How Far Will Republicans Go to Keep Trump from Winning?
Policy + Politics

How Far Will Republicans Go to Keep Trump from Winning?

Rick Wilking

While it’s not a sure thing, billionaire Donald Trump appears to have a path to winning the Republican presidential nomination, and that is causing all sorts of stress for people who support the former reality television star, for people who think he’s flat-out dangerous, and for people concerned about the effect a fight over his nomination could have on the Republican Party as a whole.

Currently leading in the delegate count, Trump needs to amass 1,237 in order to assure a first-ballot nomination at the convention. He is currently more than halfway there, but there is a distinct possibility that Trump could make it to the convention with a considerable lead over his closest competitor, but not a majority.

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Trump has warned of riots and unrest being unavoidable if he is denied the nomination despite being the clear leader in delegates. After the first ballot many—even most delegates—will be free to switch their votes to anyone whose name has been placed in nomination. This mechanism is perfectly within the rules that have been in place since before Trump declared his candidacy.

Trump’s surrogate, the GOP consultant and former Richard Nixon dirty tricks expert Roger Stone, warned in an article published on Thursday by the conspiracy website that “GOP bigwigs” are plotting to steal the nomination from the frontrunner.

A report by The Washington Times, claims there is a movement taking shape within the Republican National Committee to change the rules under which the convention operates in order to increase transparency and avoid any allegations that Trump has been cheated.

The convention is traditionally guided by the rules of parliamentary procedure in the House of Representatives, which is confusing even to many people familiar with it and utterly impenetrable to those who aren’t. The suggestion is that the convention use Roberts’ Rules of Order as a substitute. Robert’s rules are commonly used in organizations across the country, from town councils to state party conventions.

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The thinking is that the more of the delegates to the convention who feel that they understand the rules under which the party is choosing its nominee, the less unrest there will be among those whose preferred candidate doesn’t get the nod. It is also plainly meant to create a sense of fairness in the process that might minimize any animosity that would make it difficult for the Party to come together in the general election.

While some are strategizing ways to prevent the crack-up of the Republican Party, others are looking at the remote but undeniably real possibility that Trump could somehow not just win the GOP nomination but the presidency as well. They’re discussing ways to save the country.

In Thursday’s edition of The Washington Post, Pepperdine University School of Law Prof. Derek T. Muller explained that even if a Trump victory in a general election appeared inevitable, the much-maligned Electoral College could be a final bulwark against President Trump.

The U.S. Presidential election is usually seen as the people picking a president. But in fact, people vote for “electors,” who in turn cast a vote in the 538-member Electoral College. A 270-vote majority is enough to win the presidency.

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However, the practice of holding an election to choose electors is not a requirement. The Constitution empowers state legislatures to have electors chosen in a way they see fit. Muller argues that state lawmakers who want to block a Trump presidency could legally change their states’ rules and pick the electors themselves.

“State legislatures should consider whether to retake this authority in the 2016 election in an effort to stop Trump,” Muller writes. “Republicans control 31 state legislatures. Many could consider this proposal, but the Texas state legislature is a natural place to start. It could easily pass a law returning power to the legislature. On Election Day, the legislature could decide whether to vote for Trump or Mitt Romney, the prior Republican nominee; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out of the 2016 race early on; a popular GOP figure like Condoleezza Rice, whose name has recently been floated as an alternative; or their own junior Sen. Ted Cruz, presently trailing Trump in the Republican Party delegate count.”

By throwing a significant number of delegates to a candidate other than Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee, states could theoretically prevent any candidate from amassing 270 delegates. In that event, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives would choose the next president from among the top three electoral vote recipients.

It’s an unlikely scenario, Muller admits, and one that would shake up the system in unpredictable ways.

“To take this extraordinary step, state legislators would have to decide that this election calls for an extraordinary change,” he writes. “And, of course, acknowledge that it could be deployed against any candidate in any presidential election — this year, four years from now and onward. It has seldom been used. But perhaps — just this once — legislators will conclude that the times call for a change to how we vote for the president.”