You wouldn’t know it based on the headlines promoted by news outlets across the country, but more than 15 million Republicans, a majority of primary voters, pulled the lever against Donald Trump during the 2016 GOP primary race—the most in American history. Had Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio stayed in the fight through the end of the race, the numbers would have been even worse for Trump.
And yet, despite all of the opposition, Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee—presumptive being the key word. Yes, Trump has won enough primaries to amass the delegates needed to win at the upcoming Republican convention in Cleveland, but as it has been widely reported over the past 24 hours, convention delegates are not necessarily bound to vote for Trump or anyone else, and conservatives inside the party are now frantically working to convince delegates to derail Trump’s nomination at the convention in July.
Without question, it’s a sad, desperate attempt—but it’s also an absolutely imperative one. To save the party, the country, and to stop Hillary Clinton, delegates must do what the majority of GOP primary voters did: reject Trump.
Derailing the Trump Train
Many have wondered how it can be that the delegates may choose anyone they want at the convention when there has been so much talk about delegates being “bound” to the results of primaries. While there is a more-complicated answer to this simple question, as National Review does a fantastic job of explaining, I’ll give you the short-and-sweet version.
Rules for binding convention delegates are determined every four years, shortly before every GOP convention. Prior to the convention, a committee composed of 112 members (two from every state and the six U.S. territories) gather together to approve a set of rules for how the convention will operate. Members are chosen by state convention delegations, and a majority must approve the convention rules before they are sent to the remaining convention delegates for ratification. Once a majority of convention delegates ratify the rules, a vote is cast to determine who the party’s candidate for president will be.
While state laws and state parties may require their delegates to be “bound” to state primary results, courts have determined national convention rules trump (pun intended) state rules and that laws cannot be passed to govern how a private association—the Republican Party—chooses its candidate for president.
If the rules committee passes a rule allowing delegates to vote for any candidate they want and a majority of the convention delegates ratify it, Trump can only be the nominee if he’s chosen to be the nominee freely. Delegates will not be bound to vote for him.
While this may seem incredibly bizarre, it’s actually business as usual for the GOP. As Andrew Romano explains in a fantastic piece for Yahoo News, “The rules of the Republican National Convention have never permitted binding—except in 1976,” the year Republicans did everything they could to stop Ronald Reagan from “stealing” away Gerald Ford’s nomination.
Election Thievery, Unfairness, or Both?
As you might imagine, if the GOP rules committee actually succeeds in allowing delegates to vote for whomever they please, the political world would be rocked and cries from the millions of Trump supporters of “thievery” by the dreaded Establishment would echo across the nation—even if Trump wins in the end.
While such a scheme may very well be unfair, it’s certainly not illegal and it’s definitely not “theft.” The nomination does not belong to Trump, no matter how many times he and others in the media say it does. It belongs to the party as a whole, and the party has governing rules in place that allow it to change the rules, unbind delegates, etc. These are the rules Trump agreed to, even if he didn’t know it, when he decided to run for president as a Republican.
As recent polling shows, Clinton, who will almost certainly end up being the Democrats’ choice, beats Trump in almost every important measure, including having the knowledge to effectively serve, temperament, and even integrity. Also, Trump’s recent outlandish comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel have drawn criticism from even his most ardent supporters. Some Republicans have even reversed their willingness to vote for Trump, including Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk.Things are likely only going to get worse, and it’s hard to imagine how any of this could be good for the party, the conservative movement, or the country. Trump must be stopped, no matter what the political ramifications.
Should the convention delegates choose a candidate other than Trump, the more than 13 million voters who went to the polls in support of him would unquestionably be deprived of the candidate they worked so hard for, and on one level, I sympathize with them. The rules were put in place, and according to the rules, Trump won. Changing the rules after the fact would, in my opinion, be a despicable, wretched act—but no more despicable or wretched than many of the things Trump has said and done in the past.
It would be no more dishonest than Trump’s lies against his former opponents Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cheating Trump out of the nomination would be unjust, but so was accusing Cruz of cheating on his wife and accusing Cruz’s father of being involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It may not be fair, but what is fair about forcing a majority of Republicans to accept a candidate they don’t want?
A man who lies, cheats, and steals his way to the top has no moral high ground to stand on when he himself is “cheated.”
Trump’s supporters may leave the GOP if Trump is pushed out, and perhaps Clinton will end up winning as a result. But if Republicans are ever going to be taken seriously again, they must do everything they can now to block Trump. And frankly, I’d rather lose the election but maintain the integrity of the party than succumb to Trump’s wishy-washy quasi-liberal brand of early 20th century nationalism, which, by the way, will likely lose in the end anyway.