Nullifying the Republican Primaries
On Super Tuesday II, not to be confused with Taco Tuesday, I dutifully trekked over to a nearby church to vote in the Missouri presidential primary, despite it being the Ides of March. It wasn’t surprising to see that Missouri had yet again changed its ballot. Rather than punch cards, this time Missouri’s ballot was a single sheet of paper on which you inked in the rectangle next to your choice. Then you fed the sheet into a machine which (supposedly) counted your vote. I was a little surprised, however, to see that candidates who had dropped out of the race weeks ago were still on the ballot. There was Carly, and Christie, and other familiar names, and some dude name of Jim Lynch, no doubt a vanity candidacy.
Near an entrance to the church’s parking lot sat a single sign enjoining one to “Choose CRUZ,” and that I did. Inasmuch as we still have the secret ballot in these United States, I didn’t have to tell you that. My first choice had been Carly Fiorina. I thought a Fiorina-Rubio ticket might just be the ticket to victory; you’d have your “outsider,” your female, and a Latino, to boot. With Missouri’s out-of-date ballot I could have voted for my gal Carly just to “send a message,” but that would have been a wasted vote. So I voted for Cruz. And the reasoning for that is: a vote for Cruz is a vote to get Republicans into an “open” convention.
Every Republican who wants to win should be voting for an “open” convention. But there’s been some heated rhetoric regarding open (i.e. contested or brokered) conventions. Certain turbo-charged words have been used, such as “steal,” as in stealing the nomination from the frontrunner. But isn’t the nomination something that is awarded or conferred, not something that is seized? Should a nominee think that he “owns” the nomination? As far as I’m concerned, a party should be able to replace a nominee at any time if he/she proves unfit or unelectable.
Some have said that if convention delegates choose someone other than one of the candidates who ran in the primaries, that the voters would be “disenfranchised.” But the voters exercise their franchise in the general election.
Some have opined that bringing in some “savior” who hasn’t run in the primaries would subvert the “democratic” process. But there’s little that is “democratic” in the primaries. Is it “democratic” to have primaries and caucuses spread out over months? The voters in the states that vote late have more information; shouldn’t the voters in the early-voting states be able to change their votes just to make it, you know, democratic? What would we say if voting in the general election were staggered the way it is in the primaries? One doubts voters would find it very democratic.
A headline at MSN.com reads: “Poll: Clinton would crush Trump in general election.” Trump delegates must ask themselves if they want to win, or if they just want to “send a message” about their dissatisfaction with the “establishment.”
Polls also indicate that Cruz could beat Clinton. Therefore, vote for Cruz, even he you don’t like him, because a vote for Cruz is a vote for an open convention, and an open convention is the best way for Republicans to have the space necessary to settle on the best nominee.
Since the 2014 midterms, Republicans have held more elective offices, federal and state, than at any time since the 1920s. That could all be threatened by one man. Any presidential candidate who could jeopardize those “down-ballot” officials is entirely unacceptable. The best way for the GOP to hold on to their 2014 gains is by having a standard bearer at the top of the ballot who is electable.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Mr. Trump, who has major problems with women and with minorities. The Buckley Rule of running the most conservative viable candidate wouldn’t seem to apply with Trump, as he is neither conservative nor, if one believes the polls, electable. If party elders believe a candidate would be ruinous to their party, then they must do whatever it takes to deny him/her the nomination. (Delegates who might think it monstrous to deny the nomination to a candidate with a majority of the primary votes need to read Avi Snyder’s excellent March 26 article “To Defeat Trump: Let History Repeat Itself.”)
If the convention does go to multiple ballots, and especially if the convention becomes deadlocked, the delegates should resist all calls for nominating an “establishment” candidate, especially Jeb Bush, the establishment’s handpicked boy. Nor should a member of Congress be considered, not even Speaker Ryan. This is the year that Republicans need to “go rogue”; this is the year the GOP needs to settle on an “outsider.”
It’s been said that if the Trumpians don’t get their way that they’ll sit out the election. Jonah Goldberg has suggested that the party is screwed either way; whether Trump is nominated or not. So, the way to win this election is to “steal” voters from the Democrats. And what that means is nominating a woman. After all, doesn’t “it takes a woman to beat a woman”? Even if Hillary is indicted and forced to drop out, Republicans should nominate a woman anyway, just to be safe. The GOP needs an “outsider” woman with impeccable conservative credentials who is eloquent and can debate like all get out. But that woman need not be Carly Fiorina, for in an open convention the GOP can nominate any woman. And since we’re talking about winning, perhaps her running mate needs to be a minority.
This Republican primary season reminds me of a scene in Larry McMurtry’s epic of the Old West, Lonesome Dove. In Chapter 88, Clara pleads with Augustus to discontinue his dangerous cattle drive north and settle in Nebraska:
Clara devoted five minutes to trying to persuade him to settle somewhere on the Platte. “There’s cheap land not three days’ ride from here,” she pointed out. “You could have the whole north part of this state if you wanted it. Why go to Montana?”
“Well, that’s where we started for,” he said. “Me and Call have always liked to get where we started for, even if it don’t make a damn bit of sense.”
And in ignoring Clara just so he could get where he “started for,” just so he wouldn’t have to change, Gus came to his untimely end. Conservatives who want to reform their party and save America must understand that they can do neither if they don’t win in November. If they want to avoid disaster, Republicans need the flexibility to change. Other than voting for Cruz, I’m not sure how it can be done, but the primaries need to be “nullified” so that the convention can be open.
Imagine hearing this at the Republican convention in July: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re all exhausted but we need to make a decision. So, on this, our tenth ballot, I do hereby nominate for the office of President of the United States the right honorable Ms. Jane Doe from the great state of …
But fret not, darlin’, this cowboy will be voting Republican regardless of whom the delegates nominate -- “even if it don’t make a damn bit of sense.”
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.