guest commentary by Dr. Williams Yamkam
Editor’s note: Dr. Williams Yamkam is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics or the UAFS administration.
After months of wishful thinking on the part of many Republicans that Donald Trump would be a “flash in the pan,” a new wistful reality seems to be sinking in as Donald Trump inches closer to reaching the goal of amassing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination.
The closer Trump has been getting to the goal of collecting the needed 1,237 delegates, the stronger has been the push back from the Republican establishment against Trump’s candidacy – which, many of them perceive as a stain on the Republican brand and as a threat to the political fortunes of the Republican Party. As a consequence, many in the so-called Republican establishment launched a massive concerted effort to stop Trump.
Whether it be the unusual high-profile speech former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, gave to highlight why Trump must not be the 2016 Republican nominee; whether it be the scathing editorials by conservative publications such the National Review and the Wall Street Journal calling for Trump’s defeat; whether it be the hasty creation of super PACs to spend millions of dollars in campaign ads to defeat Trump; and whether it be the endorsement that many former Republican presidential candidates have so far given to Trump’s remaining major opponent. Sen. Ted Cruz; the goal seems to be the same: #NeverTrump.
Because Trump leads the Republican presidential race with 755 delegates – a 196 delegate lead over his next challenger Cruz – and is very likely to finish the race with the most delegates, the #NeverTrump forces seem to be using various means to prevent the real estate mogul from reaching the 1,237 delegates threshold. For this to happen, Trump’s remaining opponents must split the remaining delegates as much as possible, and/or Republican political insiders must maneuver as much as possible, via arcane state party rules, to wrest as many delegates from Trump as possible. Doing so would give the Republican establishment the hope and a chance of picking a different nominee during a contested national convention.
From their standpoint, the nebulous establishment of the Republican Party would rather lose decently with anyone else atop the Republican ticket than lose catastrophically with Trump as the nominee. According to recent polls, of the three remaining Republican presidential candidates, Trump would fare the worst against either Secretary Hillary Clinton – the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee – or Sen. Bernie Sanders.
A landslide loss by Trump would likely lead to other devastating losses down the ballot. And since there would be enough vulnerable Republican candidates on the ballot that could cause the Republican Party to lose control of the U.S. Senate or lose important races at the state level, a cold and calculated look at the political map makes it easier for the Republican establishment to feel an obligation to prevent Trump from becoming the standard bearer of the Republican Party during the 2016 general elections.
Many options exist that (might) have been explored and/or executed to achieve the above-mentioned goal: Convincing Ohio GOv. John Kasich to remain in the race for as long as possible; rallying around Cruz who, by virtue of having won the second most delegates, is now the de facto main challenger to Trump; shopping for an establishment-friendly “dark-horse” that could be selected at the Republican national convention in Cleveland.
Never mind that mathematically Kasich has virtually no chance of getting the necessary 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. Never mind that, until recently, many within the Republican establishment harbored a visceral resentment toward Cruz and now view him just as a useful conduit to stop Trump. Never mind that selecting a “dark-horse” candidate who did not even earn a single vote/delegate during the presidential nomination contest may cause a major revolt within the Republican Party.
For Trump to avoid any attempted shenanigans from the Republican Party’s establishment, he must get the minimum required 1,237 delegates by the time the Republican Convention convenes. As of now, he needs to win at least 61% of the remaining delegates, which would be difficult but not impossible. Failing to get the 1,237 delegates before the Republican national convention would put Trump’s fate squarely within the hands of the Republican Party’s insiders.
Per the rules that would govern the 2016 Republican national convention, if no candidate gets the 1,237 delegates in the first round of balloting, most delegates become unbound and may vote for whomever they want. In this latter scenario, anything could happen: Cruz, Kasich, or anyone else could emerge as the nominee.
Though in theory it would be the prerogative of the delegates at the Republican national convention to formally select anyone as the Republican presidential nominee, it would be practically untenable for the Republican Party to do so. The revolt – mostly from Trump’s delegates and other supporters – likely to ensue would be so chaotic that the image of the Republican Party would be seriously damaged. Imagine the chaotic images of a Republican convention being run in a loop by news networks. Imagine the uneasiness of a selected nominee who did not earn any legitimacy through the ballot box. Imagine the outrage of many of Trump’s fervent supporters who likely would not warm up to a Republican nominee not named Trump. And imagine if Trump was to walk away and mount a futile third party run.
It is true Trump’s antics have turned off many voters he would need to win the general elections. It is true that the rules allow for the delegates at the Republican national convention to select any candidate to be the nominee, if during the primaries no candidate has garnered the minimum of 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination. And it is understandable for the Republican establishment to want to stop Trump, given that he is becoming a political liability to the Republican brand. However, none of the above reasons might be enough to wrest the nomination from the candidate with the most delegates.
The best way to stop Trump is through the ballot box – by preventing him from getting the most delegates before the onset of the Republican national convention. And even then, the Republican Party’s establishment would have to find a way to placate Trump and his diehard supporters.
Otherwise, the #NeverTrump movement would likely turn into a #GOPinChaos circus.