First, we heard Donald Trump crying foul at the very mention of a “contested” convention and warning ominously of “trouble” from his supporters if they are denied a first ballot victory. Now, we have Bernie Sanders alleging a “rigged” outcome and predicting a “messy” convention if super delegates deny his claim to the nomination. While it has been several decades since we have seen a contested convention, it is definitely not uncharted waters. The parties have not only survived contested conventions, but these contested conventions have often nominated good candidates. However, there are some serious warning signs, and both parties, as they come face to face with the possibility of a “messy” 2016 convention, should heed them.
It is interesting how close everything is in New England. As a former Midwesterner, I am used to travelling across large stretches of empty land and entering towns where nobody knows anything about me. That all changed when I moved to Vermont, where I regularly run into distant relatives and towns named after my ancestors (shout-out to Amsden, VT). I now attend Wheaton College in Massachusetts where I study music and psychology, but came back home for a summer to intern with the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. Connections ensued.
Many who follow politics have heard the slogan that both ideas and elections have consequences. The Founding Fathers stated in the Constitution that sovereignty is left with the people and one of the most important rights and responsibilities that we can exercise is the right to vote. Elections, regardless if they are local, state or federal, are important and voters must be informed when they cast their ballots. Russell Kirk wrote that “many Americans are badly prepared for their task of defending their own convictions and interests and institutions against the grim threat of ideology.” Kirk also argued that “ignorance is a luxury none of us can afford” and it is dangerous. Unfortunately our nation suffers from a crisis in civic education as many Americans are ignorant of our history and the foundational principles of our nation. This crisis in civic education also impacts people who cast ballots out of ignorance or who do not even vote for whatever reason.