GOP Delegates Are ‘Free’ to Choose Whomever

2016Primariesby Jon N. Hall6/16/16
May 29 on CNN, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal confessed that he wanted Donald Trump to be “the biggest loser in presidential history,” and:

It’s important that Donald Trump, and what he represents, this kind of ethnic quote conservatism or populism, be so decisively rebuked that the Republican Party and the Republican voters will forever learn their lesson that they cannot nominate a man so manifestly unqualified to be president in any way, shape or form.

Mr. Stephens, usually a smart guy, has entirely too much faith in the voters learning “their lesson.” People rarely change; they don’t “learn lessons” easily. Sure, if their country is defeated in war and they lose everything, some of them might think: that guy we elected sure was a loser. But like alcoholics and other addicts, most people must “hit bottom” before they’re ready to learn lessons. And they must “learn their lesson” over and over again before it’s learned “forever.”

Delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month should read David French’s June 9 article at National Review, “Not a Single Republican Delegate Is ‘Bound’ to Donald Trump.” French’s headline says it all; delegates are not legally nor constitutionally “bound” to vote for any candidate. French goes into history, law, and party rules. He begins with the constitutional questions:

Throughout the primary, pundits have reminded voters again and again that there exists a patchwork quilt of state laws that “require” delegates to follow the will of the primary voters — sometimes only through one ballot, sometimes through more. These laws are unconstitutional. A state entity cannot mandate the manner in which private citizens govern private organizations.

French cites the 1975 Supreme Court case of Cousins v. Wigoda, (click the X in the upper-right corner of the dialog box, and you’ll get to the webpage). Justice Brennan, no conservative, delivered the Court’s opinion, which ended:

Thus, Illinois’ interest in protecting the integrity of its electoral process cannot be deemed compelling in the context of the selection of delegates to the National Party Convention. Whatever the case of actions presenting claims that the Party’s delegate selection procedures are not exercised within the confines of the Constitution — and no such claims are made here — this is a case where “the convention itself [was] the proper forum for determining intra-party disputes as to which delegates [should] be seated.”

The Court’s decision was nearly unanimous with only Justice Powell filing an opinion that dissented in part, but which also concurred in part.

In his second section, French examines the RNC rules, and he makes it clear that GOP delegates are “free agents,” unless they choose not to be. Choosing to be “bound” would involve changing party rules. French’s powerful conclusion to his 1,196-word article is a corrective to the lies we hear on the boob tube about this contest being over — not a single delegate has voted. (At least the pundits have the grace to refer to the nominees as “presumptive,” anything else would be presumptuous).

So, if the parties are sovereign with regard to their rules and who gets to be a delegate and so on, why do we have these expensive, interminable primaries and caucuses? The answer is probably the ballot-access laws in the several States. In order to get their presidential candidates on the ballot in the states, the parties must conduct primaries or caucuses or conventions or whatever a state says.

The solution to this problem is to require all states to grant ballot access to the presidential nominees of parties whose past nominees received a significant share, perhaps twenty percent, of the popular vote in recent presidential elections. This would require a constitutional amendment, a big undertaking. But it would help the major parties to find, and even draft, the best nominees.

There’s seems to be a bit of self-righteous moral preening going on among the anti-Trump crowd. I won’t make very much of this, because we both want the same thing: a conservative in the White House. But do the NeverTrump people advocate changing the system that has given America these two presumptive nominees? That system, i.e. the primary system, is one of the reasons we’ve seen the vile demonstrations in California. If there were no primaries, with their rallies, there’d be nothing to protest. If party nominees were chosen by “unbound” delegates to conventions, as Mr. French suggests can be done, there’d be none of the vandalism, the assaults, and unrest we’ve been seeing lately. I suggested back in 2009 at GOPUSA that delegates just ignore the primaries, and Mr. French, a constitutional lawyer, has just provided justification for that.

Unless GOP delegates nominate the Beast of the Apocalypse, I’ll be supporting the Republican nominee, Trump or No-Trump. You go to the polls with the nominee you have. I admire certain things about Mr. Trump, but he’s not my beau idéal of a conservative candidate. I’m more of a John Bolton-Victor Davis Hanson-Laura Ingraham-Condi Rice kinda guy, not to mention David French.

Bret Stephens and the rest of the NeverTrumpians might consider whether America has the luxury of possessing the time to “learn” our lesson. There are several very serious things coming to a head in the next four years. America needs the best that America has to offer. But the NeverTrumpians haven’t offered any solutions other than some cockamamie third party candidacy to try and throw the election into the House of Representatives. I love the smell of “delegate mutiny” in the morning; it smells like … victory.

Republican delegates, read French’s article. You’re free agents, kids.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. • (768 views)

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15 Responses to GOP Delegates Are ‘Free’ to Choose Whomever

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Sounds like Mr. Hall has changed his tune. In earlier pieces, he was all for delegates ignoring the will of primary voters and voting for someone other than Trump.

    People such as Bret Stephens and Bill Kristol still vehemently oppose Trump and would rather the country collapse than see a Trump win.

    As I am no Trump supporter, I can to a certain degree, understand their distaste for Trump. But there seems to be something more at work with these gentlemen. How else does one explain their willingness to wish for a Republican loss and all the certainties a Clinton administration would bring?

    I believe one of the main motivators of people such as Kristol and Stephens is the fear of a type of nativism which one sees on display in Trump rallies and on the net. Such nativism frightens globalists.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    As usual, this has the problem that Trump clearly won the primaries overall, and if he were rejected despite winning a solid majority of delegates, absent some implosion (on legal grounds, probably), his supporters would reject the nominee. So an anti-Trump nominee, at this stage, can’t win. Whether such a choice would be better than Trump is hard to say at present.

    As for the primaries, they got started over a century ago, during the Progressive era; I suppose Wisconsin had the first. There were only a modest number, varying from election to election, and their significance also varied. For example, in 1968 Richard Nixon and Eugene McCarthy won 3/4 of the votes in Pennsylvania, but neither won the majority of delegates from the state. The big increase came after that, as a result of the Democratic race and its outcome (Humphrey won without entering a single primary).

    State law isn’t the primary driver. Note that the Kentucky GOP had a “caucus” this year (which was run much like a primary, actually) to evade a state law that would have prevented Rand Paul from running in both Senate and presidential primaries. So there are scattered states where the parties use different methods of selection, and often on different days.

  3. Rosalys says:

    Any attempt to nominate anyone but Trump, will be the final nail in the coffin of the Republican Party!

    • Jon Hall says:


      • Rosalys says:

        Because we are are ripping’ angry with them as it is. The party “elites” are more concerned with their own territory than they are with the state of our country. Like a wife who has been told, one too many times, by her cheating’ husband, “I won’t do it again! I promise!” we just don’t trust or believe him any more. We are calling our lawyers and starting the divorce procedures!

        The country is disintegrating! Who the hell cares about the Republican Party!? Oh, there will probably be an entity called The United States of America in existence for some time to come, but will it be our country? I think highly unlikely!

        Trump may have his problems, but spinelessness isn’t one of them! What I really like about him, and what most people who like him really like about him, is he fights and he doesn’t back down. So he’s brash. So what? Don’t invite him to your party! He’s so damned imperfect! Name for me please, anyone on this planet who isn’t. Would I prefer to have someone like Ted Cruz be president? Sure! Would I prefer to have someone like Ted Cruz be the Republican presidential nominee? No! In another day and age, maybe; but not this time around – because he can’t win! We are in this trouble because the quality of our voting public is very poor. We, Godless America, are the problem!

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I don’t think an attempt, in and of itself, would kill the party.

      However, if by some shenanigans the GOPe stole the nomination from Trump, despite him having well over 50% of the delegates, they would so alienate a large percentage of Republicans that the party would become irrelevant in presidential elections. I suspect they would lose something like 30-40% of their own voters.

      Sadly, I believe that tremendous damage has already been inflicted on the Republican party. Trump has earned the nomination and that in itself is an unhealthy sign. But to deny him the nomination would be suicide for the 2016 election, at the very least. So conservatives now sit between Scylla and Charybdis.

      I blame this on the GOPe group who are actually Democrats in Republican garb. Notice how many so-called Republicans are now saying they will vote for Hillary. I really wish a plague on them and their lackeys.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        The republican party is as dead as the Dodo. Win or lose in November the ground is set for a new party. Remember, in 1856 the Whigs were the party of choice among the political elites and four years later Lincoln was president.

        For myself, I am done with the GOP I may support individuals of that brand but the party will never get a cent from me again.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          The republican party is as dead as the Dodo. Win or lose in November the ground is set for a new party


          I think you may be correct. The party did not take the opportunity to reform itself as it was run by greedy, selfish insiders who clearly had little interest in listening to their constituents. Money and power, as is always the case, are what mattered.

          With the arrival of Trump, the party no longer has the chance to reform as Trump’s nomination is going about destroying it.

          I am not so sure the Whig analogy is apt. I don’t see a new party, with any chance of challenging the Left, arising out of the ashes of the Republican party. What I see is a further slide into statism. I hope I am wrong.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Trump is a disaster. The best outcome would be for sanity to prevail and convention delegates to get together and choose Ted Cruz.

    The party is split right now, and it’s split because of a bad reason (Trump). It would be no less split, and possibly less so, if a truly good and conservative candidate (Cruz) were chosen.

    Those who want to use this current chaos to try insert an Establishment Candidate can go take a long walk off a short pier.

  5. FredB says:

    Mr. Stephens doesn’t seem to understand that voter preference is not a function of intelligence. I agree, Tump as a candidate is a dumpster fire. But now that it appears Justice Thomas is thinking of retirement after the election, I may well have to hold my nose and vote for him. I just pray he picks a reasonable vice president, because I suspect Trump will be impeached and removed during his first term. (Also, I suspect that Trump will be the nominee, wishful thinking of folks like Stephens being just that, much like the wishful thinking of many conservatives that HRC will be prosecuted for anything)

  6. Rosalys says:

    Say what you will about Trump, but the fact remains is that he is the candidate who started all the discussion about the problems with immigration, especially Muslims. He’s the only one saying he will temporarily stop all immigration of Muslims until we figure out what the heck is going on. If he is at fault here, it’s because he is only promising a temporary ban.

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