though the latest iteration of a Republican strategy to select someone not named Donald Trump is now taking shape in the form of citing the historical precedent of nominating conventions the obvious question remains: namely, where has the media been? The answer is that they have been actively complicit in enabling the false narrative that we are about to witness a grand heist. Their contempt for reportage that illuminates and educates the populace as to the immutable truths that lie behind political conventions, with the subsequent bickering and bartering that defines them, is a disservice to tradition and history.
The danger to our representative democracy lies not in the fact that there exists a restless and angry populace but rather in the fact that the narrative that efforts are afoot to deprive or worse yet steal the rightful coronation of the Donald are being fueled by an utter lack of historical perspective. We do not live in a pure democracy, the Founders made it quite clear in their construction of the Constitution that checks and balances and deliberation would be the lynchpin to stability. The circus tent quality of current media reporting ignores their responsibility to educate the citizens and threatens the very stability that is crucial to our form of government.
Compromise, deliberation, and incrementalism are the hallmarks of our system of government, which may come as quite a shock to the extreme elements on both the left and the right, but it is right there in the document itself and the Federalist papers which serve as the foundation of our government. The media needs to take special care not only to educate the citizens on the facts but also to present a fair and balanced presentation of historic precedent. We as a nation have weathered nomination fights and political storms that would destroy other governmental forms and we will similarly weather this one. The reckless and dangerous admonitions that anything other than a Trump nomination will result in riots is a testament to the amateurish temperament of a fool. Giving credence to such recklessness however is a testament to the failure of the media to do its job. Shame on them.
But it is not too late. Beginning forthwith we are calling on the media to devote considerable efforts in their broadcasts and election cycle presentations to bring forth the enlightenment that accompanies factual experiences and events that have shaped the nation. It is imperative that the media shoulder the burden of not giving comfort to the enemy of representative democracy. Make no mistake that the enemy in our midst is the contention that anger and violence is sufficient rationale for abandonment of the core principles of liberty, justice, and equal opportunity. Allowing emotion to substitute for rational discourse is an abdication of everything the Founders promulgated and purely and simply unpatriotic.