by Michael Goodell
There has been a lot of nervous talk lately about a “brokered” Republican National Convention. Allow me to set your hearts at ease. There will not be a brokered convention this year. I guarantee it it.
Here’s why a brokered convention is impossible. A brokered convention has been defined throughout American political history as a group of party leaders assembling in smoke-filled rooms and picking their party’s nominee. On October 9, 2006, Quicken Loans Arena, the site of this year’s Republican National Convention, banned smoking throughout the facility. No smoking, no smoke-filled rooms. No smoke-filled rooms, no brokered convention. QED.
There may well be an open convention, or a contested one, in which no candidate has won the requisite 1,237 delegates. After the first round of voting, most delegates are released from their commitment, and are free to vote for any candidate they choose. There are some limitations, such as eligibility being limited to candidates who have won at least eight primaries or caucuses during the run up to election.
Of course, this rule was set by the Rules Committee, and it can be changed, by a majority vote. Which means, theoretically, the nomination is open to anyone. Except Paul Ryan, who has said he will not accept the nomination. (Of course, Speaker Ryan also stated adamantly that he would not accept the Speaker of the House).
Now, Donald Trump has made noises about the possibility of riots if “the Establishment” denies him his nomination. Of this, all we can say is, if you’re Geico, you save people 15% on car insurance. if you’re Donald Trump, you make irresponsible, ill-considered comments. It’s what you do.
For all those who think denying Trump the nomination would be a travesty, an act of injustice on a level with, say, Howard Cosell losing his job because of some colorful terminology used to describe certain NFL wide receivers, consider the following.
If Trump continues to nail down his usual 35% of the Republican electorate, it basically means for every Republican who supports him, there are two who don’t. Hardly overwhelming support. Hardly a clear example of the people having spoken with one voice.
If, after the first ballot the delegates are released and his support drops in subsequent ballots, we will have an open convention. This will be riveting television, on par with a hotly contested “Batchelor,” or even “Dancing With the Hollywood Chefs” episode. If someone comes from outside the ranks of candidates, a Dark Horse, and rides a sudden upwelling of support to victory, then neither Trump nor his supporters can rightfully claim they were cheated. The system worked, and a party, the majority of whose members never supported him, gets its way, and justice is done.
His supporters can choose to stay home, or Trump can run as a third party candidate, either of which options will likely result in Hillary Clinton becoming the first president to pardon herself, (unless Brazilian President Dilma Roussef beats her to it). They can have their temper tantrum and punish those who opposed them, but in no way can they lay claim to the heart of the Republican Party.
If, on the other hand, Trump’s support rises on the second ballot, matters are trending his way and he will likely win the nomination. If he gains sufficient support, then shame on party leaders or insiders who would attempt to deny him the nomination, to deny party members the right to determine their own path.
This is the part of the brokered convention some people fear will occur, even if party insiders aren’t allowed to smoke (or maybe they can use the Boehner Suite). In this scenario “the Establishment” selects a favored candidate, either Mitt Romney 2.0, or Jeb!, say, and they swing the delegates’ support his way.
The problem with this is, it won’t work. The Chairman of, say, the Ohio Republican Party can’t say, I’ll throw my 66 delegates behind Eric Cantor, because he doesn’t control them. In the old days of brokered convention, he could do that, and the delegates would fall in line. Today they will fall in line, but only if they agree with the decision.
So, there won’t be a brokered convention. Even if there is a contested convention, whoever the nominee is, rightly or wrongly, wisely or foolishly, he or she will be chosen by a majority of the delegates. Then maybe the party can rally behind the candidate, all the Trump supporters will wake up, like Dorothy, back in their own beds, telling the most amazing story about twisters, munchkins and flying monkeys, and the people will unite to defeat the Wicked Witch of the East.