Breaking the Education Stranglehold

Republican congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky has introduced a bill to abolish the Department of Education. The bill is quite simple, consisting of one sentence: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

The probability of this bill going anywhere is nearly zero. The NEA and others who feed at the federal trough won’t allow it. All Democrats get money from the NEA, as do many Republicans. Beyond the funding, there’s also the undying belief that government-sponsored and -controlled education is necessary to the survival of the republic.

My view is the opposite: government-sponsored and -controlled education is the reason we are in such a mess educationally. One size does not fit all, and the federal government’s bureaucracy has no idea how to carry out real education, especially since it removes the Christian element.

Here’s the truth historically and constitutionally: there is no authority in the federal Constitution for the government at that level to be involved in education at all. The Department of Education is foundationally unconstitutional and should be scrapped.

But who pays attention to the Constitution anymore?

My view is that states, which have given themselves authority to delve into education, also make a mess of it, primarily because it’s not a proper function of government. No level of government should be telling citizens what education is and how it should be carried out.

Education is a function of the family, and parents should have complete liberty to decide how and where their children will be educated.

Pipe dream? Probably. But that doesn’t change the Scriptural mandate that puts parents in charge of their children. Neither does it negate the efforts of legislators like Rep. Massie to draw our attention to the basics and try to move the needle away from government oversight.

This latest effort to disengage government from education will fail. Yet it is worth making the attempt. Every time we do, we inform and educate the public about the proper role of government and the significance of parental choice.

Betsy DeVos is the new secretary of education. I’m sure she would rejoice if she were the last one because she grasps the importance of educational choice. It will be interesting to see if she can make any headway at all in breaking the stranglehold that the NEA has on education.

Healthcare & the Constitution

America is counting down the days remaining in the Obama administration. What more damage can he do in the next two weeks? Well, keep in mind he’s been able to accomplish quite a bit during his tenure and he doesn’t show any signs of letting up. Let’s summarize:

The first target for Republicans will be Obamacare. Obama himself continues to act as if it’s doing just fine. The reality is somewhat different:

Democrats in the Congress are trying to rally the troops to defend the centerpiece of Obama’s vision, but their hope may be illusory:

They are going with the old tried-and-true strategy that they have used on every Republican from Ronald Reagan to the present day:

I remember back in the 1980s when Democrats sought to convince the public that Reagan was going to throw old people out on the streets to die. Not that long ago, Paul Ryan was pictured as pushing an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff. Perhaps this time the public will tire of that overused and thoroughly dishonest tactic.

So Republicans have the knives out to remove Obamacare from the public life, but there is not unanimity in the ranks over how to do it, whether anything is worth keeping, or how to replace it.

My solution for this is not a popular one. How about going back to the Constitution and reading it one more time? If we do so, we will see that there is no authority in that document for the federal government to legislate on healthcare whatsoever. Why not allow the market to work and then let states deal legislatively with anything that needs correction?

I understand the politics, all the accusations that Republicans would have to face if they followed my advice, but that would be the constitutional thing to do. Unfortunately, constitutionalism won’t even be considered.

The nation has become so dependent on federal outlays and policy from on high that it will take a massive re-educational effort to change that outlook.

Democrats can always play on that and promise the world, while those few Republicans who do take the Constitution seriously seem to have the more difficult task explaining why the government should be kept out of this.

Even though this last election is being portrayed as a rejection of government interference, far too many people have become, in the insightful words of C. S. Lewis, “willing slaves of the welfare state.” They want what is “theirs” from the government.

And Democrats are always on the lookout for creating more government dependence:

Have we really learned our lesson as a nation? Will principles ever make a comeback?

The Ultimate Safe Space

In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, some really sad and silly things have been happening. Now, keep in mind that I was as solid a critic of Trump as anyone might want to find. I’m still distressed that he has become the titular head of a party (Republican) and a movement (conservative) with which I always have been aligned.

Yet I accept election results that are not fraudulent and work with those results as best I can.

Not so on the Democrat/Fantasyland side of the political spectrum.

First, we’ve had all those protests that have exceeded legitimate protesting since they are undoubtedly coordinated and funded by individuals such as George Soros. The goal? Create chaos and make people regret the election results.

Some of those protesting actually believe their actions will overturn the election; they are wrong. Others have no real idea why they are protesting; they just like getting paid for acting out their pent-up anger.

trump-protests

Colleges are particularly susceptible to this fantasyland because their students are being taught by the radicals of yesteryear. “Safe spaces,” crying times, and suspension of classes and exams are all the rage.

Democrat politicians like Sen. Barbara Boxer want to do away with the electoral college system for electing a president. I won’t go into all the reasons right now why that’s a foolish idea. For her, it’s just a political expediency because she’s upset Hillary lost.

By the way, 3/4 of the states would have to approve an amendment to do away with our manner of choosing the president. That’s not going to happen.

Now we have others advocating that we get rid of states. We’re all just one big happy country, they say, and the existence of states gets in the way. We all pretty much think and act alike, we’re told.

We do? Fantasyland emerges again.

To all the protesters who manifest their displeasure, let me remind you that the only reason you can do what you do is that there is still a semblance of the concept of rule of law and protection of minority viewpoints. The instrument for your protection is the Constitution you seem to disdain. If you were thinking clearly, you would recognize it for what it is:

ultimate-safe-space

A Convention of States?

constitutionLast Saturday was the official Constitution Day, celebrating September 17th as the 229th anniversary of the day when the Constitutional Convention signed off on the document that was then sent to the states for ratification.

Has it stood the test of time? Well, we still have the same basic structure of government that it established. Yet there have been so many departures from the text that the whole concept of rule of law is now at risk.

This has led to a grassroots movement to ensure that the Constitution is taken seriously. It’s called the Convention of States, an entirely constitutional effort to amend the Constitution in ways that will make it more difficult for politicians and judges to overthrow the original intent and wording of this fundamental cornerstone of liberty.

The basis for the movement is found in Article V of the Constitution:

he Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.

Some have objected that such a convention would be a runaway assembly that will undermine the Constitution completely. I don’t accept that logic. There are two safeguards: first, the people supporting this movement are those who already fear the Constitution is being undermined, and their goal is to return to its original meaning; second, any proposed amendment will have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. There are enough conservative states to stop any radical element being added to the Constitution.

What types of amendments are being floated? Here are possibilities that the organizers of this movement have mentioned:

  • A balanced budget amendment
  • A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
  • A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
  • A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
  • A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
  • Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
  • Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
  • Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes

I see nothing radical in those propositions; I welcome a convention that will discuss them openly and make recommendations.

How has the movement progressed? Here’s the latest information:

cos-progress-2016

I’m glad to report that my state of Florida has seen the light on this and the legislature has passed the application. The movement is picking up steam as can be seen by the number of states where applications have been filed.

To show the seriousness of this endeavor, the organization is convening a simulated convention of the states this week in Colonial Williamsburg.

colonial-williamsburg-capitol

State legislators will practice how a convention of states will be run on September 21-23, and the final deliberations will be made available to anyone interested in hearing them. Representatives from all the states will be present for this simulated convention.

If you are interested in becoming involved with this movement, go to http://www.conventionofstates.com/ to find out more.

Is it too late to make a difference and pull the nation back from the precipice? None of us should make that determination until we have done everything possible to stop the mad rush over the cliff.

Friends, Colleagues, Former Students–Lend Me Your Ears

I am going to make a concerted effort next week to turn to other subjects in this blog, but for today, I feel compelled to make a heartfelt appeal to those I count as friends or colleagues, and to a multitude of former students of mine who appear to be supporting Donald Trump.

Please lend me your ears. I come not to praise Trump, but to expose him.

But I’m sure you already know that.

Donald Trump at DebateWhen Trump first announced his candidacy, which seems like an eon ago, I immediately viewed it as a joke. After watching his debate “performances,” that view only strengthened. Nothing he has done since has changed my mind, despite the fact that he is now the Republican nominee. The joke is now on us.

My first real indication that something was going terribly wrong was when I went to speak to a Tea Party group here in Florida. This was in early February, prior to the vote in Iowa’s caucuses. The group conducted a poll of its members and Trump won by an astounding margin. The man who spoke right before me was a Trump surrogate who assumed everyone was on his side, and judging by the response, he was correct.

Frankly, I was stunned.

Since the Indiana primary, it now seems as if nearly everyone in the Tea Party and/or 9/12 movements in my area has come out enthusiastically for Trump.

Book Cover 1In January of this year, I spoke to a large gathering of Republican women from across the state. My talk, which was about my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, went over so well that I was besieged afterwards with invitations to come speak to various local Republican clubs.

That has not yet happened. Neither was I invited to speak to our local club this summer, even though I always have done so in recent years. I understand. My vocal opposition to Trump makes that rather untenable.

One of my regular readers, a man who has been active in Republican circles in another state but who also has chosen not to endorse Trump, wrote to me and said he has never felt so isolated from fellow Republicans and that he has been treated pretty much as an outcast.

I’ve also noticed that a good number of friends, colleagues, and former students who used to “like” my blog posts regularly have fallen strangely silent lately. Of course I know why; they have decided to back Trump, even though many, I’m sure, have come to this decision with deep reservations.

If you are part of that group, let me tell you that I do understand your frustration with the way things are. I’m also interpreting your silence as a measure of respect for me, not wishing to publicly come out against my position.

The most bothersome thing to me is that most of us all want the same thing, but we disagree on how to achieve it. Rest assured, your difference of opinion on Trump doesn’t sever our relationship, but it does sadden me.

Why? Well, in the case of former students, in particular, I had hoped that all I’ve taught so fervently these past decades would help ground you in principles. I’m not saying you aren’t principled—you continue to stand firm for all those things we believe in with respect to the rule of law, religious liberty, the proper type of education, etc.—but you somehow think that Donald Trump will protect and preserve what we all cherish.

That’s where I think you are violating your principles.

I’m especially disturbed by those who would say I am part of the establishment, and that’s why I oppose Trump. Good heavens, would anyone who really knows me say anything like that? I ask you, who is in bed with the “establishment” right now? Isn’t it Trump himself? Didn’t the “establishment” cut off all opposition to his nomination? Why are you now siding with the very people that have so angered you all these years?

After the Republican convention, an organization called Conservatives Against Trump came out with a statement that accurately conveys where I stand and why.

Against Trump 3

Let me share some of those comments.

The statement makes it clear that the goals of this group are what “we” have always encouraged: limited government, religious liberty, freedom of speech, the sanctity of life, and a strong national defense. It goes on to note,

We see no small irony in the fact that the Republican Platform Committee produced one of the most deeply conservative platforms in modern electoral history, but nominated a candidate who has taken positions contrary to its central tenets. Donald Trump is a contradiction to most everything the Party states as its core beliefs.

Abdication of principle is not the problem of those who oppose Trump; that abdication is found within the party that nominated him.

Then there is this reminder of where Trump has stood on policy and his previous political commitments:

Trump begins as a liberal Republican, arguably more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. He repeatedly praises Planned Parenthood. He has donated significant money to liberal politicians – including Hillary Clinton.

He wants the government to run health care. He opposes entitlement reform. He supported the Obama stimulus spending plan, the auto bailout and the banks bailout. He opposes free trade agreements. Trump is much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican. He is a man whose deepest creed is himself.

It continues with commentary on his character, which should be a primary concern of all real conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular:

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganThis pretend Republican has preyed on misunderstandings, ignorance, and sometimes violence and rank bigotry. He has been vulgar, coarse, demagogic, and cruel. He has mocked disabled people, lauded dictators, and insisted that military leaders would follow his lawless orders should he attain the Presidency. He has been slow to condemn racists – the very reason the Republican Party was founded. He has praised torture as a form of punishment and promised to extend retribution to the innocent.

4.1.1But what about the Supreme Court? Even if everything else I’ve said about Trump is true, we can’t let that slip through our fingers, can we?

Some of our fellow conservatives have argued that the Supreme Court vacancy compels them to vote for Trump. We respect them and their reasoning, but we do not agree. We do not trust that Trump would appoint a good Justice or, if he does, would fight for a conservative jurist against an adversarial Senate.

The statement correctly notes that the Supreme Court is only one part of the government and that a Trump presidency would probably be just as disastrous to the whole concept of our government as a Hillary presidency:

Furthermore, we would be gambling on a good Supreme Court nomination at the price of constitutional integrity – and this coming from a Republican President leading a party that prides itself on originalist jurisprudence.

We do not trust Donald Trump to bow to the authority of the Constitution or the laws of Congress. He is running on a platform of strength and action, and our Constitution was formed to hobble not just quick lawmaking, but the very kind of strongman governance Trump embodies, despite the angry clamor from a justifiably frustrated electorate.

The antidote is not to seek a “strong man” who will force everything to go the way he perceives it should. Recall Trump’s words at the Republican convention when he said only he can solve the problems of the nation. Really? That’s been the attitude of a steady stream of dictators throughout history.

So what is the solution?

The antidote is to put forward leaders who will appeal to our reason and virtue, not our instincts and vices. We are committed to the principles of the Republican Party, not because they belong to the Party but because we believe they are right and just. We are conservatives before we are Republicans.

We believe that politics is about the art of the possible. We have often been in a position of supporting the lesser of two evils. But Donald Trump appeals not to our better angels but to our baser instincts.

Constitutional RepublicThe statement then ends with the following declarations:

We will not compromise core principle for the sake of Party allegiance.

We will not allow vulgarity to stand in the place of virtue.

We will not allow Trump to be the face of the nation to the world – not with our votes.

We will not sit by idly and allow conservatism to be hijacked by a man who shares none of the values of Reagan and Lincoln.

We will support conservative candidates down-ballot.

We will vote our conscience because we believe such a vote is our right and duty as citizens and is never wasted — whether that be voting for another conservative candidate or a write-in.

We will continue to speak out on issues important for our nation. We will seek to impact the newest generation of voters and educating them on the Constitution, the role of faith, family, and freedom as the basis of limited government.

I am in agreement with every one of those declarations. I appeal to all of you—friends, colleagues, and former students—please rethink your support of a man who is just as much a threat to our government and our culture as the horrible candidate put forth by the Democrats.

It’s time to see Donald Trump for what he really is, not for what you hope he will be.

About Last Week’s Convention

There are different types of Trump supporters. First, there are the angry people who just want Trump to get back at those who they perceive have created all the problems in the country. Trump will build a wall, they say, and make America great again. We believe him.

They are so confident that he is the new political savior that their faith is unshakeable, no matter what he does. As Trump himself famously stated, he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone and not lose their support.

I don’t write to convince those people of anything. They have stopped thinking.

Then there’s the establishment types who originally loathed Trump and still wish someone else had gotten the nomination. Yet they will support him because they are Republicans first and principled people only tangentially.

Finally, there are the true conservatives, many of them evangelicals, who would not ordinarily come near anyone like Trump but who are so afraid of a Hillary Clinton presidency that they have reluctantly pledged to vote for him. They know in their hearts he is probably reprehensible but they conclude they have no other choice; at least he might choose a good Supreme Court justice or two.

I write primarily for that last group. There remains some hope they can be persuaded that they have hitched their wagon to a leader who is going to destroy the republic in a way that Hillary cannot—by destroying the GOP itself and, in the process, undermining every moral value that Christians profess to believe.

When Ted Cruz spoke at the Republican convention last week, the Trump people and the media declared it a disaster for Cruz. Yet what did Cruz do, precisely?

First, Trump gave the invitation to speak. From all accounts, he knew up front that Cruz would not publicly endorse him. Second, Cruz gave his speech to the Trump campaign two days before he stood at the lectern to deliver it. Trump approved the wording.

Then, when Cruz told the delegates (and all watching throughout the nation) that they should not stay home on election day but go out to vote, and that they should vote their conscience and for those who uphold the Constitution, pandemonium occurred.

We now pretty well know that the boos that cascaded upon Cruz at that moment were orchestrated ahead of time. Trump’s people were prepared to initiate the booing when Cruz spoke that specific line.

What was so wrong with that? Are we not supposed to vote our conscience and uphold the Constitution?

Don't Vote Conscience

The uproar, to some extent, was the implication that voting for Trump is a vote against conscience. Well, for anyone who holds the Constitution, the rule of law, and Biblical principles paramount, I would have to agree.

Yet the wording was approved by Trump ahead of time.

Pundits have now declared Cruz persona non grata in Republican circles—never mind that he has since gone to rallies for Republican candidates and been well received. They rant that he broke his pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.

I like what one person said about that particular complaint:

Christians need a serious primer in ethics. So many are attacking Ted Cruz because in their eyes he committed the unpardonable sin. He didn’t keep the pledge.

What they fail to understand is the nature of ethical dilemmas.
Sure it is right and proper to keep one’s pledges. It is also right and proper to defend the honor and dignity of your family.

So I ask all the Christian men criticizing Cruz, would you have any problem endorsing a man who insults your wife in front of the nation, makes your little children wonder if daddy is unfaithful to Mommy, and says your father was involved with the assassination of JFK?

Would you? If you could disrespect your family enough to endorse the lying scoundrel who made those attacks on them, then what kind of man are you?

After Cruz’s speech, Trump resurrected the conspiracy theory about Cruz’s father being in league with Lee Harvey Oswald. He actually brought it up again, despite the complete idiocy of the charge. He even praised the National Enquirer and said he couldn’t understand why it hasn’t received a Pulitzer Prize.

Stephen HayesStephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard then wrote an article provocatively titled “Donald Trump Is Crazy, and So Is the GOP for Embracing Him.” Hayes notes, with regard to the innuendo concerning Cruz’s father,

The Kennedy assassination is one of the most heavily investigated events in the past century. Cruz’s father was not implicated. There is no evidence to support claims that he was ever in the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald or had a role in the Kennedy assassination. And scholars who have studied those events have said without qualification that Cruz wasn’t involved. But Trump peddles his nonsense anyway.

Yet where is the outrage over Trump’s nonsense? Hayes continues,

Either Trump believes Rafael Cruz was involved or he’s making the implied accusation in a continued attempt to discredit Cruz’s son. In either case, this isn’t the behavior of a rational, stable individual. It should embarrass those who have endorsed him and disgrace those who have attempted to normalize him.

The degree of this normalization is stunning. The Republican nominee for president made comments Friday that one might expect from a patient in a mental institution, the kind of stuff you might read on blog with really small print and pictures of UFOs. And yet his remarks barely register as news. There are no condemnations from fellow Republicans. His supporters shrug them off as Trump being Trump.

Hayes further recounts other Trump craziness: peddling the theory that Antonin Scalia was murdered; that thousands of Muslims rejoiced in the streets of New Jersey on 9/11; the whole birther episode with Obama (sorry, folks, but I never believed that one).

When Trump went on Alex Jones’s radio program, he praised that 9/11 Truther who claims a 98% chance that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled bombings perpetrated by the US government—that Bush was behind it all. What did Trump comment about Jones? “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Really? Is this the man who deserves the vote of evangelicals who say they put Christ first in all things?

And what about the Republican party as a whole? It used to be the party of Biblical morality, pro-life, in favor of traditional families, etc. Yes, I know that the official platform states all those things, but the convention itself promoted the opposite in many ways. A “proud gay” man speaks and receives a standing ovation. Trump promises to be, in effect, a better president for the LGBT “community” than Hillary.

Trump’s acceptance speech didn’t even offer a cursory comment about the GOP’s pro-life position. Donald Trump Jr. has even stated that he doesn’t see what the big deal is about abortion; the Trump family is working to excise all those “social issues” out of the GOP.

On top of that, Trump sounded like the proponent of big government solutions. Or that he himself was the solution for all our problems. He is a total narcissist. In a Trump administration, the era of small constitutional government would be over.

This was a Republican convention?

Caboose

Hillary Clinton does not deserve the presidency. She ought to be in prison. Donald Trump does not deserve the presidency. He ought to be kept far away from any levers of political power.

Some of my readers have complained that I am aiming too much at Trump. Why not make Hillary the target? Do a search on my blog site. You should be satisfied that I’ve clearly laid out over the years the case against her.

Why focus on Trump? Because I’m appalled at the collapse of principle in those who should know better. I’m still hoping against hope that I can say something to help right this ship. We need to look beyond the 2016 election and try to salvage what has been best in the Republican party. That is my goal. And if that party is now beyond saving, I pray a new party will arise to take its place.

We should never sacrifice principle and long-term goals for the sake of short-term, unprincipled actions. Nominating Donald Trump is a short-term, short-sighted, unprincipled action that will be just as disastrous as another Clinton presidency.

Should Convention Delegates Be Unbound?

The Republican party is getting anxiety attacks from the latest move to deny Donald Trump the nomination at the convention. There is an organized effort to release the delegates at the convention from the restriction that they must vote for whoever won the primary or convention in the individual states.

Is this anarchy? Is it a threat to the voice of the people?

While not an exact comparison, let me offer a history lesson today.

We are so used to referring to our nation as a democracy that we fail to grasp what the Founders actually established. They called it either a federal republic or a constitutional republic. Regardless of the precise wording, the one word they always avoided—actually abhorred—was “democracy.”

Constituitonal Convention

James Madison’s notes at the Constitutional Convention, and the comments made elsewhere throughout this Founding Era, reveal a profound antipathy to anything resembling a direct democracy. They constantly called to mind the ancient Greek city-states that were often democracies. The problem? The citizens were often deluded into following the rantings of popular speakers who would lead them astray by appealing to their emotions. Many Founders referred to democracy as “mobocracy.”

The word that describes those kinds of speakers/politicians is “demagogue.” As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a demagogue is “a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.”

The Founding generation wanted cooler heads to prevail in political discourse and the decisions to be made by the federal government. That’s why they deliberately chose to divide up the representation in a number of ways.

Constitutional Republic

First, they did give the people a direct say by letting them choose their representatives in the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, was to be chosen by state legislatures, thereby giving state governments representation as well. A lot can be said about how we later changed that—for the worse—but I’ll let that slide for now.

The president, in the Constitution, is not chosen by a direct vote of the people, but by specific “electors” chosen by the state legislatures. The goal was to ensure that popular enthusiasm wouldn’t allow a poor choice. They hoped the electors, who were supposed to be the wisest of statesmen, would choose better. In fact, the first time a direct vote by the people became common was in 1828, three decades after the Constitution was ratified.

Again, that electoral college approach has been altered by states simply allowing the slate of electors for whichever political party wins the popular vote to cast the official votes. Keep in mind that in the disputed election of 2000, the Florida legislature would have been well within its constitutional rights to choose its electors rather than waiting for all those recounts to be completed. They didn’t do that purely for political reasons: they would have been accused of overturning “democracy.”

Unfortunately, that’s where we are today in our understanding of how the system is supposed to work.

One of the big arguments in the decades following the ratification of the Constitution was whether the congressmen elected by the people in the House could vote their conscience or whether they were bound to vote according to what the majority of their constituents wanted.

Andrew JacksonThe ones pushing for the latter position were primarily the Democrats who, with the advent of Andrew Jackson, began to believe that congressmen were mere ciphers who cast the official votes for whatever their constituents desired. The feeling began to grow that the people are always right.

But the overwhelming view of the Founders was just the opposite. They knew that people could be misled and congressmen had a responsibility to consider seriously every proposed bill that came before them and vote according to what they believed was best for the nation, regardless of what their constituents wanted.

If they went against the wishes of those who elected them, they then went back to the people to explain why they did so. If they could convince the voters that they did the right thing, they were reelected; if they were unsuccessful in convincing them, they resigned themselves to the results of the next election.

That’s called living by principle and following one’s conscience. That means a representative is exactly that—a representative—which differs from a public functionary who must do whatever the people demand, even if it goes against sound logic and good policy.

Why even have congressmen if they are mere functionaries robbed of their own minds? Just take a nationwide vote on everything and do whatever the people want at a given moment? Sorry, but that sounds very scary to me. Public opinion is anything but stable and principled.

So how does this relate to the upcoming Republican convention?

Republican voters in the states made their decision on who they thought the nominee should be. They send delegates to the convention to make it official. What are those delegates? Are they thinking people who should have an opportunity to evaluate the voters’ decision or are they mere ciphers who are forced to vote a certain way even if they believe it would be to the detriment of their party and the nation?

I’ve read quite a bit about whether these delegates are truly free to vote as they wish. I think the evidence comes down in favor of that overall. Yes, some states have told them they have to vote according to the results of the primary. One Virginia delegate has now challenged that in court.

In other states, the Republican party itself has dictated they have to vote according to the results on the first ballot, at least, or in some cases, beyond that. But party rules can be changed at the convention.

A hypothetical: suppose the presumed nominee, prior to this convention, should do something particularly outrageous, along the order, let’s say, of advocating a lifetime tenure for the president, or giving the president the authority to dismiss federal judges whenever he disagrees with a court decision. If such a presumed nominee were to do something like that, do you think it would be wise to force the delegates to vote for that person regardless? Or would the party then rethink its rules?

Donald TrumpThe nomination of Donald Trump has divided the Republican party in a way no previous nomination ever has. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates 52% of Republicans are not satisfied with Trump as the nominee. That is unprecedented in the lead-in to the national convention.

Trump won only 44% of the vote in the primaries, and that figure is only as high as it is because he added to the percentage once his remaining opponents dropped out and the voters were resigned to having no other choice. Other polls indicate that up to 70% of the general electorate can’t stand this man.

Trump’s antics—whether one focuses on his character, his lack of policy knowledge, or his highly disorganized campaign—have not changed since his pledge to become more presidential in his bearing and manner.

Most political prognosticators (I know, they can be massively wrong at times) see an electoral disaster looming for Republicans.

Why, then, is the party establishment circling the wagons around Trump? They argue, with some discernment, that a circus at the convention would doom the party for sure in November. It might.

I would argue that going forward with Trump is the surest path to a Hillary Clinton presidency. Anyone else nominated would stand a better chance of beating her than Donald Trump.

So if the delegates were unbound, yes, there would be some instability introduced into this election even if Trump were to win the nomination anyway. And he would be an even more damaged candidate afterward.

If Trump were to lose the nomination at the convention, who would be nominated in his place? I don’t know. Perhaps that would be an even bigger tumult and the eventual nominee would be trounced in the general election.

However, it is also conceivable that someone might get the nomination who could unite the party in a way that Trump never can. If that should occur, and this nominee is a good communicator of Republican principles, there is a chance that the most despised Democrat nominee in history could be kept out of the White House.

I’m often accused of helping Hillary Clinton become president by not supporting Trump. I firmly believe, however, that those who are in Trump’s corner are the ones who are assuring a Clinton victory. He is electoral poison. Trump as the Republican nominee will put Clinton in the presidency.

So I do understand the anxiety over a contested convention, and I know there could be disastrous results, but I think we already have a disastrous result in a Trump nomination.

Free the delegates to be true representatives, not mere ciphers.