Politics & Policy

Republicans Are Stuck with Donald Trump until November

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
A convention coup would split the party and lead to defeat.

Most of us have heard the old proverb, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Alas, there are moments when well-meaning desperate measures cannot be called upon even in the most desperate of times.

Which brings us to Hugh Hewitt.

The intelligent and talented radio host, lawyer, and author is, like many conservatives, frustrated with Donald Trump’s schoolboy antics, bully tactics, and deplorable comments. He obviously doesn’t want Mr. Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and would like nothing more than to see him go away.

Mr. Hewitt was also understandably furious over Trump’s disgusting comments about Gonzalo Curiel. The Donald seems to believe the American-born district-court judge, who is of Mexican heritage, cannot be impartial in the trial involving the now-defunct Trump University. Why? Because he’ll be “building a wall” along the U.S.–Mexico border when he becomes president, of course.

This racist-tinged comment was the final straw that broke the conservative camel’s back. Hence, Mr. Hewitt came up with an idea earlier this week: The GOP should change the convention rules and Dump Trump.

In the radio host’s view, the Republicans can’t defeat Hillary Clinton with Mr. Trump at the helm. His impending candidacy is therefore “like ignoring Stage IV cancer. You can’t do it, you gotta go attack it.” In his mind, the GOP’s best option is to “change convention rules to stop Trump. They ought to get together and let the convention decide” who the presidential nominee should be.

“If Donald Trump pulls over a makeover in the next four to five weeks,” Hewitt said, “great, they can keep him. It would be better if he had done so five weeks ago.”

With all due respect to Mr. Hewitt, this is a clear act of desperation — and a bad idea.

If you take away the nomination from Mr. Trump, you’re opening the door to taking it away from future candidates.

First, Mr. Trump has earned more than the 1,237 delegates required to win the GOP presidential nomination. The party rules are straightforward, he played by them in a democratic fashion — and he earned this astonishing victory. I’m afraid that there’s no way to get around this fact.

Second, it would set a terrible precedent for the Republicans. If you take away the nomination from Mr. Trump, you’re opening the door to taking it away from future candidates that the party establishment doesn’t like for whatever reason(s). It would also defeat the purpose of running primaries and caucuses — because you could change the result at the very end — and no Republican presidential candidate would ever again be on solid footing.

Third, how do you explain to the more than 14 million people who supported Mr. Trump that their votes don’t count? You can’t. They would be furious at the Republican party, claim the nomination was stolen from their chosen candidate, and call it an affront to democracy. It would be pretty hard to argue with them.

Fourth, it would cause long-term damage to the GOP and the U.S. conservative movement. A sizable number of paid-up members would either leave the party en masse, or refuse to vote for the convention’s preferred candidate in November. And if you think they’re all going to be part of the NeverTrump (or anti-Trump) movement, you’re dead wrong. Some of them will leave the party on principle, disgusted by the perceived underhanded tactics in taking away the nomination from the most popular — and most controversial — candidate.

Fifth, Mr. Trump could turn around and run as an independent candidate. Don’t believe the myth that he’s out of time to do this. He would still have a few weeks to set up shop in most states, or make arrangements with small political parties to become the “presidential candidate” for them in others. His supporters are incredibly loyal, and they would follow him to the ends of the earth. Trump would likely lose the presidential election, but he would rip apart the heart and soul of the GOP in the process.

Sixth, taking away the nomination from Mr. Trump all but guarantees that Mrs. Clinton would become the next U.S. president. Enough said.

As I’ve previously written in National Review, I dislike Mr. Trump as much as Mr. Hewitt and many others do. Regardless, he has legitimately won the GOP presidential nomination. Any attempt to take it away from him at the last minute would be perceived as anti-democratic in nature, and seen as nothing more than sour grapes from party stalwarts and backroom boys.

Like it or not, the Republicans are stuck with Donald Trump until November. It’s going to be a long five months, to be sure.

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