No way out: Trump delegate squash shows GOP leaders are trapped in a toxic relationship

They're officially stuck with Trump: The party faithful rejected their one last chance to avoid the road to ruin

By Carrie Sheffield
July 19, 2016 3:59PM (UTC)
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Delegates yell after the temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention announced that the convention would not hold a roll-call vote on the Rules Committee's report and rules changes and rejected the efforts of anti-Trump forces to hold such a vote, Cleveland, July 18, 2016. (Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich)

CLEVELAND – It seemed disingenuous that Newt Gingrich would respond to yesterday’s delegate clash at the Republican convention by chirping “I think it’s great to live in a free society,” when in fact the sleight of hand was quite the opposite. Republicans had one last shot to avoid careening into moral and demographic oblivion this presidential election.

The Delegates Unbound coalition reports they had secured sufficient backing to bring Donald Trump’s nomination to a roll call vote, which would have illustrated just how tenuous a grasp the embattled businessman had on the conservative movement. To force a roll call vote, the rules required seven states to demonstrate via signatures that a majority of delegates favored the potential recall. Dissenters said they had secured nine states, with some press reports indicating as many as 14 states on board.


Shouts of “Roll Call Vote” reverberated on the walls of the Quicken Loan arena, a chaotic scene quickly tampered down by party bosses claiming that just six states had secured the necessary votes.

That Gingrich would claim the floor was any semblance of “free society” in this particular set of circumstances doesn’t jibe with the fact that, as my friend Bill Kristol pointed out, none of the states that supposedly dropped from the nine (or 14) count to six were even publicly read, that no debate was allowed, that no honest vote was taken. The delegates who supposedly withdrew their support were not publicly identified, no careful deliberation or accounting presented.

The protesting delegates’ cries encapsulated pulses of frustration and disbelief that the party of Lincoln and Reagan would surrender to a man with such little regard for mending racial wounds, for protecting free trade and who cozied up to Soviet-style bullies. Their shouts were important tokens for the future: that the hopes of a movement would live beyond one election cycle, that the ideals of freedom and sovereign restraint would survive, that the party would not squander its heritage so foolishly without gasping in pain. That a movement previously dedicated to the principles of personal responsibility and self-determination rather than divisive, populist, identity-driven, race-mongering could still endure beyond a year and election of turmoil.


GOP party apparatchik even still denied the fact that more than half of Republican voters had chosen someone other than the Bully from 5th Avenue. Alaska Rules Committee member Fred Brown, working with Delegates Unbound, corrected false reports that Alaska did not turn in its required signatures to contribute toward the rules committee roll call vote. In his capacity as a rules committee member, Brown reports he had secured more than enough signatures from Alaska delegates, but that the convention secretary, Susie Hudson, was not present at the designated location where he was instructed to submit them.

Some reports indicate that Hudson was hiding, and the Delegates Unbound team issued a text message with photos of armed guards blocking her entrance.

“Regardless, I was told I could also present the signatures from the floor,” Brown said in a statement released by Delegates Unbound. “Nevertheless, when the vote occurred, my mic was not turned on. When I attempted to present these signatures at the stage, my effort was ignored by the chair, and the security guard turned me away.”


It’s true that party apparatus is not determined by true democratic vote, so in that sense the popular vote in the Republican primary is not a true disenfranchisement.

My fellow Never Trumpers are free to vote for whomever we wish in the general election (my money will likely be on Gary Johnson or a Ben Sasse write-in).


But to meet and read polling from multiple delegates and party activists — including the party “establishment” who are so unenthralled by their nominee this begs the question “Why?” Why continue down this path that bodes so poorly for these dutiful party laborers in November? Why do these party faithful choose to stay with the abusive boyfriend when leaving would enable a much healthier partnership elsewhere? Why toil for a man who seems to rejoice in violence? Why plant the seeds of division now, only for us to reap further bloodshed and partisan gridlock?

That the party’s nominating bonanza would be so utterly devoid of some semblance of parity to our nation’s demography is troubling for future Republican endeavors. Some conservatives argue that the GOP is better off dead, that it should go the way of the Whigs. Yet the populist vein tapped by Trump is certainly real, and his supporters, wary of eight years of liberal diktats and executive overreach—evidenced by repeated smackdowns from the judicial branch against the Obama administration — are understandably furious. That Trump could ever be a durable salve for their anxieties is highly doubtful. At best, he would enable the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and advisers like Stephen Moore and Peter Thiel to have greater sway in national policy. Yet these incremental benefits could prove a gift horse with far more damaging and lasting repercussions beyond party.

Republicans who say they had no other choice in preventing Hillary Clinton from naming SCOTUS judges are simply wrong. They had a very clear chance to reset their trajectory in Cleveland on Monday. This was a deliberate and regretful choice.



Carrie Sheffield

Carrie Sheffield is a Salon Talks host, founder of Bold and adviser to Lincoln Network. She previously wrote editorials for The Washington Times, covered politics for POLITICO and The Hill and analyzed municipal credit for Goldman Sachs and Moody's Investors Service.

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