17 June 2016

Will Trump Be the GOP Nominee? A Contrarian Perspective

The Donald's candidacy was a disaster for the GOP.

As I wrote before, GOP establishment thought that they could get rid of this buffoon easily. They forgot that "the buffoon" was the true heir of Nixon and his voice was the clearest expression of Milhous' Southern Strategy.

They tried to organize a "Stop Trump" movement. They had prominent GOP figures like Mittens and Bill Kristol attack him virulently.

They even tried siccing the Chairman and his giant echo chamber on him.

Nothing worked and the Donald won. In the process, he proved that he stood exactly where the GOP electorate was. And we are not just talking about primary voters. The Republican rank and file largely support Trump for the general elections.
According to a Washington Post survey, 85% of Republicans plan to vote for their man. A New York Times offering finds a similar number.
The problem for the Republican establishment is that Trump's unconventional campaign seriously damaged their conservative principles and tarnished the GOP brand.

Trump and the GOP Brand

Take the supposedly moralistic evangelicals.

This is a foul-mouthed, thrice-married bully who brags about "nailing" women. Yet Values Voters flocked to him like street pigeons to bread crumbs.
According to the most recent polls, Trump is one of the top picks for president among evangelical Christians. One Washington Post poll even had him as the group’s favorite by a margin of six points. His first major rally in the Bible-Belt fortress town of Mobile, Alabama, drew an estimated 18,000 attendees.
What about "read my lips, no new taxes"?

Republican leaders like Grover Norquist made signing pledges about never raising taxes and starving the beast the sine qua non of the party's support of any candidate. You don't sign and GOP funds go to your challenger.  Usually a tea party firebrand. And as you will remember, this is one of the cornerstones of GOP orthodoxy over which they shut down the federal government more than once.

Yet Trump gleefully said that he would raise taxes on the wealthy. Although he went back and forth a couple of times to end up with a tax cuts for everyone position, the fact that he could even argue the point so freely is a huge problem for the Republican establishment.

There is more.

In the last four decades GOP has portrayed itself as a party of conviction with solid and immutable conservative principles. They famously made fun of John Kerry for "being for it before being against it" or of Michael Dukakis or Jimmy Carter. Conservatives never flip flop because they have deeply held common beliefs.

Well, Donald Trump changed his position on almost everything, usually more than twice. And yet the supposedly principled conservative GOP electorate continued to support him unwaveringly.

Trump also pushed GOP positions to their logical extreme, sometimes to comical effect.

If GOP had climate deniers, Trump went three steps farther and claimed that climate change was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

If GOP was anti-choice, Trump offered to jail women who had abortion. Which freaked right out the anti-choice folks because that is the easiest way to lose the support of all women on either side of the issue.

And true to form, Trump changed that position three times in one week.

If the Republicans were against immigration, Trump had a quick solution: deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in no time and have wall built across the entire US-Mexico border paid by Mexico.

It was funny, childish and embarrassing at the same time.

But by far his boldest and scariest move was his tweet in the aftermath of Orlando shooting announcing that he will push for stricter gun control. The NRA and GOP held their collective breath.

You see, it is immaterial that he wants the limitation to apply only to people on terrorism lists. NRA has always maintained that no limitation is permissible because once you give in, it becomes a slippery slope. That is why they defended hollow point bullets or automatic assault rifles in the aftermath of school shootings and cop killings.

And they always prevailed.

Within a day of his tweet, a Democratic Senator staged a 14-hour filibuster to bring the issue to vote. He is unlikely to succeed but the GOP will end up publicly defending the indefensible: the terrorists' right to buy arms legally.

I am sure both the NRA, which recently endorsed Trump in glowing terms, and the GOP are simply petrified.

You know where I am going with this, right?

By redefining conservatism in his own image (and succeeding in the process) Donald Trump essentially destroyed the GOP brand.

And he is now their presumptive nominee.

Now, if he becomes the candidate and faces Clinton, win or lose, GOP will never be able to claim that they cannot give in on taxes or abortion or gun control as these are immutable principles that define conservatism.

The Donald questioned them all and exposed them as farcical posturings. If he runs for presidency, the Clinton campaign will hammer every flip-flop, every silly position and every improbable claim and they will damage the GOP brand for years to come.

There is also the question whether Trump can actually win the presidency.

And they know that it is very unlikely.

Before you yell at me "but Orlando and Muslims" let me remind you his many shortcomings.

First, Trump has a constituency problem.

Take women. He has a 20-odd point gap between male and female supporters. And that is not just on abortion but pure misogyny.

What about Hispanics who now make up 12 percent of the electorate?
So far, Hispanic voters have a very negative view of Mr. Trump, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey conducted this month shows. Some 68% would back Mrs. Clinton and 20% would back Mr. Trump if the two faced off in the general election, the survey found. Mrs. Clinton’s 48-point advantage among Hispanics is far larger than her 3-point lead among voters overall in the survey.
What is surprising is that there is still some 20 percent willing to vote for a man who called Mexicans rapists and murderers

As for the African American voters,
A staggering 94 percent of black voters view the real estate mogul negatively, as do 89 percent of Latinos, despite his predictions that he will “win the Hispanic vote” in November.
You cannot win the presidency with only the angry and uneducated white males. The numbers, as they say, don't add up.

Granted, Hillary Clinton has an unusually high unfavorable rating (55 percent). But 
A Washington Post/ABC survey released Wednesday shows seven in 10 Americans view the presumptive GOP nominee unfavorably, up 10 points since he announced his candidacy for president. 
There is more.

Trump's life is a treasure trove for Opposition Research.

I am not going to bring up his ex-wives or super model girlfriends and regular stories that doom politicians. I don't need to. Even the financial stuff and business acumen he brags about is toxic.

He went through many bankruptcies and yet miraculously survived them all. There are many unsavory tales in those incidents that are being unearthed as we speak.

His Trump University has just been exposed as being a money trap for poor people, a scam that is being investigated by the New York Attorney General.

There is also the Veterans controversy where he forgot to donate the money he so loudly announced. And tried to cover it up.

Imagine a GOP candidate scamming the veterans.

His tax returns are likely to contain elements that will embarrass him (and that is hard to do) and contradict his previous statements.

While none of these might matter to his angry white male supporters, a man with 70 percent unfavorable rating is unlikely to succeed despite these shortcomings.

In short, barring some unforeseen situation like like FBI indicting her for email server incident, even with her high unfavorables, it is hard to see Clinton losing against Trump.

So put yourself in the the shoes of GOP leadership. If you know that letting Trump run for presidency would (a) destroy the GOP brand and (b) end up in humiliating defeat what would you do?

A better question perhaps: what can they do?

Convention Tricks

In recent weeks, serendipitously,  I am sure, a spate of articles and one book emerged, all arguing that GOP delegates were not bound by the choices made by primary voters. They are supposed to vote their conscience, these pieces claim, if they follow the GOP rules.

The book (Unbound: The Conscience of the Republican Party) is by Curly Haugland, a member of the Republican National Committee and Sean Parnell, a consultant. They point out that, from the beginning, the GOP Convention rules stated that delegates could vote their conscience and this had been the case between 1880 and 1976.
In 1976, the campaign of President Gerald Ford managed to get the convention rule amended to permit binding of delegates as part of a strategy to block former California Gov. Ronald Reagan from getting the nomination. In 1980 this language was removed, and the temporary rules for the 2016 convention include almost exactly the same language as the rule first added in 1880.
Moreover, they say, Trump got 43 percent of the primary votes and he needs to get another 3.5 million vote to make the claim that he won the majority of the primary votes cast.
So if Trump wants to be the Republican nominee, he will have one last sales job of persuading the delegates to nominate him – and this time he'll need a majority, something he hasn't managed so far in caucus and primary votes.
This argument was supported and amplified by David French, a writer for National Review.

He brings forth a Supreme Court decision (Cousins v, Wigoda) that prevents Convention rules (or state rules) to cancel First Amendment rights of delegates.

He also cites the Unit Rule, which states:
No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule. A “unit rule” prohibited by this section means a rule or law under which a delegation at the national convention casts its entire vote as a unit as determined by a majority vote of the delegation.
All of this is well and good.

What about all the votes cast during the primary process?

French acknowledges that that the Rule 16(a)(2), adopted in 2013, recognizes state bindings and compels delegates to vote accordingly.

But then he cites Haugland and Parnell who maintain that the rule “will expire upon the start of the 2016 convention and will not be part of the standing rules of that convention.”

All of which means that, if the GOP establishment wants to do something about Trump, they could.

But here is the crux of the matter. David French states that whether GOP delegates vote for or against Trump, it will all be perceived as a choice because it will be.
If Donald Trump does emerge as the nominee of the Republican party, it will not be because anyone forced him on the GOP. It will be because every level of the GOP made a decision that he should represent its principles and values in 2016. No one can hide, and no one can run for cover. The party will decide.
What he is saying that if Trump becomes the actual nominee, this will be on the GOP.

And the party will have to live with that choice.

In other words, a Trump candidacy has no upside but a huge number of downsides for the party.

Do I think that they will dump him at the Convention?

I don't know, but I would not be surprised if they did.

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