CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Republican Party convention that was supposed to bring the GOP together behind presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump careered off in the exact opposite direction on Monday. RNC officials strong-armed an effort by delegates opposed to Trump to force a roll call vote on the rules under which the convention would operate, resulting in an uproar on the floor that ended with the Trump camp in control of the proceedings, but a large number of delegates furious with the party leadership.
“So much for ‘party unity,’ said Virginia delegate Tommy Valentine, a member of the Platform Committee.
At one point in the process, acting chair Steve Womack, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Arkansas, called a voice vote on whether or not the rules package should be approved. Despite deafening yelling from both sides, he quickly declared that those in favor of approving the package had won and left the stage to enraged shouting from the anti-Trump delegates.
In the interim, prominent delegates expressed amazement. Utah Sen. Mike Lee called the process “surreal.” In an interview with MSNBC, former New Hampshire senator Gordon Humphrey, a delegate from the Granite State, was even harsher.
“Well, you just saw the second most important item of business rushed through in a split second with no opportunity for debate, no opportunity for questions, no opportunity for points of order and no roll call vote,” he said. “So this was pretty shocking and shameful. I’ve seen a lot, but this is not a meeting of the Republican National Committee. This is a meeting of Brown Shirts.”
A surprised MSNBC reporter asked him what he meant by that.
“I mean people who act like fascists,” Humphrey said. “They might not be fascists, but they act like fascists they have the lack of manners of fascists and in this respect they are only too reflective of Donald Trump himself.”
Womack later returned to the stage, and briefly allowed dissenters to speak. One demanded a roll call vote, claiming that nine states -- two more than the seven required -- had submitted signatures from a majority of their delegates requesting the vote. Womack heard them out, but then declared that three of the state delegations that had originally supported a roll call vote had withdrawn their support. He did not mention which states withdrew.
Valentine, the delegate from Virginia, was plainly angry. “The RNC broke their own rules and deliberately ignored parliamentary procedure,” he said.
“So the whole thing is a farce. The way the Trump campaign and the RNC have become one, just got in bed with each other, is disgusting. Quashing efforts by grassroots delegates and they expect us to go out and knock on doors in the fall?... They expect young people to get involved in the party, but why should I do this if I’m just going to be ignored? All we wanted was a roll call vote. If the Trump campaign was so confident, then what’s wrong with having a roll call vote? I’m just really disgusted.”
Attorney Ben Ginsberg, widely respected for his understanding of election law and the intricacies of political conventions, stood on the floor afterward and said that the process had been remarkable from a historical perspective, because it has been very uncommon -- if not unheard of -- for major changes to the proceedings to be proposed by petitions submitted by multiple states.
“Four years ago there was a voice vote that was loud and boisterous, but this one had petitions behind it and some strength to it,” he said.
Asked if Trump could mend the rift that the procedural vote opened, Ginsberg said, “Sure.”
Really? Because mending fences has not exactly been Trump’s thing.
“You asked if he could,” Ginsberg said. “The answer is yes.”
Okay. Do you think he will?
“Well,” Ginsberg said. “I can’t speak for him.”
Former Florida Rep. Allen West, walking around the convention floor after the party’s business meeting, was unsympathetic toward the anti-Trump forces. The ultra-conservative former Army officer said he was happy with any result that meant presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would not be in the White House next year.
“Hey, at least they allowed the process to play out, and you guys get something to talk about, huh?” he said.
Alabama delegates Perry Hooper Jr, and Jeana Boggs, were more than pleased at the end of the session.
Hooper asked a reporter if he had heard the “Build that wall!” chant coming from the Alabama delegation. Looking at Boggs, he said, “In fact, I think you and I started that cheer,” he said.
“Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hm” she said, nodding in agreement.
“Can I tell you one thing else?” Hooper asked, after having his picture taken.
“It’s great to be a Trump American.”