There’s a difference between (small r) republican principles and the Republican Party’s rules of procedure. But National Review neoconservative Jonah Goldberg doesn’t see it.

Or, maybe Goldberg is using America’s founding governing principles to piggyback the Republican Party’s oft revised and rigged rules to respectability.

Conservatives who harbor the quaint expectation that voters, not party operatives, would choose the nominee stand accused by Goldberg of fetishizing unfiltered democracy.

“America is a republic not a simple democracy,” says Goldberg, in motivating for Grand Old Party chicanery.

Goldberg’s argument is a cunning but poor one. It confuses bureaucratic rules with higher principles: the republicanism of America’s Constitution makers.

Through a Bill of Rights and a scheme that divides authority between autonomous states and a national government, American federalism aimed to secure the rights of the individual by imposing strict limits on the power of thumping majorities and a central government.

The Goldberg variations on republicanism won’t wash. The Republican Party’s arbitrary rules relate to the Founding Founders’ republicanism as the Romney Rule relates to veracity.

The Romney initiated Rule 40(b) is a recent addition to the Republican Party rulebook. It stipulates that to win the nomination, a candidate must demonstrate he has earned a majority of delegates from at least eight different states. Rule 40(b) was passed post-haste in 2012 to thwart libertarian candidate Ron Paul.

Party crooks and their lawyers now find themselves in a pickle, because Gov. John Kasich, candidate for the establishment (including the New York Times and the Huffington Post), has yet to meet the Republican rule du jour.

So, what do The Rulers do? They plan to change the rules. Again.

Pledged delegates are not supposed to act as autonomous agents. Their voting has to be tethered to the candidate whom voters have overwhelmingly chosen. But not when The Party parts company with The Voters. Then, delegates might find themselves unmoored from representing the voters.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has hinted at allowing pledged delegates the freedom to betray their pledge.

No doubt, the villainous Ben Ginsberg, the Romney campaign’s chief counsel, will be called on to facilitate the Faustian bargain. Ginsberg lewdly revealed to a repulsed crew at MSNBC how he could make mischief with Trump’s delegates, during the “pre-convention” wheeling-and-dealing stage, much as he did with Ron Paul’s delegates. Host Rachel Maddow – she’s vehemently opposed – appeared both fascinated and appalled, as were her co-hosts.

Republican Party apparatchiks have always put The Party over The People, and The People are on to them.

Still, most media – with the laudable exceptions of Sean Hannity and the MSNBC election-coverage team – have united to portray the Republican Party apparatus as an honest broker on behalf of the Republican voter. (Indeed, the “dreaded” Donald has forced some unlikely partners to slip between the sheets together.)

In truth, the GOP is a tool of scheming operatives, intent on running a candidate of their own choosing.

The sheer force of Trump, however, is deforming this political organ out of shape. The Trump Force is exposing for all to see the ugly underbelly of the party delegate system. As party rules go, an American may cast his vote for a candidate, only to have a clever party functionary finagle the voter out of his vote.

Too chicken to admit this to Sean Hannity’s face, Reince Priebus has said as much to friendlies like Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes (who’s having a moment).

Priebus has finally seconded what his lieutenants have been telling media all along: “This is a nomination for the Republican Party. If you don’t like the party,” then tough luck. “The party is choosing a nominee.”

Before Priebus came out as a crook, there was popular Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. As a “real” conservative, Sasse would like nothing more than to dissolve the Republican voter base and elect another, more compliant segment of supporters, to better reflect his ideas (a sentiment floated, in 1953, by Stalinist playwright Bertolt Brecht, when East Berliners revolted against their Communist Party bosses).

Sasse phrased his goals more diplomatically:

“The American people deserve better than two fundamentally dishonest New York liberals” (Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton).

It fell to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd to put Sasse on the spot:

Let me ask you this. If you have – what is a political party? And I ask it this way. Is it a, is it a party who [sic] gets its principles and its ideals from its leaders, or is it ground up? What if this is the people speaking and the people are basically handing the nomination to Trump? You may not like it, but is it then fundamentally that the Republican Party is changing because the people that are members of it have changed?

Sasse, who speaks the deceptive language of fork-tongued conservatives so much better than Trump, conceded that “a political party is a tool, not a religion,” but went on, nevertheless, to dictate his terms to the base:

“Find the right guy.” Trump’s not it.

Exposed by the force of the Trump uprising, this is the ugly, Republican, elections-deciding system. The Constitution has nothing to do with it. Decency and fairness are missing from it. And crooks abound in it. (Prattle about who is and who’s not an authentic conservative is redundant if you’re a crook fixing to steal the nomination.)

Contra Goldberg, this enervating Party Machine – operating on state, national and conventional levels – relates to small r republicanism as the Republican Party rulebook relates to the U.S. Constitution: not at all.

Party rules have no constitutional imprimatur.

In a banana republic, despots deploy crude tactics to retain power. Banana Republicans are similar, except they hide behind a complex electoral process, maneuvered by high-IQ crooks.

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