For the first time in the cable news era, America is witnessing the blow-by-blow prelude to what is likely to be a contested battle for the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s convention this summer.
That battle, for a lot of people, isn’t a pretty sight.
The magic number for one of the remaining candidates to clinch the nomination before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July is 1,237. For one of the remaining hopefuls, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), that is a mathematical impossibility. For the other two, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), it’s not impossible but will be difficult at this point.
What has developed is a battle in the trenches between Cruz and Trump for every delegate. What the casual observer is learning from the hyper coverage by the 24/7 news media is that the process doesn’t seem that fair.
The perception for many has long been that the public selects a party’s nominee through a one-man-one-vote process. However, the reality is there are a number of ways delegates are selected for the Republican National Convention that vary from state to state.
There are primaries, caucuses and conventions. It’s just that this time around what had traditionally been ceremonial events this late in the nomination game are now vital to the process.
Going back over the last eight presidential elections, the Republican Party has had a presumptive nominee at this point in the game. The process of delegate selection was a formality that mostly served as a means to reward party activists and donors at the convention, which was nothing more than a glorified pep rally for the party and its nominee headed into the November election.
In 2012, Ron Paul’s campaign attempted to exploit delegate selection events that didn’t involve acquiring any sort of popular vote. Paul’s supporters would overwhelm those conventions and therefore secure the delegates for the national convention.
They would later be disappointed by the process when the convention’s rules put in language that would not allow for Paul to be nominated on the floor because he had not won a single state.
Those Paul delegates staged a walkout at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Their demonstration turned out to be just a footnote to the convention’s overall narrative, but it does show there is a precedent of the party engineering its convention rules to serve a particular interest. In the Tampa example, the interest was to prevent Ron Paul supporters from creating any mischief at the convention.
This is where the GOP should be very careful. Trump has been on the campaign trail decrying what he calls a “rigged” system.
Like him or not, Trump has brought a lot of new voters to the Republican Party. His run is based on a sort of nationalist populism, which comes at a time in the country when a lot of people see the rich and powerful as screwing the little guy — recall the housing crisis, the Wall Street bailout, gas prices, taxes, credit card offer ripoffs, higher health insurance costs, etc. If Trump is denied the Republican presidential nomination, this will be just another example in the minds of some that the will of the people being thwarted and the average guy being sold out.
Trump’s critics have pushed back by pointing out the rules have been the rules from the get-go, and if the party elders within the GOP want to prevent someone from earning its nomination it’s their right to do so because the Republican Party is not a government entity. It is not beholden to the voters necessarily. The voters don’t pay the bills.
That’s valid. But in the event the “Never Trump” movement succeeds and prevents Trump from being the nominee at the convention, despite having won a plurality of votes and delegates, it will be the end of the Republican Party.
Some Republicans better get their minds right about Donald Trump. There is an attitude Trump supporters are the lowest common denominator of the GOP. They’re given demeaning labels, such as “Trumpkins,” and are looked upon as being stupid for supporting Trump.
They support someone who doesn’t understand the true virtues of conservatism like a Ted Cruz or can articulate a winning message like Marco Rubio.
If after the final GOP primary contests are held on June 7 and Trump has the most votes and delegates, this “Never Trump” movement will have to concede defeat if they want the GOP as it is currently constituted to survive.
If it is perceived as being unfair, there will be a movement to completely redo the way a party’s nominee is selected. Election laws and rules will be rewritten because they will appear to be fraudulent.
No one wins if the federal government mandates how a party’s nominee will be selected.
If Trump is the nominee, you don’t have to vote for him in November. But if you want to live to play another day, which would be the 2020 election, you’d best come to terms with the idea of “Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.”