News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Big Picture
Getty Images

The three GOP challengers to President Trump — from left, Bill Weld, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh — derided the canceling of 2020 nominating contests in four states.

A pro-democracy call unifies Trump’s long-shot GOP challengers

Discussion about how democracy's norms are challenged has been episodic at best in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, but it's the very first topic to galvanize those challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination.

All three of his announced GOP opponents are promoting a scathing op-ed column, published under all their names in The Washington Post over the weekend, condemning their party as undemocratic for canceling its presidential nominating contests in four states.

GOP leaders moved this month to cancel the 2020 primaries in South Carolina and Arizona and the caucuses in Nevada and Kansas — assuring Trump gets all the delegates in those early contests and thereby erecting a significant hurdle for his challengers to build momentum for their long-shot bids.

"The latest disgrace, courtesy of Team Trump, is an effort to eliminate any threats to the president's political power in 2020," wrote former Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, former Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts and former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.

"Do Republicans really want to be the party with a nominating process that more resembles Russia or China than our American tradition?" they wrote. "Are we to leave it to the Democrats to make the case for principles and values that, a few years ago, every Republican would have agreed formed the foundations of our party?"

The party bosses that scrapped the contests — two each on the books in February and early March, with a total 171 delegates at stake — said they were a waste of money and energy given the weakness of the challenger field.

They also noted that their moves were not unprecedented, since clutches of primaries were scrapped by the parties of each of the past three presidents when they ran for re-election: Eight were canceled by the Democrats when Bill Clinton sought his second term in 1996, six on the GOP side when George W. Bush ran in 2004 and 10 on the Democratic side before Barack Obama was renominated in 2012.

What is decidedly different, however, is that none of those presidents had opponents with any sort of national following or fundraising prowess; the intraparty challenges came from virtually unknown gadflies who sought access to the ballots in only a few states.

"If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing," wrote Sanford, Walsh and Weld, all of whom have political organizations and name identification sufficient for a national effort. "Cowards run from fights. Warriors stand and fight for what they believe. The United States respects warriors. Only the weak fear competition."

The three also wrote that litigation to get them on the ballot would probably cost more than the party leaders in the four states purport to save, but they did not say explicitly if they'd be the ones going to court.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Ballot measures are good democracy — but only if you can understand them

Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.

This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.

In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
teguhjatipras/Getty Images

Two states asking Supreme Court for permission to regulate Electoral College conduct

Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.

The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.

Keep reading... Show less