For weeks now, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and his flack Sean Spicer have denigrated the #NeverTrump movement, claiming it is nonexistent, a figment of the imagination. His actions tell us the opposite is true.
First, some background: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a very popular figure on the right who refused to endorse Donald Trump and is close to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), is on the Rules Committee along with his wife. RealClearPolitics reports, “One influential delegate in particular could swing the vote to secure a minority report. Sen. Mike Lee, who sits on the rules committee along with his wife, Sharon, has remained mum on his plans for the vote. But advocates for the conscience clause are optimistic that he will side with them.”
So, if the Dump Trump crowd was a fantasy, Priebus would simply ignore it, steamroll the Rules Committee and jam the Trump nomination through, right? Well, that is not what he did. In a vivid display of weakness, he is met with Lee and the Dump Trump reps seeking a “compromise.” (Hint: There is no compromise.) National Review reports:
According to two sources, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and top RNC officials are huddling privately with Senator Mike Lee, Virginia Committeeman Morton Blackwell, and leaders of the Never Trump movement to discuss a procedural compromise that would allow for gimmick-free votes on anti-Trump measures in exchange for their cooperation in not gumming up the works and prolonging the Rules Committee meeting unnecessarily.
This is mumbo-jumbo for: Priebus doesn’t have the votes and is trying to placate the rebels. There is no reason for anti-Trump forces to compromise on the key issue: A conscience clause must get a fair vote on the floor. Moreover, since they have the numbers, they should also be considering a rule insisting that Trump release five years of tax returns.
Asked if he would cut a deal to drop the conscience clause, a key Dump Trump figure replied, “If Trump offers to withdraw we will consider.”
In truth, Priebus has met his match in Lee. John Hart, who heads the reform-minded Opportunity Lives and is a veteran operative, suggests what Lee might say to the committee:
As a party, we’re like any other association or club whether it’s the Rotary Club, the Aquinas Club or a gathering of kids in a sandlot. If we wanted to choose our nominee by a coin toss we could do that and any state law that told us otherwise would be ruled unconstitutional. That’s what the recent case in Virginia was about. States don’t have the authority to regulate the First Amendment right of assembly. Parties have the power to self-regulate and self-govern. We make our own rules and we can reset those rules whenever we wish. It is our Constitution that gives us that right and privilege.
In other words, all the talk of binding rules is nonsense. As to whether they should proceed, Hart suggests a possible line of argument from Lee: “Imposing the will of 45 percent on the 55 percent isn’t fairness. It’s tyranny of the minority. And no one has changed the rules in the middle of game more than Trump by appealing to impulses and ideas that are anathema to the Party of Lincoln. In fact, if we followed the Trump standard of fairness in 1860 Abraham Lincoln would not have been elected president and we may not be meeting here today.” Lincoln, of course, came to the convention with a minority of votes.
The #NeverTrump forces should recognize and jealously guard their leverage. The irony here is that the one thing Trump cannot stand for is serious delegates voting their conscience. (As Hart says, “If Trump has unified the party to the degree he thinks he has, then his supporters should be leading the charge for both a conscience rule and a nominating vote by secret ballot. What would be a more powerful show of party unity than our delegates choosing Trump just like voters?”) That is precisely why the anti-Trump forces must insist upon it.