From July 18 to 21 in Cleveland, Republican delegates will vote for the nominee to represent their Party for President of the United States, with 1,237 delegates required for any candidate to receive the nomination on the first-ballot. With Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) consistently leading polls ahead of the Wisconsin Republican primary, the chances of front-runner Donald Trump winning the presidential nomination on the first-ballot — the only candidate with a chance to do so — at the GOP convention appear poised to decline, perhaps fatally. If a candidate doesn’t receive the support of the required 1,237 delegates on the first-ballot, when certain delegates are bound to candidates based on the primary results of the states they represent, then delegates are no longer tied to state results and a contested convention is in full swing. Most interpret this turn of events as the increasingly inevitable scenario in which the Republican Party can finally rid itself of Trump and install Cruz, Governor John Kasich (R-OH) or a currently-not-running Republican elite as a unifying candidate. However, if the ultimate goal of the Party is to retain voters and maintain the longevity of existence, then the Party should nominate Trump.
As aforementioned, a Cruz victory in Wisconsin would increase the likelihood of contested convention come July; an outcome that enables the Party to rid itself of Trump and nominate a candidate that can bridge the gap between the Trumpists, the Far-Right and the Establishment to win in the Fall. If this election cycle has proved anything, it’s clearly that this candidate is not currently running for the Republican nomination. But again, that’s no problem in a contested convention. The Party can simply nominate Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to step in and save the day like he did after the departure of Predecessor Boehner. Disregarding what a blatant slap in the face to democracy this would be, not only would this tactic result in a general election loss, it would threaten the viability of the Party.
Each effect — a November defeat and diminished longevity — comes with an identical cause; nominating Ryan, or anyone not currently running, inherently involves alienating the 35 to 40 percent of the voting bloc that’s infallibly committed to Trump. After years of eventually acquiescing to Establishment candidates — McCain, Romney — the conservative constituency is convinced the only way to win is to nominate one of their own. Their votes for Trump are as much support for him as it is backlash to the elites of the Party. Not only would these voters not vote for a Ryanesque candidate, it’s entirely plausible these voters would completely disavow the Republican Party, especially if the nomination leads to yet another general election defeat. Which it will because if you don’t turn out the base you don’t win. And if you disenfranchise 35 to 40 percent of your constituency, you don’t exist much longer.
So if a White Knight isn’t a credible strategy, that leaves Cruz or Kasich to save the Party. While Kasich may be entirely acceptable to the center-wing of the Party, the results of his nomination would be similar to those of a last-minute installment at a contested convention. Though Kasich is actively seeking the presidency, he has only emerged victorious in one state — where he resides as Governor — and would reek of Establishment compromise to those currently supporting Trump or Cruz a.k.a. 80 to 85 percent of the constituency. The majority of those voters aren’t enthusiastically voting for Kasich in the general — which would result in a loss — and, again, may risk permanently disenchanting significant blocs of voters.
If not Kasich, then Cruz? If not by firing, then by drowning? While Cruz may likely be acceptable come November to a large swath of Trump voters — and support from elite officials indicates the Establishment may be willing to come to him to defeat the Democrats — his religious-appeal is limited in a general and his ideologue views on abortion and carpet-bombing, as well as his government shutdown engineering skills, will doom him with women and independents. Clinton already leads Cruz in all general election polls, save for the one produced at Fox News. Cruz may not be as damaging for the longevity of the Republican Party as a contested convention nominee or Kasich, yet it’s not entirely clear how the Trumpists will react if their man is swiped aside by the Establishment despite entering the convention will the most delegates. Certainly, some may object to the Party in later years and more still will abstain in the Fall.
That leaves Trump as the last man standing. Trump will almost certainly lose in the Fall — many Establishment-types, while willing to stoop to Cruz, would never relent to Trump, nor would many women or independents — and he is certainly alienating to the traditional sect of the Party. Yet while those Purists may leave their Party for one election cycle, it’s almost entirely assured they would not concede the Party to the Trumpists after a Fall defeat. And that is the gift of the Trump Card. If all the aforesaid options result in defeat, then why not lose with the People’s Choice? By allowing his nomination to progress, the Party will not risk estranging the 35 to40 percent of Trumpists and the defeat will appear natural. The Establishment will be eager to make amends and retain power after the Fall and the Trumpists and Far-Right will know that compromise is necessary. Long Live the Empire.
Jake Forken is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My Forken Opinion appears alternate Fridays this semester.