Brokered convention

(Predictions for the nomination races written in early December, 2015)

The last time the GOP had a brokered convention was 1976, when the delegate count was so close a credentials vote–over whether Mississippi’s Ford or Reagan slate of delegates would be seated–was required to break the impasse. Ford’s slate won the vote, but just barely, and he was renominated. But the damage was done and Carter won that year. It was the last gasp of the old Eisenhower GOP, by 1980 Reagan conservatives, embittered by their loss at the 1976 convention, swept the party and convention and the liberal wing (that had been so essential in getting Civil Rights, social security, welfare and environmental laws passed over the objections of Southern Democrats–all of whom are Republicans now) ceased to be. The moderate Republicans clung on longer but are mostly gone. By now the GOP seems split between conservatives and flat out crazy conservatives. So brokered conventions seem to have lasting consequences. The last time the Democrats came close to a brokered convention was 1968 and the repercussions followed into 1972, when the left, furious at the treatment in Chicago in 1968 (tear gassed, among other things), gamed the process and got McGovern nominated. Alas, he was no Ronald Reagan as far as vote getting went, instead he was our Barry Goldwater.

So what does all this mean? Well, the odds of a brokered Democratic convention are near nil, Bernie will be beat solidly and early in the primaries. [Ha! Now there’s a prediction…. Yet Bernie was, actually, he was stomped on early and regularly thereafter, but no one knew in 2015 that he’d be able to raise 200 million dollars online and keep indefatigably pressing on, if never catching up, till the bitter end, and making an exciting and ideologically passionate race of what most of us political junkies thought back then was sure to be a snoozer. But I digress….] And the chances of a brokered Republican convention? Maybe, maybe not. Yet with Trump and now Carson both going mad dog and threatening to bolt the party should it appear there is a party establishment effort to block them, the results for the GOP are dire at best. Right now they are more interested in saving the party–the old Reagan GOP, this time–from being seized by crazed Trump revolutionaries. After all, Reagan’s people had seized the party the same way in 1980, and they know what it means for the old order. But the GOP has been riding Trump’s crazy beast for years now, kissing Rush Limbaugh’s ass and giving in to the extreme right at every opportunity, now suddenly and inexplicably it has turned on them. The GOP had thought all along they could control the reins and there was no danger of anyone Rush Limbaugh-like could ever have a shot at the nomination. But Trump has proven them wrong. There are more Republicans now who think of Trump as one of them than there are not. And if there’s anything a typical Republican hates it’s a RINO (Republican In Name Only), and suddenly all these Trump loving Republican voters consider the party itself to be RINO. As the race develops these next couple months the only thing a Trump voter will hate more than Moslems is another Republican.

Well, maybe. It’s early, and we have no idea what will happen. But keep you eye on Super Tuesday, that is March 1. There are a dozen primaries and caucuses that day, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. If Trump is as popular with Republican voters in those southern and/or Bible Belt states as he is right now in South Carolina (which votes a week earlier), then he could well sweep them all. Toss in some of the other states that day and Trump will come out of Super Tuesday with a juggernaut, and he can pile on southern states Kentucky and Louisiana on March 5, Mississippi on March 8, and three of the five states in the March 15 primary Florida, North Carolina and Missouri. By that date, almost every state south of the Mason-Dixon line has voted in a presidential primary. The north and west dominate the next two months, not that it matters much. Candidates who sweep the south tend to win the nomination, as every single southern state has their primary in the first six weeks of the primary a schedule. It’s one of the ways that southerners control the Republican nomination process, and it’s one of the ways that the Republicans have been driven so far to the right. Trump knows this, and has positioned himself to sweep those nativist southern republicans voters off their feet. The more he yells about Muslims, the more they love him down there.

And once he nails every one of those states–as he probably will–there might well be nothing left to stop him but back room deals at a brokered convention. Provided there are other candidates who have won enough delegates to keep Trump from coming into the convention with enough to win the nomination outright. And then there’s this…”a new Republican National Committee rule that requires any GOP nominee win a majority of delegates from eight different states”. Which guarantees a mad scramble as candidates beg other candidates to withdraw and release their hard won delegates to them. Imagine the promises made during those conversations. It’s impossible to figure out ahead of time how many delegates a candidate will get…each state has their own method of allotting them. Even if Trump wins every state I mentioned it does not mean he gets all the delegates. He’ll get most, but not all. But somebody besides Trump will have to win at least eight primaries and have access to enough delegates to keep Trump from winning the nomination before the convention even convenes. Not only to stay in contention, but to keep Trump from winning the number of delegates he needs before the primaries are even over. As it looks now, Trump doing just that is a likely scenario. If there are any more attacks like in San Bernardino, that likelihood becomes all the more certain.

But here is the Republican establishment hope: that the anti-Trump vote in the Republican primary is high enough so that he did not quite get the number he needs for the nomination, and that those anti-Trump delegates would do anything but vote for Donald Trump, and that one candidate besides Trump manages to win a minimum of eight states. Those are high hopes, but they are feasible. Then (and only then) is there a possibility of a brokered convention. Of course that also means Donald Trump very likely storming off in a huff and announcing a third party bid, and of the Republican Party, at least at a presidential level, flushing itself down the toilet. They might even lose Congress.

But what the hell, they got the state legislatures and governorships sewn up. We handed the states over to the GOP and have paid for it ever since. So even the worst possible outcome for the GOP in 2016–a split party and a Democratic blow out–leaves them with a solid base to rebuild from. Donald Trump is a one time freakout. The GOP will revive.

This was originally an endless Facebook post about this CNN story: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/10/politics/rnc-brokered-convention-preparation/

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