Should The GOP Choose Another Nominee If Trump Doesn’t Have 1,237 Delegates By The Convention?
POLITICAL parties are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and the party nominating process offers few of the protections associated with the ideal of “one man one vote.” Voters in early states have far more influence than voters in later ones. Votes in hard-to-attend caucuses effectively count more than votes in high-turnout primaries. Some primaries are open to party loyalists; others to all comers. The rules that assign convention delegates are byzantine, the delegate selection process is various, and a few states rely on conventions and cut the voters out entirely.
As Donald Trump attempts to clamber to the Republican nomination over a still-divided opposition, there will be a lot of talk about how all these rules and quirks and complexities are just a way for insiders to steal the nomination away from him, in a kind of establishment coup against his otherwise inevitable victory.
….The weird rigors of this process have not always protected the parties from politically disastrous nominees, like Barry Goldwater or George McGovern. But Goldwater and McGovern were both men of principle and experience and civic virtue, leading factions that had not yet come to full maturity. This made them political losers; it did not make them demagogues.
Trump, though, is cut from a very different cloth. He’s an authoritarian, not an ideologue, and his antecedents aren’t Goldwater or McGovern; they’re figures like George Wallace and Huey Long, with a side of the fictional Buzz Windrip from Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here.” No modern political party has nominated a candidate like this; no serious political party ever should.
Because such figures speak — as Wallace did, and Long, and Ross Perot, and others — to real grievances, the process of dealing with them is necessarily painful, and often involves a third-party bid and a difficult reckoning thereafter. Trump would be no exception: Denying him the nomination would indeed be an ugly exercise, one that would weaken or crush the party’s general election chances, and leave the G.O.P. with a long hard climb back up to unity and health.
But if that exercise is painful, it’s also the correct path to choose. A man so transparently unfit for office should not be placed before the American people as a candidate for president under any kind of imprimatur save his own. And there is no point in even having a party apparatus, no point in all those chairmen and state conventions and delegate rosters, if they cannot be mobilized to prevent 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate from imposing a Trump nomination on the party.
…But the party’s convention rules, in all their anachronistic, undemocratic and highly-negotiable intricacy, are also a line of defense, also a hurdle, also a place where a man unfit for office can be turned aside.
So in Cleveland this summer, the men and women of the Republican Party may face a straightforward choice: Betray the large minority of Republicans who cast their votes for Trump, or betray their obligations to their country.
For a party proud of its patriotism, the choice should not be hard.
I generally share Douthat’s opinion of Trump. If anything I don’t think he’s harsh enough. However, I would not support denying Trump the nomination if he comes into the convention with the most delegates.
If the establishment guys really cared about stopping Trump, they’d have been encouraging Rubio and Kasich to get out two weeks ago, pummeling Trump with ads and pushing Cruz. Had they done that, Ted Cruz would probably be the candidate on track to become the nominee right now and he’d have an excellent shot of beating Hillary in the fall. In fact, since Cruz is already beating Hillary head-to-head and since the American people already know and hate her worse than almost anyone not named Trump, he’d be a strong favorite to win. Sadly, I suspect this is exactly why so many of the GOP Establishment guys have refused to move towards Cruz. They hate both Cruz and Trump, but Cruz can win and change things while Trump is highly likely to lose and leave the same old Establishment shills clinging to power with new warnings about the dangers of listening to the voters.
So they haven’t moved to back Cruz because they’re hoping it’ll go to the convention and they can stick Mitt, Jeb, Rubio, Ryan or some other establishment squish in there instead of Trump. It’s fine to say that Trump doesn’t represent the majority of the party if he doesn’t have the majority of the delegates, but he’d still have more of a legitimate claim on the nomination than any of those people. Furthermore, once you get to that point, it’s lose/lose because our nominee is either a fascistic Kim Jong-un wannabe or an establishment pretender who many people will believe thwarted the will of the voters. In either case, barring a miracle, we lose the general election and there are terrible ramifications. Would the damage done to the GOP’s reputation be worse with Trump as our nominee or would we be better off with the establishment Republicans proving for the 1000th time that they don’t care if they win or lose as long as they’re in charge? There is no upside to either option, only ugliness, defeat and misery. Since that’s the case, the GOP would be better off bowing to the will of the voters for once.
PS: It’s pretty unlikely Cruz would be the guy who comes out of a contested convention, even if he’s in second. If the establishment guys were willing to support Cruz, they’d have done it already. Also, I think Cruz is interested in being President, not getting the nomination in a run that’s doomed from the start by Trump taking his ball and going home. Even if Cruz did have the option, he’d probably prefer to run as the party’s presumptive favorite against Hillary in 2020, rather than be set up for failure. I could conceivably see Cruz agreeing to run if the establishment pushed him and Trump were willing to go along with it for some reason, but those circumstances seem highly unlikely.
PS #2: Even if the GOP establishment guys made a legitimate attempt to bridge the divide between Trump supporters and the rest of the Party with their choice, who could possibly do it? The obvious selection would be Ted Cruz, but the fact that they didn’t move towards Cruz when it mattered most tells you that they still consider him unacceptable.
PS #3: It would be controversial, but you could at least claim some kind of legitimacy if Cruz formed a ticket with another candidate and the two of them together had more delegates than Trump, but Rubio appears likely to lose Florida and drop out weeks too late after the 15th and Kasich, who also should have gotten out long ago, is unlikely to collect enough delegates to matter. Perhaps all the other candidates could pledge their delegates to Cruz and you could have the same effect, but again, if they were willing to do that, they should have just gotten out of the race when it would have made a big difference instead of paving Trump’s path towards the nomination.