True enough, the world might come to a sudden end at any moment. Scenarios aplenty have existed in our fiction for a long time, and in the more serious speculation of many learned gentlemen and ladies scholars.
But a “contested” Republican presidential nominating convention is not the end of the world despite what you have heard from many if not most of The Talking Heads. Nor would this honored exercise in electoral procedure signal the selfdestruction of the Republican Party. In fact, it was until relatively recent times dating from the mid-19th century the way the process of choosing our presidents ran. As late as 1976. for example, Pres. Gerald Ford – seeking popular election after replacing the disgraced Richard Nixon after his Watergate resignation – came into the convention with more delegates. But he was challenged by Ronald Reagan. “Reagan’s Raiders”, an enthusiastic and determined Texas delegation almost persuaded enough to come over to him but Ford beat them off by promising government benefits and sinecures.
Our hunch – and like everybody else we have been so wrong so many times in writing him off – is that Donald Trump will not enter the convention in Cleveland in mid-July with the required 1237 delegates in his pocket. Now that is only one more than is necessary for a majority of the 2,472 delegates from the various states [the Distrct of Columbia and associated territories].
It does include, of course, a certain number of professional GOP politicians, what the Trumpeters keep calling “The Republican Establishment”. But, by the way, that is a term that confuses us no end: is that the Republican National Committee? The RNC in 1952 was expanded to 145 members. [It now actually has 168.] It includes the state party chairmen, if that state voted Republican in 2012, or has a Republican majority in their congressional delegation [both House and Senate], or has Republican governors. That is a pretty wide bunch of politicos, certainly not the Wall St. Republican Eastern Establishment so long associated with the Bushes and other “moderate” Republicans.
Then there is the complicated test of the first vote. Most states require their delegations to vote for the candidate who either won their primary [or their caucus] in the proportion of their victory – or all that state’s delegation if it is a state with a rule a majority vote for one candidate takes all the state’s delegation.
Marco Rubio is said to have lined up 171 delegates who originally supported him, but under some state rules, have now been “freed” in the first ballot, to continue to support him. His aim is obviously to block Trump. The Alaska GOP, for example, that allocated Rubio’s five delegates in their 28 delegation to Trump and Cruz, but has now announced that since the actual delegates have not yet been chosen, they will now go back to Rubio. Speculate! Speculate! Speculate” Can Rubio hold on to their loyalty, especially after the first vote when most delegates will be unleashed, and if so what will he do with them?
By the way, the state Republican Parties, either through their own rules, or the rules of primary [or caucus] set up by state law, govern the selection of delegates. And while they may at times hiss and cajole, the RNC can’t do much about the individual state’s process. Although, again, there have been times, in the worst of cases, when there was a fight on the convention floor to block a state’s delegation for what the other delegates saw as good and sufficient reason.
But there is nothing sinister, nor for the most part for those who want to follow the game [although the Mainstream Media’s poor reporting isn’t helping], is there anything g underhanded. Talk of “stealing” delegates is ridiculous. Electoral democracies – and nobody has yet invented a better form or are they likely to do so any time soon – are always an expression of loyalty and desire and sometimes compromise to achieve political objectives.
It’s important, however, to understand that this convention – if it does open with no candidate with the majority of delegates – is not going to be “brokered”. If the digital revolution and social media have given us nothing else, it is the end of cabals in which a few highly skilled [and often corrupt] politicians smoked their stogies and drank their Bourbon [or Scotch] in smoky backrooms and traded huge blocks of delegates under their aegis.
No, if Trump doesn’t make it, it will be one grand political free-for-all. It may even bring back some interest and sympathy for the whole process, now being negated by a lackluster leading Democratic candidate and a much too low-level GOP debate.