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It Ain’t Theft If It’s Legal

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There is an increasing chorus among the punditry that Republican plans to deny Trump the nomination, if he gets a clear plurality, would be a bad move. Damon Linker’s recent piece is indicative:

That’s when true Trumpian chaos will break out — certainly on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, and possibly on the streets outside.

But the real source of that pandemonium will be the chaotic thinking of the candidates and pundits who dreamed up and sought to justify the #NeverTrump plot in the first place.

I detest and fear Donald Trump and what he represents. I think those who have voted for him have been civically irresponsible. But attempting to wrest the nomination from him and bestow it on another candidate (presumably runner-up Cruz) after Trump has won a clear plurality of both the votes and the delegates is an act of unjustifiable recklessness.

Those on the other side have spent the past several weeks convincing themselves that an attempt to anoint someone other than Trump as the nominee isn’t outrageous at all. In fact, they claim, it’s perfectly justified, since there is nothing legitimate about the party permitting a candidate who is opposed by a clear majority of the party to walk away with the nomination.

Simply put, such appeals to legitimacy ring hollow in the Age of Trump. Rules and norms surrounding political convention and the like serve from a mutually beneficial arrangement. Campaigns are run in a particular way, with implicit as well as explicit rules of engagement. It’s not always smooth sailing, to be sure, and can really get quite ugly. But there are certain boundaries that are not likely to be crossed without a really good reason. There are all sorts of loopholes that could be exploited that aren’t. The reason being not some higher concept of idealism, but the knowledge that a failure to abide by the generally agreed-to rules outweighs any conceivable advantage. It’s possible that the Super-Delegates on the Democratic side could overturn a clear consensus in favor of a particular candidate, but they’re unlikely to. Can’t we all get along?

Sometimes, though, you can’t just get along. It is my own extreme view that even if Trump gets to 1237 delegates, the party should look for ways to stop him. I don’t expect that they will, for a variety of reasons. I believe doing so would be wrong, in the sense that changing the rules midstream typically is, but wrong in a way that two wrongs can make a right. It wouldn’t be for their own benefit (they would be spat upon), or their party’s benefit (the party would be destroyed), or their party faction’s benefit (no party to have a faction of). It would be for the country’s. I would not be comfortable with the means, but the ends would justify them.

But we’re not even talking about that. I am not comfortable with the means above because, while yes there are rules about changing rules, there is nonetheless every reason for a candidate to believe that if they can round up a majority of the delegates that they are the nominee. Depriving them of that would be cheating and would be “stealing” the nomination. However, the 1237 threshold exists very explicitly for a reason. No major rule change is required to deny Trump the nomination if he fails to reach that threshold. When they were revising the rules to solve Yesterday’s Problem, they easily have said “A majority of voting delegates whose votes count” (ie not those voting for people ineligible under Rule 40b), but they didn’t. They said a majority. As badly as the party tried to rig the rules for a plurality candidate, that was a bridge they didn’t cross. And for good reason.

Nowhere has it been written that a plurality winner automatically becomes the winner or that a convention is a formality for the delegate leader. The West Wing had an episode devoted to it, where the candidate who came into the convention with the most delegates lost to the protagonist. Not only has it not been written, it has not historically even been assumed. Every year journalists daydream of a brokered convention or a contested convention. . That these concepts even exist in our vocabulary indicates that, even pre-Trump, it was known that the plurality winner did not have the nomination democratically conferred on them. The only other time in modern history where nobody came into the convention with a prohibitive delegate count, the convention was contested.

There are a lot of hidden levers that it’s possible for people to pull (even if it’s hard to get all the required parties to do it). The majority requirement is not a hidden lever. Nor were the caucuses where Trump fared poorly. This may not be a fair system, but it was definitely a known system. It’s also a system that has benefited Trump himself. His delegate count is largely a product of a system that favors plurality winners to a substantial degree. A truly good system would likely have involved fewer WTA delegate allocations, zero congressional district allocations, and (in my dream of dreams) an ordered ballot that could have kept him out of the leader’s chair in multiple states as votes were reassigned. It’s simply not the case that the rules that favor Trump are to be taken for granted, but when they stop they should abide by unwritten rules that still favor him.

But enough about high-minded ideals, shouldn’t the GOP give Trump the nomination to avoid alienating their base?

No.

But they’ll get really mad.

So?

What, exactly, are they going to do? It’s not clear what they can do that’s worth what the party is being asked to concede: a Trump nomination. They can stay home, but that simply makes a lost election still lost. They can try again in four years, but once again the worst they will be able to do is produce the results they’re expecting given to them now. And, in four years, the party is less likely to be caught off guard and less likely to have rules so favorable to a(n) outside, pluralist victor in delegate allocation, and they’re more likely to take Trump – or a successor – seriously before it’s too late. This election was the convergence of a lot of factors, events, and errors. They may be reproducible, but it’s not clear that they are. It’s a turd in the hand versus a turd in the bush.

Political parties and governance are about coalitions. Some coalitions are natural, when you have two groups that are naturally inclined to agree and are reasonably comfortable with one another. Often, coalitions are a matter of necessity. The point of such coalitions is to cobble together a majority. In the process, people in each faction reach out to other factions, make compromises, and so on. The main goal of a political party is to either win elections or, failing that, at least affect the outcomes. But for major parties, it’s to win elections. It is the members and member factions that have policy aims that they join and assist the party to obtain.

Which may be a compelling argument to keep the Trumpers happy because you can’t win without them! But what if the opposite is true and you can’t win with them? Or what if, in the event that a win does occur, policy aims cannot be met or must be accompanied by bad policies that outweigh the good? Then resistance makes sense. A lot of resistance. As much resistance as you can manage. A lot of people have been trying to fit Trump in the mold of the traditional candidate that everyone comes around to, but that hasn’t happened for real reasons that aren’t going away. There have been various points in the campaign when he could have made the necessary pivots, except at the end of the day he wasn’t willing or wasn’t actually capable after all. He still has time, but continues to have shown no inclination and we’re already after the point that he needed to do so. It’s become unclear that his posture is tactical in a wide view sense, or really ever has been.

As much as some people have wanted to chart his progress to Romney’s, better in some ways (states won) and worse in others (vote share, delegate share), all of that ignores the extent to which Trump is fundamentally different. No candidate has gotten this far with this little institutional support. The party’s establishment is weak and tired and may, at the end of the day, go ahead and sign its death warrant. Not out of strategy, but simple resignation. But there is no reason to do so while there is a chance of coming out the other side, even if we ignore polling that suggests a lot of Trumpers will accept the outcome.

Ted Cruz is hardly a white knight. He would lead them to a loss just as surely as Trump would. He would probably also lose them the senate, though he could save a couple of seats. He would be bad for the brand. He’d be the worst nominee in either party in over fifty years. He would move the party in the wrong direction. He would be the second worse credible scenario for the GOP and it’s not really close – in either direction. That they are both destructive does not mean that they are comparably destructive. This is beyond winning and almost certainly losing, and into what vision the rest of the party will carry between July and November and what the party’s identity will be. Once again, they are not comparably bad.

Which of course leads to the question of why not dump both? Why not take them all out and just install someone with a chance of winning? Both options are simply unacceptable to bigwigs. Dust off Mitt Romney! Draft Paul Ryan! Bring back the Jeb!! If I’m going full buccaneer, I might be tempted to say “What the hell!” (Not Jeb, though, seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?) But the election is lost. That particular gambit only pays off if you win, and those guys wouldn’t be winning even if they were popular enough within the party to avoid the inevitable (and not entirely unjustified) backlash, which as it happens they are not.

And it’s likely impossible anyhow. The decision won’t be made by a bunch of rich folks in cigar-filled rooms. It will be made by an auto parts dealer in Osh Kosh, a Burger King franchisee in Grand Junction, and a plumber in Wichita. Local figures from local aspects of the party. They’re just as tired of the DC establishment as anybody. They’re also, importantly enough, likely to be Cruz people by disposition. So it’s Cruz, and lawful evil is better than chaotic evil. He loses, and maybe when the dust has settled, everyone comes to the negotiating table a little bit humbled. Or they don’t.

Little or nothing, however, is solved by simply conceding the nomination to Trump. There is a notion that if you let Trump run and lose, his faction in particular will be humbled and will have lost their leverage. Unfortunately, there are over four months between the nomination and the election. To really “give Trump a chance” the party would not only have to concede the nomination, but give him full support afterwards. That is simply impossible. Trump has thus far made it impossible. To try to salvage the House and Senate, the party will need to distance themselves from him. They’ll need to run parallel campaigns. A lot of donors won’t line up. All of which would give credence to the paranoid fantasy that Trump was sabotaged by the party. Except that it wouldn’t be entirely fantasy, because it would be at least partially true. The alternative, to give full-throated support to Trump throughout in order to prove a point, is as undesirable as it is impossible.

To be clear, if he gets the nomination, I’m not suggesting that the party would entirely turn its back on him. It’s Reince Priebus’s job to support him, for example. He’ll also have the tepid support of leadership, but the emphasis is on tepid. Those who think that #NeverTrump is going to be as tangible a thing in October as it is in April are fooling themselves, but so are those who believe everyone will fall into a line as they did with Mitt. There will not be as much institutional support for Trump as there would be for Cruz, and there won’t likely even be as much for Cruz as there was for Romney. At least with Cruz, though, there is a chance he will build his own and fewer people will notice.

Right now the narrative is that Trump is going to have a lot of difficulty reaching 1237. I am a little less skeptical that he will than most. He’s had nothing but bad days lately, and they’re likely to get better from here. He has a spate of contests in the northeast. That could help him carry Indiana and Montana (Which is WTA and has a lot of delegates). Then California has CD-based delegate allocation, which means that Trump can take a small win and pull in a lot of delegates. This seems very doable to me. And if he gets just a few short of 1237, or can regain the air of inevitability, he might be able to pick up some unbounds. Or the opposition around him could simply, for one reason or another, crumble. Make no mistake he has a very small margin of error here, but he does have one.

If he can’t get there, though, nobody should carry him across that finish line. Neither by rules nor by convention, nor by convention rules, has he earned it.

Image adapted from a photograph by By Marc Nozell from Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA – 20160208-DSC08296, CC BY 2.0, and a photograph from the Ford Presidential Library.


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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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142 thoughts on “It Ain’t Theft If It’s Legal

    • Will’s point is that ‘stealing it’ it’s less stupid than letting it go. I’m inclined to agree. Especially because with Trump taking a wrecking ball to the Overton window, I don’t think Cruz’s prospects, and particularly his down ticket effect, is as bleak as Will says in this piece.

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        • You actually run against real people. Ronald Reagan was “well to the right” of Gerald Ford and irritated a great many people (as it happened, people who would not have voted for either man, so no loss there). He also faced different candidates in different circumstances. You might also consider the possibility that media memes are nonsense (or reflect the opinions of media figures and people on their rolodexes) and that the general run of voter is not viscerally bothered by Cruz (or Sanders, while we’re at it).

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        • Saul Degraw:
          What states can Cruz win that Romney lost in 2012? Cruz is much further to the right than Romney and much more off-putting to more people.

          Like Mike Schilling said elsewhere, there are two types of people – people that don’t like Cruz, and people that don’t know him. But like Will said, Clinton, fairly or unfairly (mostly, but not entirely unfairly), is not as ‘likable’ as Obama.

          It’s also worth pointing out that Cruz’s unlikable reputation is from people that have worked with him (but not for him) – and that in turn was from real and perceived betrayals when Cruz put his personal ambition above everything else, even by the standards of the typical politician. But also, by the standards of the typical politician, he’s not any more slimy or smarmy than most when he’s on the stump or in a media environment.

          270towin has 4 states that were ‘very close’ in the 2012 contest – OH, FL, NC, and VA. NC went to Romney, but all could be in play in a Cruz-Clinton contest. (one big reason, the African American vote will decline a bit from the record levels it hit in the 2008 & 2012 elections).

          Notably though, even if Cruz sweeps these 4 states, Clinton still has 272 electoral votes. Which leaves Cruz an uphill fight, but still possible, for either Nevada or New Hampshire (or Colorado).

          To be perfectly clear, Clinton is still the favorite to win, and still has the advantage in all the close states that Romney lost. But campaign vs campaign, Cruz has a path to victory, he just needs to play a good game and catch some breaks.

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      • I should probably do a post on this, but it occurs to me that from a certain point of view all of this is not a departure from what is killing with the GOP so much as a continuation.

        For the past decade or so, they haven’t really stood for anything. They are literally reactionary. What’s happening right now? Whatever it is, we are against it! No vision, few proposals, no cohesive plan for the country.

        What’s happening with Trump is exactly the same, except they’ve replace the the words “liberal” and “Barack Hussein Obama” with the word “Trump.” They’re not stepping up to the place with a better or different vision for people to get behind and rally around; they aren’t coming up with a viable alternative to Trump or Trumpism. They’re simply offering a new thing everyone can be against.

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        • I don’t entirely disagree. I’ve commented in the past that Trump has cracked the code of the GOP psyche (turns out, the code of about 2/5th of it). At some point, though, when you’re walking down a particular path, you can actually stop doing so. Having walked down that path in the past does not obligate you to continue walking past it. You run into a ledge, you don’t say “Well, gosh, I’ve been walking south-by-southeast for the last eighty yards, I should just keep on going…”

          Trump has the advantage of being a relatively clear line. That’s why a lot of people who had previously been okay with the trajectory of things are not okay with Trump.

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          • I think you may misunderstand my point.

            That point being, that the moment you stop walking down that path is where you say, “Here’s a vision, the policies to achieve that vision, and the plan to implement those policies” and see how it sticks, and make adjustments as needed. Saying, “Now our whole thing is that we are against Trump!” isn’t actually getting off that path. It’s just renaming it.

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            • After you stop walking, you have to figure out what to do next. That’s difficult in any event, but less difficult from the top than the bottom of said ledge.

              I see zero sense in letting this play out, except a sense of justice. But if you’re actually a character in the morality play, that’s still actually something to be avoided as best as possible.

              There was a time earlier in the campaign where I thought the lesson might do them good. But no, I have become convinced that’s not the case. I’ve become further convinced that my prior position was more influenced by a sense of justice than practicality.

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              • As an aside, one of the things I’ve tweeted a few times here and there is that I am bemused by the degree to which Trump has brought together a lot of Republicans who can’t stand one another. I have no use for the likes of Erick Erickson and he has no use for the likes of me, but we do agree on Trump.

                If Trump goes down, that evaporates and we go back to hating one another pretty intensely. This was also a problem with the Third Party talk, wherein he would want it expressly to nominate the candidate I would find least acceptable. JayFromBrooklyn has remarked on this as well.

                So yeah, bringing Trump down doesn’t actually solve much if it happens. But neither does not bringing him down. Either way, there’s going to be a lot of work. The party is going to need to figure a lot of stuff out. Including who their voters are these days.

                Hitting Rock Bottom with Trump doesn’t really help with that much. He represents a lot of the same problems that Jeb Bush did, on a party-unity level. Both reasonably represent one faction of the party reasonably well but are repellant to the others.

                (Which was always the thing that aggravated me about Jeb’s candidacy. Before it became apparent that Trump was in it for the longer haul, Jeb was the candidate I looked at and said “Man, there is just *no* good that would come from his nomination.” Indeed, there is a certain train of thought that Jeb played a very strong role in the elevation of Trump.)

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            • This is where Cruz has another understated advantage. Cruz is selling more than ‘Not Obama, Not Clinton’, he’s the selling the game of the year edition of conservative orthodoxy – robust national defense, low taxes and light regulation, and ‘family values’.

              True, this was the game of the year in 1984 and 2004, and may not run on most the next gen consoles, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. It just needs to run on enough of them to flip a few states.

              “What do you stand for” is a potential problem for Clinton. Sanders stand for something (say what you will about the tenets of democractic socialism, at least its an ethos). Even Trump stands for something. Stopping immigration is a very concrete stance, even if his path to realizing his vision varies between impractical and immoral. And Trump’s antipathy towards globalization is as concrete as the bricks that get thrown through Starbuck’s windows during WTO protests.

              Clinton does have a set of core beliefs – those of an upper middle class (white) feminist of her generation. But there’s always been a lot of movement in the mantle that surrounds that core, and she runs the risk of falling into the traps that Kerry and Gore did, when they fell short of articulating a positive vision for their election, rather than relying on the other guy being a poopyhead.

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              • I’m a bit less bearish on Cruz than I was a couple weeks ago. He apparently put on his General Election face at the Republican Jewish Conference and was extremely, extremely impressive. Which has me actually sort of thinking that he may be able to cash in on some of the right-wing cred he’s had. And that maybe that was his plan all along. (Hardly a novel plan, to be sure, but one that he’d suggested pretty convincingly that he wasn’t interested in playing, which factored in to my bearishness.)

                That being said, the thing he’s selling still seems more like General Conservative Schizophrenia, and a continuation of existing problem just a bit further on down the line.

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        • I sort of covered this below. The GOP is currently heading towards failure mode. They have a large base of true believers but one that places them at odds with the Presidential electorate.

          The issue is that as Aaron and Art Decco will point out: The GOP still controls huge swaths of state legislatures, governorships, and Congress. Now some of this can change but the GOP has sheltered themselves from the reality of the failure mode via gerrymandering and voter ID. We have been through this many times on OT. I and others pointed out that more people voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2012 than Republican candidates. This was done on an order of several million. The Republican response on OT has always been to just ignore this stubborn fact completely.

          This leads me to believe that the GOP doesn’t care how they win as long as they win. I suspect voter oppression techniques and gerrymandering will get worse before they get better.

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        • This isn’t entirely fair. I actually do think the Republicans stand for something even if it can’t be articulated using positive language or well. The Republicans want to create 1950s TV suburbia as a reality but without the pesky New Deal policies.

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        • What’s happening with Trump is exactly the same, except they’ve replace the the words “liberal” and “Barack Hussein Obama” with the word “Trump.” They’re not stepping up to the place with a better or different vision for people to get behind and rally around; they aren’t coming up with a viable alternative to Trump or Trumpism. They’re simply offering a new thing everyone can be against.

          Right on, Tod. Great observation. As an example: Obamacare repeal:replacement policy::NeverTrump:replacement option. Or in other words: conservatives know what they DON’T want, goldernit!!

          Cleek’s Law is eating itsownself, at this point.

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  1. Taxation is theft.
    It ain’t theft if it’s legal.
    Taxation is illegal.
    The GOP wins!

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the rules.)

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    • More like Captain Kangaroo.
      Everyone loves Captain Kangaroo.

      I think he’s a bit to the left of Mr. Green Jeans though.
      Have to watch out for that rural vote.
      Green Jeans is likely some sort of extremist; advocating tough anti-immigrant measures while employing them as cheap, under-market labor in his garden (fenced, no doubt), and hand-in-glove with Monsanto (i.e., as corporatist as HRC).

      Besides, people love military credentials, even if they show the candidate’s wealthy father pulled some strings to keep him from seeing some real action during the war.

      Captain Kangaroo would probably go over well.
      He wouldn’t take any crap from Putin.
      He would make those dark-skinned people “over there” hush up and sit down.

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  2. I think if there is any blatant shafting of Trump his supporters would turn vindictive. Hell, I would. I’d actively look for ways to screw them over hard. Maybe recall petitions of existing office holders state and local for instance. Maybe I’d look for someone running locally or statewide who was “like Trump”. Maybe I’d just vote for HRC.

    Could be a lot of blow back to this type of shenanigan.

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      • If you’re arrested for shooting the hostages. If not you’re still free to cause mayhem.

        Will I doubt Trumps supporters have the diligence to stick it out, a ground campaign similar to Colorado’s recall efforts re gun control could be a threat. But I prefer not to bet on “lack of vindictiveness”.

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        • You missed the point. Saying “If you don’t nominate Trump, we’ll destroy you!” doesn’t effectively work when the thing they’re insisting upon would have the same effect as far as a lot of other folks are concerned.

          What are they going to do? And how is what they do going to be worse than nominating Donald Trump? You need a larger differential between the demands and the threat for it to work.

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          • If Trump is nominated the Repubs loose the presidential election. Do they loose a lot of seats in congress? Not sure.

            The threat from the Trump folks would be thus: regardless of how bad the party fared in the presidential elections, we’ll work for a nuclear war and remove every last one of the GOP congress critters, and local folks we can, leaving you with nothing at national, state or local level.

            Would it work? Not sure. I guess it depends upon how bad you expect the GOP to do in the non pres races. Given the re-election percentages of congress, I’d assume it’d be “decent”.

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              • I’m not suggesting that this would be a Trump organized thing. It would only be possible on a grass roots level by Trump supporters self organizing to screw back the GOP that done screwed them.

                I’m dubious of the likelihood that happening, but it is possible.

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              • Yes, but people forget, there’s pretty good evidence that Trump is doing what he’s doing (Seriously running for president, instead of pretending to run for president, which was a hobby of his.) because of a grudge.

                Everyone forgets this now, but Trump is, or at least was, a birther.

                So when Trump showed up in 2011 at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama made a few mentions of this, and people laughed.

                Now, you think: Wouldn’t it have made more sense to seriously run in 2012, then? You know, *against* Obama?

                Well, no. I think he got over that, a little.

                The problem is that Obama never did stop mocking him for his birtherism every time Trump was at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Which sound petty of Obama, but Trump spent years claiming Obama wasn’t eligible to be president, and then shows up at the one place the president is allowed to make fun of people, so I’m not entirely sure what Trump is *expecting* to happen.

                Trump even got *publicly booed* when he showed up at the Correspondents’ Dinner in 2013.

                I don’t think it’s even really him being anti-Obama (Which doesn’t really make sense for him to be running *now*.). I think it’s some sort of attempt to force the political establishment to take him seriously after years of mockery. ‘One day *I* will be president and *I* can get up there and insult all those people who laughed at me!’

                Anyway, my point is: Assuming that Trump, in the future, won’t be able to hurt the Republican party over a petty grudge is sorta odd when…that’s what he is literally doing right now. He’s hurting the Republican party over a petty grudge…and it’s not even a grudge *at* the Republican party!

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      • The day after the election, the GOP starts putting together its strategy for 2018. I think that Trump could do incredible damage to the brand between July and November, and thereafter.

        Yeah, Perot sank pretty much without a ripple. But since I’ve been spectacularly wrong about this campaign so far, I might as well continue my streak. The anti-immigrant / anti-capitalist movement could be captured by a Democrat who promises strict enforcement of immigration laws, by focusing on employers. If Trump backed that message, he could swing a lot of voters to the D ticket.

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  3. There are a lot of ways to play by the rules and to win. There are a lot of ways to drag Not Trump across the finish line at the convention in such a way that presents vaguely legitimately.

    The problem is that if it’s done in a rules-lawyery way that is opaque to the majority of the folks out there, it’ll present identically to corruption.

    Maybe it’s not possible to keep the Trumpers happy. Maybe there is nothing at all possible that the Republicans could do to come up with a candidate that everybody likes. If, however, the argument is that it’s okay for the Republican Establishment to defect first because they knew that the Trumpkins would defect first if the Establishment waited… well, it might be true, but I don’t know what the official “Prisoners’ Dilemma” game has to say about that particular tactic. I think it’s “you defected first, you defector”, though.

    It’s one thing to say “hey, we play and sometimes there are winners and sometimes there are losers but the process is what’s important.”

    It’s quite another to play “you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game”.

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    • The process, of course, is what says Trump isn’t the nominee until he gets to 1237. And I would contend that while the “Blow up the party” paragraph is optically identical to corruption (even if for a good cause), declining to give Trump the nomination isn’t. Some of the primary rules and delegate allocation rules are pretty opaque and/or are unknown.

      The concept of an open convention is a TV plot used with enough frequency that it has become a cliche.

      Trump is the rightful nominee if he hits 1237. If he doesn’t, he’s not. At that point, the party must decide either to make him the nominee, or not to make him the nominee. Either way, it it involves someone being carried across the finish line.

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    • Tit for tat, or something like it, is generally the winning strategy in the prisoner’s dilemma (if not, perhaps, in body art). So if you think the Trump folks have already defected, the party establishment I ought to defensively defect as well. If.

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      • That faction has run a campaign consistent with an extraordinary amount of contempt for the other factions of the party, and the establishment itself. They thought they had the support for a coup. Maybe they do, but their miscalculation (if it was one) imposes no obligation on the part of those they would overthrow.

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        • Just so I’m clear, what are the major allegations of fact relating specifically to the charge of contempt of party (or, factions thereof)? I assume repeatedly calling them losers is part of it. General juvenility. Anything more technical/substantive?

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          • Not going to get too far into this brush, but referring to the faction more than Trump himself. Boosters, fans, etc. Not so much (most of) the Buckley List people, or the opportunists, but the motor behind it. The people I would have left off the list because they fell in the category of Known Enemies. Stone, Pierson, Coulter, Breitbart people, and some of the folks I know that have rallied around Trump and committed.

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  4. Basically you are saying that the GOP is damned if they do, damned if they don’t?

    The speculation right now is that Paul Ryan is not-running but running for the nomination in the hopes that Trump does not make it to 1237 and Cruz doesn’t do well in round 2 of the ballot.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/paul-ryans-magical-realist-campaign.html

    Whether it would be good to make Ryan a surprise nominee in 2016 is anybody’s guess. He is just as right-wing as anyone but maybe a bit more of a soft-peddler on social issues like Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

    You say that Cruz would take the GOP in the wrong direction but in my observations I think many people in the GOP would disagree. There are still a lot of people in the GOP who believe that “Conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed.” They are trying like mad to blame Trump on Obama, on liberals, on the Democratic Party. They still think that if you gave the American people a clear and strong conservative candidate, it would be 1972 or 1984 all over again.

    Lee has made an observation before that there comes a time in a political party’s lifespan when the base that you need are still true believers but the majority of the public is moving on. This happened to the Labour Party in the 1970s. The base did not want to abandon nationalization but the majority of the UK did. It seems to me that the American Public is growing more diverse and generally more socially liberal and economically liberal. Yet the GOP is still pushing the same stuff to an increasingly uninterested public. My guess is that the legs in the stool still have too much strength for the party to move back to the center.

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    • For the reasons outlined, I don’t consider the Ryan scenario likely. Not the least of which because I believe Ryan wants no part of it and there is only so much the party is going to be able to talk him into it. Could talk someone else into it, but that leads to the problem that the decision-makers here wouldn’t be the national leadership.

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    • On top of that, in order to nominate Ryan, they’d have to change the eight states rule. And AFAIK know, they’d have to change it *before* the convention begins. Since the people who would vote to change the rules are mostly Cruz and Trump supporters, that doesn’t seem like a super-likely outcome. Whatever happens, I think it will either be Trump or Cruz at the end of the day.

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      • Even assuming it stands as is, there are ways around it. Here’s the current text of rule 40(b):

        Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination. Notwithstanding any other provisions of these rules or any rule of the House of Representatives, to demonstrate the support required of this paragraph a certificate evidencing the affirmative written support of the required number of permanently seated delegates from each of the eight (8) or more states shall have been submitted to the secretary of the convention not later than one (1) hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination pursuant to this rule and the established order of business.

        Reading that with my old legislative analyst hat on, after the first ballot, when delegates are unbound, it looks like presenting a proper set of signatures to the secretary is sufficient demonstration of support to put someone into nomination. And of course, if there’s widespread support, there’s rule 33:

        A motion to suspend the rules shall always be in order, but only when made by authority of a majority of the delegates from any state and seconded by a majority of the delegates from each of seven (7) or more other states, severally.

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  5. If I’m the GOP establishment and taking 2016 as a loss, then Cruz is the ship I want to go down with. You throw a bone to the hard right, no compromises wing and show them that they can’t beat a weak D nominee.

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  6. Well as far as the Northcorp predictions business is going we’re not having a spectacular run this year. Bush and Rubio were flat out wrong and those were significant losses. We made out ok on the HRC has got this but most everyone was betting that way so the gains don’t outweigh the losses. No, only my prediction that Trump won’t get this remains outstanding and thankfully it’s looking like I’m going to win that one out as Teddy Cruz relentlessly rakes up delegate support and Trumps odds of hitting 1237 fade. For a data point consider: Trump got zero, zilch, nada, delegates from Colorado basically because his campaign didn’t know what the fish it was doing. If he doesn’t get to 1237 he’s done and it’s gonna take some big blowout wins to push him over that line. Which means Northcorp will *barely* be in the black in terms of right and wrong calls. Not a sterling year for sure.

    Now… nnnghh.. if I was Cruz or the GOP under Cruz you’d really be …nnf… thinking hard about how to try and get Trump on board… the Donald …ugh.. ultimately is gonna want a big kiss the ring opportunity… I can’t do it. Screw it!

    Enough with trying to be analytical; I just have to get this out there. I’m enjoying the HELL out of watching the GOP immolate. It was enough to make me seriously revisit the concept of a just deity looking on from on high (full disclosure, nope- still agnostic). I know it’s nakedly partisan but I’ve always had my cards on the table on that subject. It feels fishing GREAT to see this happening to the GOP. Those mother fishers have been using the Trumpkin wing of their party, and all the mantras it encapsulates, to flambé the hell out of all of us to the left of them (and especially us minorities) for decades and to see that flame thrower rupture and coat the establishment is a sizzling layer of burning napalm is damn near euphoric. Just typing this out is having palliative effects, I can feel the stress leaving me like getting a back rub from a Swedish masseuse with fingers like warm steel and biceps like bowling balls; aaahhhh… lower Helga!

    It’s just… downright… biblical the way every weapon and crutch the right has leaned on at least since 2008 at the minimum is now shattering and driving jagged splinters into their thrashing limbs. I understand that the country really would be better off with two functioning coherent sane parties instead of one that gets fat and lazy while the other one is gibbering and rolling about in its own urine in the corner but I still can’t bring myself to regret Trump. And the best part is that even though the GOP looks like it’s going to dodge the Trump bullet the odds are that they’ll end up with Cruz?!? The laughter comes like sweet cool white wine! It’s like the GOP is a Disney princess at the end of Beauty and the Beast and the terrible hideous monster is sufficed in an arcane glow turning from a monster into a man and that radiance withdraws to reveal to the breathless princess the grinning features of… Vincent Schiavelli. I just can’t, the laughter, I.. just can’t even, it’s just too good! I’m just basking in the glow right now, stuffed to near sickness on popcorn while roasting marshmallows on the flames. Okay, okay… I’m done.

    Anyhow *cough* Ryan isn’t going to happen. You’d need the convention drawn out a lot more before they’d even consider a white knight move like that. Ryan knows better too, the little weasel isn’t an idiot-he’s not going to jump into that Shriner car just to lose historically in the general. I’d guestimate Cruz will hit 1237 in the third round of voting if not the second. Depends on the rules but the Donald has only just begun examining the delegates whereas Teddies boys have been putting names on post-its on a whiteboard probably since Iowa. Cruz has lapped the rest of them. Only way out I see is if Kasich loses his mind and decides to offer to throw in with Trump for the veep slot which I consider unlikely.

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    • It’s worth pointing out that one of the relatively opaque things I did not realize is that it’s not as simple as Kasich “throwing in with Trump” as previously supposed. Which is to say that while some of Kasich’s delegates may be loyal to him, it’s not clear that he can instruct his delegates on who to vote for and many of them don’t even support him (Kasich). They’re Rubio people or Jeb people or Cruz people or maybe even Trump people, in addition to being Kasich people.

      Which is to say I’m not sure this convention can actually be brokered as some have suspected.

      (It may be possible – I haven’t found out yet – that Kasich can give his delegates to Trump and maybe then they would vote for Trump on the first ballot in lieu of voting for Kasich… but I think that varies from state to state.)

      All of which is to say… yeah, kind of a messed up system. I do have an outlined sketched for what I would do with the primaries, if I were king.

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  7. As a point of information, Sam Wang currently has the polls favoring a Trump delegate majority.

    On a different note, I find myself in the surprising position of having a meaningful vote in a presidential primary, and being registered as a Republican, since the Republican primary is the meaningful election on the local level where I live. So who to vote for? Frankly, I find all three candidates deeply unappealing. Kasich gets the “sane candidate” press, but this is largely due to his affect comparing well with his competition’s. His great claim to sanity lies in accepting free money rather than pissing on poor people. While this is commendable, my soft bigotry of low expectations doesn’t go that low.

    In any case, a Kasich vote at this point is essentially a protest vote. The real voting comes down to Trump and Cruz. Frankly, I consider Cruz the more dangerous of the two. He likely is slightly more electable (OK: slightly less unelectable). And the thing is, once you get past the rhetoric, in those few areas where Cruz and Trump take different policy stances, I much prefer Trump’s. And while President Trump would be a loose cannon, President Cruz would be competently and affirmatively trying to accomplish terrible goals. I think a lot of Democrats are rooting for a Trump nomination on the theory that it is most likely to lead to a Democratic landslide. I agree with this, but also think him the lesser of the two evils.

    Or perhaps this is the year to write in Cthulhu.

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  8. A lot of donors won’t line up. All of which would give credence to the paranoid fantasy that Trump was sabotaged by the party. Except that it wouldn’t be entirely fantasy, because it would be at least partially true.

    Actually, it would be entirely true.

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  9. I’m pretty much with Will on this. A process that follows the rules ain’t cheating. Honestly, if you give him his first ballot, and he doesn’t make it, and keep quiet about what happens next, it will be exciting and interesting for lots of people. Yeah, it’s disappointing to the Trump supporters, but they will very publicly have their shot. I think Trump himself won’t be too unhappy with that outcome, I don’t think he actually wants to be president, as opposed to “taken seriously”.

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    • I think Will is talking about the scenario where the rules committee meets and sends to the floor a rules amendment releasing the bound delegates, this amendment being adopted by the convention as a whole, all before the first vote. This would take away the first ballot, even if he apparently had a clear majority going in. This scenario would be legal, because in most cases the delegates are only bound by the rules of the convention, which said convention is free to change. But it would certainly–and I think legitimately–result in righteous wrath.

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      • Voting to unbind candidates in advance of the first ballot is political suicide on the Republican front, I think.

        You can make a plausible case that going for someone else after the first ballot doesn’t get you to Trump is still doing right by the Republican primary and caucus voters. Can’t make that case if you skip the first ballot. That’s a route to a guaranteed 3rd party run by Trump and a decimation of the down-ticket races.

        Plus, you get into the weeds where the rules binding delegates are written by the state parties, not the national one. So you can’t vote to change them, you can just vote to ignore their breach.

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  10. All of which would give credence to the paranoid fantasy that Trump was sabotaged by the party

    I thought the accepted paranoid fantasy was that Trump is running in order to sabotage the party – that his entire life history of extravagant shallowness is a front, and he’s playing sophisticated 4-dimensional chess as a stalking horse for Hilary Clinton.

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  11. Will:

    “What, exactly, are they going to do? It’s not clear what they can do that’s worth what the party is being asked to concede: a Trump nomination. They can stay home, but that simply makes a lost election still lost. They can try again in four years, but once again the worst they will be able to do is produce the results they’re expecting given to them now. And, in four years, the party is less likely to be caught off guard and less likely to have rules so favorable to a(n) outside, pluralist victor in delegate allocation, and they’re more likely to take Trump – or a successor – seriously before it’s too late. This election was the convergence of a lot of factors, events, and errors. They may be reproducible, but it’s not clear that they are. It’s a turd in the hand versus a turd in the bush.”

    I don’t mean to be harsh, Will, but it seems to me that you’re ignoring the past 6 years. There’s a strong anti-establishment faction in the GOP which thrives on confrontation and raw nihilism. They work with a festering network of right-wing media which also thrives on confrontation and raw nihilism. These two, in turn, have an accidental alliance with the ‘liberal’ MSM, which loves confrontation and good visuals. Trump, of course, has a massive ego, knows how to use the media, and will be in an excellent position to make it clear that You Do Not F*ck with the Trump.

    They will have a revolt on their hands, and if they are very, very lucky it will not (a) result in well-televised, flat-out riots in Cleveland, and (b) devastate (as opposed to damage) the down-ticket races. This, of course, should help move a lot of people into the Democratic ticket. I am assuming that there are a fair number of people in the GOP who, when it turns to a sh*t stew, will actually vote for the other party, as opposed to staying a weekend in the LP shanty and calling themselves principled.

    And that’s just in August – November.

    Those people will not go away, nor will the right-wing mediasphere. And heck, Trump might continue on, just for revenge.

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    • It’s because of the last six years (and that it has lead us to this point) that I hold the views that I do. That they have been doing what they have been doing the last six years leaves me believing that that their course is set and appeasement by giving the nomination to Trump is not a viable solution for a working partnership (if there is one).

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  12. With Trump’s general election numbers where they are, I worry less about the prospect of Trump winning the nomination and somehow becoming president, an outcome that I think is the scariest. So I won’t be too terrified if Trump does, somehow, get the nomination.

    But bottom line: I agree with Will here. Use every tool in the arsenal to prevent Trump from being the nominee, and deal with the consequences later.

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