Dozens of Republican convention delegates are hatching a new plan to block Donald Trump at this summer’s party meetings, in what has become the most organized effort so far to stop the businessman from becoming the GOP nominee.
The delegates are angered by Trump’s recent comments on gun control, his racial attacks on a federal judge and his sinking poll numbers. They are convinced that Trump is an insufficiently conservative candidate and believe they will find enough like-minded Republicans within the next month to change party rules and allow delegates to vote for whomever they want, regardless of who won their state caucus or primary.
This should eradicate a number of nostrums perpetrated by Reince Priebus and the Trumpkins:
- There is no alternative.
- The GOP has to stick together.
- There is unity.
- The #NeverTrump people are delusional.
None of the above is true.
- The alternatives are unlimited. Delegates simply need to abstain on the first ballot. Then any number of Republicans can step forward as a unity candidate to lead the party in 2016.
- The GOP cannot stick together in support of Trump without sacrificing the White House and imperiling majorities in the House and Senate.
- Since Trump became the “presumptive” nominee, there is less unity than ever. Respected Republicans — e.g. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) — have realized, as 7 in 10 voters who look upon him unfavorably have, that he is fundamentally unfit to lead a diverse country in a dangerous world.
- Apparently, the delusion was in thinking Trump could be “presidential” and that Hillary Clinton was so unpopular that literally anyone, even a racist ignoramus, could beat her.
Delegates — not Priebus, nor Trump’s bully-boy aides — hold the cards here. To succeed, four things will need to occur.
First, if this is seen as a stalking-horse campaign for a single candidate, delegates will likely fracture as this group raises one or more objections to the shadow candidate. Outside Republicans, however, should express unified support for the right of delegates to decide upon the convention rules, including a confirmation of their right to vote their conscience. Donors should make clear they will back to the hilt an alternate nominee who emerges from the convention.
Second, if Trump’s polling continues to sink, it will become increasingly difficult to write off the delegate revolt as anti-party or pro-Clinton. In the RealClearPolitics average, Clinton leads by 5.8 points. What’s the tipping point — 10 points? 12?
Third, watch for congressional generic polling. There has been a single poll showing the GOP trailing by 11, which may mean the majority is at risk. If that is not an outlier but a preview, the anti-Trump forces will have further grounds for arguing that the party should find a credible alternative.
And finally, continued un-endorsements would create a sense of momentum, confirmation that the party is suffering from an egregious case of buyer’s remorse. If #NeverTrump outside activists want to encourage the delegates, they can certainly encourage those who have endorsed Trump to back away from him.
It is still a long shot to oust Trump. Nevertheless, the refusal of principled Republicans to acquiesce to Trump’s takeover of the party speaks well for the future of a center-right party. That might not be the GOP, and it certainly will not be led by Republicans who cheered Trump and dismissed their fellow Republicans’ effort to save the party from itself.