Spring has arrived (on the calendar, at least), and lots of attention and television time is being given to college basketball. But I’d have to say that, this year, no spectacle deserves the term, “March Madness” as much as the presidential election season. Sadly, no matter what developments take place in the race, the Republicans seem unable to restore sanity to their side of the contest. The course the GOP has been on would have seemed impossible to imagine less than a year ago, but it now seems bound to lead to a very bad outcome for the party, conservatism, and the country.
Despite constantly demonstrating that he lacks the knowledge, preparation, temperament, character, or other qualifications we should expect from someone seeking to become president of the United States, Donald Trump has somehow managed to convince around 40 percent of those participating in Republican primaries and caucuses to loyally vote for him. Even as the field of other candidates has narrowed, no one else has consistently been able to gain that much support, although Ted Cruz has provided Trump’s closest competition.
I believe that nominating Donald Trump would be a disaster for the Republican party in many ways. What, if anything, would the party stand for going forward, and what would it mean to throw the party’s support to a man like him as leader? Plus, with the high percentage of people reporting negative views of Trump, there’s a good chance that not only Trump, but also other Republican candidates, could lose in a convincing fashion with him at the top of the ticket this fall. And, with one of our two major political parties suffering an enormous crisis, the Democratic Party might essentially then have free reign to pursue its most liberal ideas, which would hardly be good for America. Therefore, preventing Trump from obtaining the Republican nomination is imperative, but it seems that even many people opposed to Trump, including elected officials, have not approached the matter with the necessary urgency.
With Marco Rubio suspending his campaign, Senator Cruz is closer to the one on one matchup with Trump that he has been wanting for a very long time. However, with John Kasich remaining in the race, the non-Trump vote is still being divided, making Cruz’ quest to overtake the frontrunner even more difficult. This circumstance seems unlikely to change at this point, as Governor Kasich is hoping he could receive the nomination at the convention if no candidate accumulates enough delegates to win outright before that. While it would be nice if Kasich would get on board with the notion that stopping Trump is the most important thing in the race right now and act accordingly, I suppose we can’t blame a politician too much for holding on when he thinks he has a shot at the presidency. Of course, if voters not supporting Trump agreed that rallying around Cruz is the best course of action, they wouldn’t have to keep voting for Kasich even if he is still officially running.
Obviously, the most desirable way to select a preferable nominee would be for a candidate other than Donald Trump to win at least 1237 delegates during the primary process and thus secure a victory. While Senator Cruz could still achieve this goal if voters in the remaining states all suddenly came to their senses, that is probably too much to expect, and the chances of an outright pre-convention win get slimmer with every contest in which Trump gains delegates. The somewhat more likely secondary option is for Trump’s opposition to keep him under 1237 delegates, as well, so that the nomination can be decided at the convention. Then, we have to hope that the convention delegates will save the day by rejecting Trump and nominating a far better candidate.
While there are already plenty of rules in place to govern the primary, caucus, and convention processes at the state and local levels, I’d like to offer just a few possible tweaks that might be helpful in making sure that the best Republican nominee is eventually selected. Trump has suggested that there will be problems (maybe even riots) if he does not get the nomination, and I think it’s likely that many of his supporters would not vote for someone else no matter how that other person was nominated. But, there are also many voters who are extremely opposed to Trump and won’t vote for him if he is the nominee. So, since Republicans are probably going to lose a sizable chunk of potential voters in any case, and since the party will be accused of “stealing” the nomination from Trump even if another candidate is selected by just following the rules, I propose that the RNC do something very bold as soon as possible to block Trump’s takeover of the party.
- The current rules require a candidate to earn 1237 delegates (a majority) to win the nomination, even if that takes multiple ballots from delegates voting at the convention. Yet, calling this just an arbitrary number, Trump has said that he should be named the winner if he simply has the largest total number of delegates after the primaries conclude. Well, since he obviously has no problem with the idea of altering the rules and sees no particular significance in the target of 1237, maybe a change is in order. After all, especially in a contentious year like this one, we want to make sure that the nominee is acceptable to most Republicans, so perhaps candidates should be required to reach 1650 delegates (two thirds) to win the nomination outright. This should greatly increase the chances of a contested convention, where the delegates -- hopefully mostly people with good judgment and an interest in the well-being of the Republican party and its ideals -- would vote to chose the eventual nominee.
- Actually, if those with power over the rules should be feeling especially fearless, they could take things a step further. Trump has often shown that he believes in having one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else. For example, he can hire foreign, or even illegal, workers and have clothing lines manufactured overseas while blasting others for such actions. While Trump thinks he can say whatever he wants, no matter how outrageous, about other people, he believes anyone saying things he doesn’t like should be fined, sued, or fired. So, Trump really should have no objection to the idea of a two-tiered delegate requirement for securing the nomination, where a candidate who meets certain qualifications of experience and party commitment by virtue of, say, having served in elected office as a Republican, would only need to meet the current 1237-delegate standard, while someone with no political experience and a history of party-switching would need to clear the higher bar of 1650 delegates.
- Alternatively, in the spirit of bipartisanship, or perhaps to honor Donald Trump’s long track record of supporting and praising Democrats, the RNC could borrow an idea from the Democrats and add a prominent role for party superdelegates to the convention’s nominee-selection process.
- Or, the rather appealing notion of a sort of political “morals clause” could be implemented. There would be a set of basic standards of conduct that candidates would need to meet in order to be considered for the Republican nomination. Anyone who violated these standards by, for example, encouraging violence at his events, threatening the party with the possibility of riots if it does not do what he wants, advocating the commission of war crimes as part of his foreign policy proposals, etc., would be disqualified.
Still, while my proposals may be just wishful thinking or political fantasy, that only underscores the need for Republicans who are not enthralled by Donald Trump to seriously commit -- now!! -- to the existing possibilities for stopping him from getting the nomination. Senator Cruz still has a mathematical chance to win a majority of delegates, and every effort should be made to persuade voters in the remaining states to support his candidacy in the hope of making this happen or at least securing him enough delegates to keep Trump from reaching the required total. In the latter case, Republicans need to be strong in defending the legitimacy of the rules for deciding a nomination at the convention when no candidate has acquired a majority. We must be willing to counter the loud voices of Trump’s backers in the media and the public and explain the many, many reasons that Trump should not be the person designated as the standard-bearer for all Republicans, and the convention delegates should make the wise choice to select a better-qualified candidate whose views are much more in keeping with the party’s traditions. Yes, almost anyone might fit that description, but the choice should be someone actually running for president this time, and, based on the state of the campaign to this point, the candidate most deserving of the nomination this year is Senator Ted Cruz.