Next week the Republicans will gather in Cleveland for their National Convention and will nominate for President a very unpopular man named Donald Trump.
Later this month, the Democrats will gather in Philadelphia for their National Convention and nominate for President a very unpopular woman named Hillary Clinton.
Polls show the American people do not like or trust either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton.
Trump, a reality TV star, travels around the country doing a not-so-funny stand-up routine in which he insults all of his opponents. He’s the Don Rickles of American politics.
Hillary, on the other hand, was recently convicted but not indicted in what has become known as “Emailgate.” Specifically, she was convicted by a jury of one (the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) in a press conference in which he basically said she was guilty, but she wasn’t going to be indicted.
How in the world did two such incredibly unpopular people become their party’s nominees for President of the United States? Well, as best as I can figure, it is democracy gone wild.
Once upon a time, in a less democratic era for our Republic, Republicans and Democrats chose their candidates for President at their quadrennial conventions.
The Republicans tended to do it in smoke-filled rooms such as Elihu Root’s law office in New York City. A small group of big wig powerful Republican industrialists and lawyers would smoke cigars, sip bourbon, and end the meeting saying something like, “Okay, let’s pick Hoover!”
The Democrats on the other hand would pick their nominee for President in fights that took place on the convention floor. I don’t mean political fights. I mean real fights.
In 1924, for example, the Democrats met at Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9. That’s not a typo. It literally took them three weeks and 103 ballots before they nominated John W. Davis for President. He then went on to lose the 1924 presidential election to Republican Calvin Coolidge who, as previously noted, had been picked by a few cigar-chompers in New York City.
It was this sort of conventional wisdom that every four years gave the American people our choice for president.
Yes, there were presidential primaries held in a number of states, but the results of those primaries were pretty much ignored at the convention. For example, in 1952, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver won all the presidential primaries, but the Democrats selected Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson as their nominee.
In 1968, Hubert Humphrey did not even run in a single primary, but he was still selected the Democratic nominee for President during a tumultuous convention in Chicago.
But in 1974, a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia moved to Iowa. He camped out there for two years so that he could win the 1976 Iowa Presidential Caucus. In the process, he changed the way our political parties choose their nominees. The Republicans followed suit, and before you knew it, we the people were selecting our own nominees for President. But the problem was that, to borrow a line from Animal Farm, all voters are created equal, but some voters are more equal than others. Voters in New Hampshire, for example, became really powerful because they held the first primary. They made the early decision as to who the “winners” and “losers” were in the presidential primaries.
This means that every four years every politician in America who wants to be President of the United States basically moves to New Hampshire where they shake hands with every voter in the state three or four times.
The other problem with this primary approach to presidential politics is you basically have to be a billionaire to win your party’s nomination. As the legendary Tennessee politician Cotton Ivy has observed, “In politics these days it takes a million dollars just to get beat.”
It is no coincidence that Donald Trump won primaries across the country since he personally financed his entire campaign flying around the country in his own jet, Air Trump One.
And before she launched her campaign for president, Hillary Clinton was delivering speeches to Wall Street bankers at a rate of approximately $250,000 per hour.
This unconventional process has now resulted in the American people having to make a choice between either the lesser of two evils or the evil of two lessers.
I say it’s time to return to conventional wisdom. Let’s let the Republicans go back to picking their nominee in a smoked-filled room. I frankly trust those big wigs more than I trust myself, as they would never produce a nominee like Donald Trump.
And let’s let the Democrats return to their demolition derby approach of selecting their nominee on the convention floor. That’s how we got FDR and John F. Kennedy, rather than Michael Dukakis.
Yes, my fellow Americans, when it comes to selecting our presidential nominees, it’s time to return to conventional wisdom.