No one ever thought the likes of Bill Kristol and Mitt Romney were going to put together a third-party campaign with any chance of victory, but a new coalition of conservatives inside the Republican Party could succeed where previous StopTrump efforts have failed.
A group called “Free the Delegates” is gaining steam in the weeks leading up to the RNC convention. Their goal: To convince delegates to vote against Donald Trump even if they are bound by their state’s rules to vote according to the results of the primaries.
“As we carefully consider not only the presidential nominee but the rules of the convention, the platform of the Republican Party, and the vice-presidential nominee, remember that this is true reality TV – it is not entertainment,” said Regina Thomson, a co-founder of the FTD group.
Thomson and others want to write a “conscience clause” into the convention’s rulebook that would allow delegates to vote however they want in Cleveland. They are taking the House speaker’s silence on the issue as a green light.
“Paul Ryan signed our permission slip,” said the group’s Kendal Unruh, referring to Ryan’s assertion that it was not his place to tell the delegates what to do.
Trump has more than 1,600 pledged delegates on his side going into the convention, meaning that FTD will have to peel away at least 400 of them to take away his first-ballot victory. Even if they can manage that enormous task, the results of that kind of mutiny could have foundation-destroying ramifications for the GOP. It would amount to telling the voters, “Yeah, we appreciate your participation, but don’t think for a second that your votes actually mattered. You only get to choose when we agree with your choice.”
If they pull this off, Hillary Clinton’s inevitable win in November will be the least of the GOP’s problems. This is the kind of democracy-defying insanity that could spell the end of the party as a whole. Even a great many Republican voters who dislike Trump would be dismayed at such a flagrant violation of trust. There is no reasonable cause for this chicanery; it’s not like the voters chose a chimpanzee or a toaster oven or a member of ISIS.
But he’s different, and that’s what has Republicans biting their nails. Well, bite your nails all you want. No one’s stopping you. But if you step in and thwart the will of the people, it will not turn out well.