Republican party establishment hoping for a brokered convention?


Every four years the media salivates at the possibility of a political party’s nominee not being decided by the primary process, with a multiplicity of candidates going to the convention with sufficient delegates to have a shot at winning the nomination. The media drools at the possibility of public and backroom wheeling and dealing until one of the candidates or, even better, a rank outsider becomes the nominee.

The party establishment hates this idea. For them, intraparty squabbling and bargaining over delegates will undermine the image of unity they seek to portray to the nation. Their idea of a successful convention is one that is highly scripted with absolutely no surprises and is meant to showcase the launch of the general election campaign of their nominee.

At one time, the selection of the running mate was revealed only at the convention, providing some scripted excitement but even that tradition has gone away. Party political conventions have become sedate affairs. The nominee is known well in advance of the convention and the running mate selection is also announced prior to the event. The last truly brokered convention was the Democratic one in 1952 though there have been later ones that were contentious and close to being brokered.

This time though, the Republican party establishment is considering the possibility that a brokered convention may be their only chance to stop Donald Trump. If he continues to lead the polls through the primary season, their best bet is to hope that many other candidates remain until the end, thus splintering the vote so that Trump does not command a majority of delegates to win outright. They can then use their networking and behind-the-scenes clout to cobble together a majority of delegates behind someone they favor and whom they think will at least not drag the party down across the board in all the elections, even if the candidate does not win the presidency.

Apparently Republican party leaders have met and are already strategizing along these lines.

Considering that scenario as Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listened, several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said.

Because of the sensitivity of the topic — and wary of saying something that, if leaked, would provoke Trump to bolt the party and mount an independent bid — Priebus and McConnell were mostly quiet during the back and forth. They did not signal support for an overt anti-Trump effort.

But near the end, McConnell and Priebus did acknowledge to the group that a deadlocked convention is indeed something the party should prepare for, both institutionally at the RNC and politically at all levels in the coming months.

Meanwhile Jeb Bush, the preferred establishment candidate who is floundering in the polls at around 5%, is reportedly considering a different strategy, that of targeting for destruction every candidate except Trump, on the assumption that given a stark choice between just the two of them, Republican voters will prefer him. The evidence in support of this belief is thin, to put it mildly.

Comments

  1. brucegee1962 says

    Trump has signaled pretty clearly that, if he goes into the convention with a plurality of polls and/or votes and gets pushed aside by the establishment, he’ll run an independent campaign. There’s also a real possibility that his supporters would literally riot.

    At that point, the establishment will have given up on defeating Clinton — they’ll just be trying to salvage ownership of the brand and keep the down-ticket candidates alive. But if they don’t manage to oust him, I’m sure they’re afraid that they’ll have burned so many bridges that they’ll have no choice but to launch their own third party, just so they’ll have someone they can vote for in good conscience. I think that many Republicans — make that many Americans — don’t really vote strategically. They vote for someone that they’ll be able to feel good about the next day. I think a lot of the “country club” Republicans — the Jewish caucus you mentioned, for example — can’t imagine themselves voting for either Donald or Hillary, and would jump onto a third party with no hesitation.

    Personally, I’m hoping that Jim Webb gets out in front and declares a third-party candidacy to attempt to reclaim the center in American politics. If the polls are to be believed, he’d peel off very few Democrats except perhaps for a few remaining blue dogs, but he might represent the destruction of the GOP, which I think we can all agree would be a great thing at this point.

  2. Knight in Sour Armor says

    I don’t really think there is a center in American politics, if there ever was. Most likely it was just the manufacture of averaging the two extremes together.

    If there is a center it’s embodied by the Democratic establishment and RINOs that are firmly in the thrall of corporate interests.

  3. StevoR says

    This time though, the Republican party establishment is considering the possibility that a brokered convention may be their only chance to stop Donald Trump. If he continues to lead the polls through the primary season, their best bet is to hope that many other candidates remain until the end, thus splintering the vote so that Trump does not command a majority of delegates to win outright. They can then use their networking and behind-the-scenes clout to cobble together a majority of delegates behind someone they favor and whom they think will at least not drag the party down across the board in all the elections, even if the candidate does not win the presidency.

    Emphasis added.

    Who do you think the establishment favours in this scenario? Jeb! (Bush!!!) still – especially if they can do a horse trade to stop him using that current strategy of his you mentioned? Marco Rubio – who I thought was at least previously generally considered more running mate than front runner material? Lindsey Graham maybe? Or somebody else?

  4. Loren Petrich says

    Brokered conventions used to be common in the US before the rise of party primaries. They even got known for what was in the rooms where the brokering was taking place.
    From the Wikipedia article on “Smoke-filled room”:
    The origin of the term was in a report by Raymond Clapper of United Press, describing rumors of the process by which Warren G. Harding was nominated as Republican candidate for the 1920 Presidential Election. After many indecisive votes, Harding, a relatively minor candidate, was, legend has it, chosen as a compromise candidate by Republican power-brokers in a private meeting in room 404 at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago after the convention had deadlocked.
    So I think that to get the proper ambience, they ought to get dry-ice smoke generators.

  5. StevoR says

    @ ^ Loren Petrich : 404 isn’t that an error?

    Given the coldness of the Republican hearts (metaphorically speaking) I’d suggest they meet ina room full of liquid nitrogen instead.

  6. lorn says

    To me this all seems too familiar. A person has a weakness. It might be liquor, it might be driving too fast, it might be diddling young boys, perhaps they are a serial killer experiencing doubts. Whatever it is the person knows that they need to stop. But somehow they can’t bring themselves to even address the problem, because, at some level, they know that they cultivated the behavior and simply don’t wish to be responsible.

    So instead of dealing with the problem, perhaps getting counseling, or therapy, or trying to reform themselves, they turn to some authority figure and announces that they need to stop them before they drink, speed, molest, or kill again. As it it was a problem entirely external to themselves.

    The GOP has maintained its electoral viability by exploiting all that is wrong with humanity. They maintained control for fifty years by maintaining a kennel of xenophobic, hate-mongering, bigots, sexists, racist, secessionist, bed wetting, bullies and zealous theocrats.

    The GOP has always catered to these sorts. The Democrats, until 1963, willingly put up with segregationists but that changed and in doing so opened the door wide for the Southern Strategy. What had been a small but ready cadre of Birchers and theocrats on the right united with the rejects from the Democratic party to become the difference between marginalization and domination for the GOP.

    Of course, once you find a strategy that gets you there you are going you want to use it more often. perhaps work on perfecting your technique. By 2000 the doors to the once small back room freak show on the right were open to any sort of rhetorical abomination and it has only become more extreme with time. No longer are the adrenaline junkies just shooting up on AM radio and the back alleys of the Internet. They are shooting up on stage, before national audiences. The GOP has become less able to govern and more and more dependent upon that sweet, sweet nectar of blind rage, raw fear, and ecstatic passion to bring in the votes.

    This is what Trump has tapped into. Trump, like every good dealer, knows what the junkies need. No, it isn’t more drugs … they long ago bypassed the adult supervision of the GOP central committee and smashed open the doors guarding the good stuff. They have endless supplies of high-grade outrage available 24/7 on-line. People are drowning in it. No, the one thing they need is permission. Trump gives it to them.

    The GOP leadership is faced with an army of degenerate freaks led by Trump and marching under banners printed up from projections of Rush Limbaugh’s id. Unwilling to face their complicity in assembling that army by feeding its addiction to hate and raw adrenaline they turn the last adults left who are not completely corrupted and beg to be saved from their creation with a brokered convention.

    It is how a lot of junkies end up.

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