Despite the seeming inevitability of Donald Trump’s nomination as the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, a dedicated group of GOP activists is still working to derail the Trump Train. And on Sunday, one of the leaders of the anti-Trump movement told a conservative website that she expects there will be a vote on the floor of the Republican National Convention next week that could change the expected outcome.
Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado and a member of the convention’s powerful Rules Committee, is pressing the party to allow delegates to “vote their conscience” rather than adhere to the rules that require most of them to vote for a specific candidate based on the results of their state’s primary.
She concedes that she may not have the majority support on the committee needed to make that change in the package of rules that the committee submits to the delegates as a whole. However, she told the conservative website The Daily Signal that she believes she has enough support on the panel to issue a “minority report” from the Rules Committee including that “conscience clause.”
Because of the way the rules guiding the convention work, Unruh only needs 25 percent of the Rules Committee’s 112 members to force a vote on the minority report’s proposal, and she claims to have the 28 members necessary -- even if they aren’t willing to identify themselves at the moment.
"Not everyone who is with us is willing to be public yet,” she told The Daily Signal. She said delegates fear retaliation, but did not cite specific examples.
And that minority report, should it be put before the delegates to the convention, could be passed -- and become part of the party rules -- by a simple majority.
It’s a result that would throw the GOP convention into chaos, and for that reason alone the effort to unbind the delegates has received little or no support from the GOP establishment. But despite the lack of official backing, Unruh is optimistic.
“It does have a shot,” Unruh said in an interview with a local television station over the weekend. “It’s been a challenge, and we knew that from the beginning.”
The idea that delegates can be “unbound” is a controversial one, to say the least. Republican primary voters overwhelmingly went to the polls this year on the assumption that delegates sent to the national convention would be allocated, more or less, based on the number of votes they received. That is to say, that the decision of the electorate would be final.
Not so, said Unruh, echoing an argument common among anti-Trump GOP activists. Comparing the GOP to a “homeowner’s board” or a “Junior League soccer board,” she said the rules simply aren’t what people generally believe.
There is a “misperception,” she said, that a party primary is “one-man, one-vote.” She continued, “A primary is actually just a preference poll. There’s actually nothing binding about it.”
While that would likely come as a shock to the millions of voters who thought they were binding delegates to particular candidates during the primaries, Unruh insists that because the GOP is a private organization, there is no legal obligation for it to treat an election as binding.
If Unruh is able to engineer the Rules Committee proceedings the way she wants and bring a minority report to the floor for a vote, it would not only drive the convention’s nominating process into completely uncharted territory, but would also almost certainly provoke a schism within the party. But there is good reason to believe that was coming anyway.