A couple of days ago New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued for Republicans to use the byzantine nature of the rules governing the candidate selection process to deny Trump the nomination.
“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,” he writes.
“The less-than-democratic side of party nominations is a virtue of our system, not a flaw, and it has often been a necessary check on the passions (Trumpian or otherwise) that mass democracy constantly threatens to unleash,” he continues.
Now a North Dakotan – specifically Curly Haugland, one of our state’s members of the Republican National Committee – is saying that the counts of delegates pledged to each candidate don’t matter.
Haugland, who is a long time member of the RNC Standing Rules Committee, sent a letter out to his fellow committee members (see below) arguing that no delegate to the Republican National Convention is bound to any candidate on any vote. “Every delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention is a completely free agent, free to vote for the candidate of their choice on every ballot at the convention in Cleveland in July,” he writes.
As most of you know, I have been defending the right of the delegates to the Republican National Convention to vote according to their personal choice in all matters to come before the Republican National Convention, including the vote to nominate the Republican Candidate for President, for several years.
Here is something I recently discovered that most of us did not know, including me!
Binding delegates to the results of presidential preference primaries first appeared in the Rules of the Republican Party in 1976. …
Without the use of force to bind the votes of delegates to the results of the primary process, primaries are nearly worthless “beauty contests”.
The problem with Haugland’s argument, as Douthat acknowledges, is that the backlash from rank-and-file Republicans over this maneuver would be severe.
If Trump arrives in Cleveland touting the most delegate wins in the state-by-state “beauty contests” (as Haugland calls them) but is denied the nomination the ramifications for Republicans would be terrible.
Could the non-Trump candidate getting the nomination from that convention really hope to be an effective national candidate? One who could unify the Republican base and appeal to enough independents to win a national election?
That’s the rock and a hard place Republicans find themselves betwixt.
If Trump is the nominee it pleases his faction of supporters, but alienates Republicans from a vast swath of Americans whose votes the GOP needs. Not only would Trump probably lose a national election, but the backlash against his campaign would probably cost Republicans in House and Senate races too.
Maybe enough to flip Congress.
But if Republicans choose someone else at the national convention, the Trump faction isn’t going to fall in line, and Republicans probably can’t win without them.
Ironically, there are probably a lot of “establishment” Republicans hoping Ted Cruz can pull something off in the remaining states so that someone other than Trump comes to the convention with the most delegates.