HOW TO FEEL THE GOP'S PAIN OVER TRUMP
By John Cassidy, The New Yorker
This post is something of a public-service announcement for liberals and Democrats: I've discovered a new guilty pleasure that you might want to get in on. It's perfectly legal and harmless; the main source of the guilt is that it can become compulsive. All you need is an Internet-connected Web browser. Then fire it up and type into the search box "Donald Trump" and "Republican Party."
I've been doing this for weeks now, and the results seldom disappoint. When I indulged my habit on Thursday morning, here were some of the headlines that appeared: "Donald Trump's Racist Remarks Could Destroy the Republican Party" (Chicago Tribune); "Many in GOP Are Now Running Away from Their Nominee" (Boston Globe); "Iowa State Lawmaker Leaves GOP Over Trump" (The Hill); "Donald Trump Leaves California GOP in a Mess" (Sacramento Bee); "Major Conservative Radio Host Calls for Republican Party to Dump Donald Trump at the Convention" (Business Insider); "Obama Tells Jimmy Fallon He's 'Worried' About the Republican Party" (USA Today).
You bet Obama is worried. Just like you're worried—worried that, despite its current troubles, the G.O.P. might somehow get its act together in time for the election. Right now, though, there doesn't appear to be much danger of this happening, so feel free to keep on typing and searching. You can even get the view from the inside, by confining your search to conservative sources. Town Hall: "Donald Trump's Biggest Opponent Is Himself." Red State: "Donald Trump Can't Hire the Best People, Because They Refuse to Work for Him." National Review: " 'The Agony of the Trump Endorsers.' " If you prefer to gloat, you'll find plenty of company at liberal sites. Salon: "Donald Trump May Be Finished: Republicans Are Turning on Their Nominee En Masse." Daily Kos: "Trump's Ground Game? Let the State Parties Get Out the Vote, but Don't Talk to 'Em or Fund 'Em." MSNBC: "What Took Trump's Republican Critics So Long?"
If you only have time for a cursory read, scanning the headlines and dipping in here and there offers a decent fix. But there are ways to take it further, too. One thing I like to do is select an anguished Republican quote of the day. There were many entries in my Thursday contest, including one from Hugh Hewitt, the conservative radio host, who called for a coup against Trump. On his daily radio show on Wednesday, Hewitt said that accepting Trump as the nominee is "like ignoring Stage IV cancer. You can't do it, you gotta go attack it."
That was pretty good. But Hewitt is a longtime critic of Trump, and he might have been gloating more than despairing about the candidate's antics since he clinched the nomination. So I awarded the prize to Wayne Johnson, a Republican consultant in California, who was reacting to the results of Tuesday's runoff election to determine the two candidates who will compete in the fall for the U.S. Senate seat that Barbara Boxer is vacating. Under the reformed electoral system that California adopted in 2011, one party is able to claim both spots, and indeed two Democrats did so, leaving the G.O.P. without a candidate on the ballot.
With most eyes fixed on the Democratic Presidential primary, this result didn't get much national attention, but it was a sign of what could be awaiting the G.O.P. Many of the Party's voters stayed home, creating fears among state Republicans that, with Trump at the top of the ticket, the Democrats could pick up a bunch of California's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and rack up huge, filibuster-proof majorities in the state legislature. "I'm trying to find something good, but there is no silver lining on this very dark cloud," Johnson, the G.O.P. consultant, told the Sacramento Bee.
Another source of schadenfreude for non-Republicans is monitoring the various schemes to stop Trump that are circulating in and around the G.O.P. For a while, these revolved around the possibility of a third-party candidacy. But after Mitt Romney ruled out a run—and after the rumor that some conservatives favored David French, a little-known writer for National Review, prompted some wags to post derisive tweets with the hashtag #FrenchToast—attention switched back to the idea of challenging Trump at the Republican Convention.
Since Trump has amassed about sixty-two per cent of the delegates who will be going to Cleveland, it isn't obvious how he can be stopped. But that hasn't put off the Never Trump crowd and some of their new recruits, who are all studying the Republican Convention rulebook with Talmudic intensity. Hewitt offered a couple of possible methods. One was to make the first two ballots advisory, which would allow delegates who are committed to Trump to switch preferences on the third ballot. Another was to require a supermajority of votes on the first ballot, which could conceivably prevent Trump from scoring a decisive victory.
Would either of these changes be allowed? An unidentified "GOP guru who'll be very involved in the convention" told Politico's Playbook that "the Rules require each convention to pass the specific rules that govern its proceedings," and that the term "majority" can be amended to "60% (or 66.6%) of the delegates on the first ballot and a majority of delegates on any subsequent ballots." The source added that making such a change would require a vote by the Convention's Rules Committee, which has a hundred and sixteen members, and the approval of a majority of the delegates.
Once you grasp the idea that the G.O.P. conventioneers can make up their own rules, the possibilities seem endless. Why go to the trouble of changing the balloting procedures? It might be easier to introduce a new rule barring candidates who have a surname beginning with "T," a Slovenian spouse, or a Boeing 757 with their name emblazoned on it.
Some anti-Trump Republicans also believe that it might be possible to dump the candidate without changing any rules at all. A. J. Spiker, a former chairman of the Iowa G.O.P., forwarded to BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray a link to a book by a member of the Rules Committee, Curly Haugland, which claims that elected delegates aren't bound to a certain candidate even on the first ballot. "There's a long history in the Republican Party of delegates voting their conscience," Spiker said. "There is a path for the party to go in a different direction than Trump."
If all of this sounds like madness, it probably is. To get where he is today, Trump defeated sixteen Republican opponents and received about 13.3 million votes. Seeking to prevent him from taking up a nomination that he won at the ballot box would be, as Morton Blackwell, a member of the Republican National Committee who supported Ted Cruz during the primaries, told NBC News, "a chaotic mess and stupid—it's a fantasy and will not happen." He added, "There are too many sensible people involved."
At the moment, the "sensible" Republicans who are resigned to a Trump candidacy include Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other Party leaders. But there are another five and a half weeks until the Convention begins. Who can really say what will happen next? (On Thursday afternoon, my colleague Ryan Lizza reported that Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, told him she might end up voting for Hillary Clinton.)
One thing that seems safe to predict is that Trump's recent decision to use a teleprompter and muzzle his real self won't last. Before long, he'll be out there again, making offensive comments, displaying his narcissism, and causing many Republicans who are concerned about their party's prospects to wince.