Will the rules survive a new progressive populist moment?

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Buzz Cut:
• Will the rules survive a new progressive populist moment?
• Power Play: They’re super, thanks for asking
• Trump’s loyalty flip could cost him S.C. delegates
• Hillary: ‘I am so sick’ of Sanders’ campaign lies
• Hey guys, you asleep?

A common trope in the 35 anxious and inconclusive days after the 2000 election was that somebody needed to step aside for the good of the country.

The strong suggestion from the then-more powerful media establishment was that either Texas Gov. George W. Bush or Vice President Al Gore needed to do the right thing for the country and step aside. And guess which candidate many analysts thought should absent himself…

There was only one problem: Even if Bush had bowed out, he couldn’t make Gore president. The rules say you cannot be president without winning 270 electoral votes and Gore had only won 266. It was not within Bush’s power to make anyone president, even himself. Concessions are niceties, not legally binding actions.

Even if Gore had won the popular vote. Even if senior citizens in Palm Beach had bungled the butterfly ballot. Even if the press thought Bush was a dope.

This especially incensed populists, since direct democracy has been the cardinal virtue in the eyes of American progressives dating back to the 19th century. What could be more undemocratic than the popular vote being thwarted by the Electoral College and the ruling of five unelected justices of the Supreme Court who stopped the recount in Florida?

The small-r republicanism of America’s founding that intentionally protected two branches of the government from direct democracy was and is seen by populists as further evidence of the founders’ elitism and denial of the “will of the people.”

And to be sure, they were elitists. The proto-populists of the day, like Thomas Jefferson, may have seen greater potential for enlightenment among the yeoman farmers of the burgeoning country than federalists like Alexander Hamilton, but even the Sage of Monticello wouldn’t have been in favor of direct democracy. In the American creed, the rights of man far outweigh the importance of the will of men.

In the end, the framers settled on having only one avenue for pure democracy in the federal system: biennial elections for the lower house of Congress.

The birth of American progressivism is rooted in demands for direct democracy and disdain for the elitism of republicanism that insulated institutions from demands for change. In the previous period of similar social and economic upheaval to our own in the late 19th century and early 20th century, politics were dominated in many ways by this movement, which subsumed the Democrats and drove the Republicans to rupture and defeat in 1912.

There are many things for which the era’s progressives can take credit, including the first far-reaching industrial regulations, Daylight Savings Time and other reflections of the progressive belief that a government sufficiently empowered and funded could ameliorate through science and modern methods many of the ails that had plagued mankind since before Aristotle ever heard of hemlock.

But the lasting legacy of the movement has been for more and more direct democracy. The landmark victory of the 17th Amendment in 1913 that took the power to pick senators away from state legislatures was the pinnacle, but the movement, then and now, has advanced the demand for more power to voters.

One of the most progressive ideas of billionaire third-party candidate Ross Perot in 1992 was that Americans might have gadgets in their homes that would allow them to participate in instant plebiscites. President Perot could come on TV, presumably with Larry King, and ask the people what they wanted. Press one to bomb, press two to hold off. Pass the tax hike? Sign the treaty? Just give the people what they want.

That didn’t, of course, come to pass. But the energy behind it – that the will of the common people is both valuable and underrepresented – is very much with us in the populist progressivism that has taken hold of big swaths of both major political parties.

The parties themselves were re-ordered to favor direct democracy in the period of progressive populism that flared up after Richard Nixon’s fall. By 1976, when it came to picking delegates to pick party nominees, smoke-filled rooms at state conventions were out and primaries were in.

But now, the progressive populists in both parties are chafing at the remaining barriers to direct democracy. For the Democrats backing Bernie Sanders, it’s the so-called “superdelegates” who get convention votes because of their status as officeholders or senior party officials. On the Republican side, its anger from Donald Trump’s supporters that if Trump wins more delegates than any other candidate but fails to win an outright majority he could be passed over for the nomination.

The American political system is once again swimming hard in the eddies of progressive populism. But just as Gore couldn’t be president without 270 electoral votes, neither Trump nor Sanders can be their parties’ nominees without winning outright majorities.

But these are still nuclear-powered talking points for candidates whose campaigns have honed in voters who blame the ills of the nation, and perhaps in their own lives, on the perfidy of a powerful, cloistered elite.

The question now, as it was each time before, is whether or not the remaining defenders of small-r republicanism in both parties rouse themselves to the task of defending a system that seeks to balance the will of men to the rights of man.

Power Play: GOP divorce; They’re super, thanks for asking
Amid abundant nastiness on the trail, the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker and the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar join Chris Stirewalt to assess the long term fallout for a Republican party deeply divided over who will head the ticket in November. WATCH HERE.

Plus: Can Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders win over Democratic superdelegates and sway those loyal to frontrunner Hillary Clinton for a primary upset? But superdelegates are hard to sway, and many of them don’t think Sanders can win in the fall. The panel digs into the slender chancers for Sanders to turn the tide. WATCH HERE

Famously decadent, a spongy and sweet dessert is actually linked to a monumental geographic event in American history. NPR has the details: “[In] 1867, for a mere $7.2 million — about two cents per acre — the U.S. bought land from Russia that would eventually make Alaska its 49th state, gaining a delicious fringe benefit in the process: Baked Alaska. No, this igloo-shaped dessert — cake and ice cream shrouded in toasted meringue — didn’t come from the icy north, but its name was inspired by the land deal. In fact, the treat’s true roots date back to the turn of the 18th century, when American-born scientist Sir Benjamin Thompson (aka Count Rumford, a title he gained for his loyalty to the crown during the American Revolution) — whose inventions included a kitchen range and a double boiler — made a discovery about egg whites.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 42.1 percent; Cruz 31.7 percent; Kasich 19.3 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 51 percent; Sanders 42.4 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +11.2 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1

Time: “Donald Trump’s announcement that he no longer stands by a pledge to support the GOP has thrown his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates in doubt. The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday…Trump has been hiring staff to ensure he hangs on to delegates in what could be a messy convention fight, but the latest threat appears to be an unforced error on his part.”

Fox Business poll has Cruz with a big lead in Wisconsin - Fox Business: “Ted Cruz leads Donald Trump in the Republican nomination contest in Wisconsin, according to a Fox Business Network Poll released Thursday. Cruz garners 42 percent among Wisconsin likely GOP primary voters, while Trump receives 32 percent.  John Kasich comes in third with 19 percent. Among just those who say they will ‘definitely’ vote, Cruz’s lead over Trump widens to 46-33 percent, and Kasich gets 16 percent.”

Trump super PAC ad tells his supports that the ‘grief’ they get is worth it - In a new ad airing in Wisconsin, a pro-Trump super PAC knocks Ted Cruz on national security, but also has the female actor stating in the spot: “Sure, I get some grief when I say I’m voting for Donald Trump…”

Trump gets convention cram session - NYT: “Outwardly, Donald J. Trump called it a ‘unity meeting’ — a closed-door session in Washington on Thursday involving his own inner circle and the Republican National Committee’s high command. Inside, however, it was more of a clearing of the air, according to three people briefed in detail on the discussion…In the meeting…the Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, laid out for the party’s front-runner the need for the committee and Mr. Trump’s campaign to have a good relationship, according to the three people, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations…”

Trump spox: Trump abortion position was ‘off the cuff’ - On Thursday’s “The Kelly File” Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson said that Trump was speaking “off the cuff” when he said women who receive abortions should be punished. Pierson continued, “This was a hypothetical context of something happening that was illegal. Mr. Trump was just re-stating, ‘Yes, if something’s illegal, they should be punished.’ That’s why he clarified, for distinguishing the difference between the woman and the actual person committing the procedure that was not legal.” Watch here.

Candidate stands by European nuclear threat: ‘Europe is a big place’ - The Hill: “Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday doubled down on his promise to not rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe. ‘I don’t want to take cards off the table, I’d never do that,’ Trump said during a phone interview on ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ adding, ‘the last person to press that button would be me.’ Guest host Eric Bolling acknowledged not ruling out using nuclear weapons against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but pressed Trump about the possibility of using them in Europe. ‘Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table,’ Trump said.”

Fox News Sunday - Republican frontrunner Donald Trump sits down with Mr. Sunday. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

[GOP delegate count: Trump 736; Cruz 463; Kasich 143 (1,237 needed to win)]

WaPo: “A question about fossil-fuel-industry donations to her campaign unleashed a rare flash of anger from Hillary Clinton on the rope line in New York on Thursday. The moment was recorded by an activist, whom Greenpeace identified as Eva Resnick-Day, who sought to pressure Clinton about the roughly hundreds of thousands of dollars her campaign has received from individuals with ties to fossil-fuel industries. ‘Will you act on your word to reject fossil-fuel money in the future in your campaign?’ Resnick-Day asked after thanking Clinton for addressing climate change in her campaign…Apparently peeved, Clinton fired back flashing a frustration that had begun to show earlier in the rally when a large group of Sanders supporters interrupted her speech. ‘I have money from people who work for fossil-fuel companies,’ Clinton said. As Resnick-Day tried to respond, Clinton interrupted her pointing her finger for emphasis: ‘I am so sick -- I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me.’”

Bernie raises big cash in March - The Hill: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reportedly broke his monthly presidential fundraising record in March, earning more than $44 million before the Federal Election Commission’s midnight filing deadline Friday…Sanders’s team had reportedly raised $39.6 million as of 6 a.m. Thursday morning, but raised around $5 million that day alone to break its previous monthly benchmark of $43.5 million set in February.”

[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1712; Sanders 1011 (2,383 needed to win)]

#mediabuzz - The ladies of “Outnumbered” join host Howard Kurtz to discuss the media’s role in this rough primary season on both sides of the aisle. Watch Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

[Watch Fox: Bret Baier hosts “Fox News Reporting: Rising Threats, Shrinking Military” tonight at 10 p.m. ET]

Daily Mail: “A Michigan couple got a wake-up call from hell recently when they were roused from sleep by a bear licking at their bedroom window. Michael Kinney and his wife were sleeping Easter weekend when they were suddenly woken up at 4am by a noise outside their house in Stevensville. They looked outside, and a 400-pound bear was standing on its hinds legs, eating out of their bird feeder. Mr Kinney estimates that the bear was about 6-foot-5 when it was standing on its hind legs.”

[Ed. Note: We at Fox News First rely on the great good work of our colleagues at the Fox News Channel and the rest of the Fox family for much of our daily missives. But we also rely on journalists around the country and sometimes the world to bring you this little snapshot of the political moment. We are grateful and hope that publicity and greater attention from our many readers is adequate recompense for the appropriation of their work. Unless we misspell their names. And that has been the case with Mollie Z. Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, St. Louis Cardinals fan and all-around great American. We have managed not only to misspell her name on more than one occasion but in two different ways. This is, we assure Mrs. Hemingway, no reflection of our gratitude or esteem for her work. Fox News First will strive to either spell it right henceforth, or at least find a third way to get it wrong. Have you ever considered going by Mahlee? Maybe Mali?]

“[Donald Trump] knows there’s no way he can undo the damage of the abortion statement.  He has got to give it a little time and we’ll be on to something else.  He will invent something else later.” -- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up