Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The unknown territory of a contested convention

Supposedly the last contested convention was the 1976 GOP convention. I don't remember it, That means I have no compass for guessing what will happen at the GOP convention if no candidate collects a clear majority.

So here's the closest thing to signposts that I've found. Bernstein writes that the delegates and the candidates will run the convention. The candidates are pretty well known by now, but what about the delegates? Who are they, who are they loyal (or disloyal) to, and what will their motivations be? Perhaps Cruz has enough on-the-ground infrastructure to ensure that his delegates are loyal, but can Trump? I can't even guess.

Another possibility (likely is my gut feeling) is that Trump and Cruz together will control the convention. Any establishment hopes for avoiding Awful#1 and Awful#2 will be dashed. My guess is that Cruz will be offered and will accept the nomination for vice-president. I didn't think of this myself, but once I read it, it seems absolutely perfect. They've been buddies before. They can go back to being buddies with all smears forgotten in mists of amnesia. They will share their hatred of the RINO, lying, feckless establishment, and their absolute certainty of victory... If I watch, I'll want to puke.

To avoid puking, I'd like to pretend that the GOP establishment and good sense will prevent this. But looking at the disarray in the GOP leadership, I can't imagine it will happen. It's quite hopeless. We'll be looking at a convention and a general campaign without precedent in my lifetime. So hold on tight.


Extra. Read about the 1976 GOP convention, which was contested. Ford was ahead of Reagan, but neither had a lock. Nonetheless, there were clear signals early that Ford would win. 


Dangerous said...

While the GOP has convinced the media not to call it a "contested" or "open" convention, the correct term is "brokered". The GOP doesn't want it called that because it sounds like powerful people do some horse-trading to get what they want, which is exactly what people hate about politicians. So some clever consultant focus-group tested some alternatives and the media has bought the whole hog.

There will be 2500(!!) delegates at the GOP convention. Who knows how many other non-voting party officials and candidate staffs and so on there? 5000 more?

There is simply no way that so many people will just work it out in the open. If they tried (or perhaps even if they don't) it will look more like the scene at the end of Blazing Saddles. The only way so many people can come to some sort of resolution will be state party officials working out how they will get their delegations to vote, no matter how those delegates might feel about it personally. The GOP will try to hide it, but I suspect many delegates will find the nearest TV camera -- like just feet away -- to share with the country how power brokers are pushing them to do this or that against their will when they want to fight for their preferred candidate.

It is for this very reason that the parties don't have such conventions in the TV era. Watching a party light itself on fire in public doesn't install confidence in ANY of their candidates. It's just as much of a farce as the aforementioned movie scene.

Last night, I watched MSNBC go over the upcoming GOP primary/caucus calendar for how many delegates Trump is likely to get in those contests to determine if the brokered convention is probable or just possible. There are some winner-take-all contests, and a strong Trump win in California would probably get him over the hump of 1237. Otherwise, most contests are in blue states so there are fewer delegates available than one might expect for the state sizes, and many are proportional like New York. Without a huge win in California, I don't think Trump makes it, probably falling about 100 short.

It will be a wild ride and a bad show for the GOP no matter what. Hurray!! Comeuppance is a terrific thing.

ModeratePoli said...

@dangerous, it's not clear to me what you think. Do you think state chairs will try to broker? Do you think they will fail because any disgruntled delegate will spill their guts to the nearest camera? So will brokering fail? Will it even be attempted? Do you have an opinion, or are you not predicting yet?

Bernstein has pointed out to look for a lot of maneuvers between the end of the primaries and the convention. Sure, but I have a hard time seeing that it'll settled unless Trump and Cruz make a deal. While those two huge egos are still in play, what peaceful resolution stands a chance?

Yes, the GOP deserves this, and created this. Yes, it's Frankenstein's monster. It's sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. It's a living example of all those aphorisms about consequences.

Dangerous said...

Just as we observers have no idea what would happen at a brokered convention, nor do the delegates or their state chairs have any experience with it, either.

It will be brokered but a complete mess for them. By the time survival instinct kicks in and they realize how feckless everyone looks on TV, it will be too late. It can't possibly go any other way. They have spent the last decade refusing to compromise, so what makes anyone think they will do so at their convention?

In this kind of game Cruz, who will gladly play dirty, will probably prevail at the end and he knows it. "Most committed wins." But with Trump in the mix and the two at each others' throats the whole time, Cruz will come out weakened and damaged at having won illegitimately. Of course, he'll scream about how it was by the rules and act all smug, but that won't play for most of the public who will never accept him as the legitimate nominee, he'll be tagged an inside-player, and people already think he plays dirty and nasty -- which is true.

If Kasich had more delegates and more supporters outside of those who just want to win, the GOP might survive. But there's no way Cruz -- who wants it so bad -- will step aside and his superior organization and ruthlessness will prevent Kasich from getting the nod, even if it destroys the GOP.

I've predicted implosion since December and I stand by that prediction.

ModeratePoli said...

@dangerous, Well, we have two very different predictions. Let's see who is closer. I do have to hedge, at least somewhat. I could see Cruz trying to steal the nomination, though only if he's par with Trump in delegates by a fair count. If Cruz tries to steal the nomination from a position of being fairly far behind, he faces the same level of anger as Kasich would. Also, I don't think the establishment would give him a lot of cover because he's made a lot of enemies and he's got a very sleazy tinge. It would be better for the establishment to stand back and let Trump and Cruz mortally wound each other, if they started down that path.

Dangerous said...

Here's the thing. The modern media has been trolling for a brokered convention for a couple of decades, hoping it would come about because it's such a huge story with so much inherent conflict and bitterness. It hasn't happened because most of the time the party faithful realize settling differences and coming together behind the majority candidate is better than any alternative.

This time around I think the party faithful actually want a brokered convention, although not necessary the party leaders. They voters want an open, public war for precisely the reasons the party leaders don't. Many actually think it will help them, as in if the public sees how committed and sure they are, others will fall in line. It's wishful thinking -- and the party leaders know it -- but you can't tell your base to shut up and listen to the people who know better when they've lost two elections in a row to, UGH, a negro!! And he's a Muslim and a foreigner to boot who is out to destroy the country. And YOU GUYS couldn't stop him and wouldn't even try.

The animal brains of these voters are completely twisted on false assumptions, made-up facts, and a Rubix-cube of circular reasoning. Only political correctness keeps the media and their political opponents from calling them out for what they are: bigots and/or fools.

It's not even a party thing any longer, although I'm obviously a committed Democrat. I recognize that John Kasich is a reasonable person and perfectly qualified and prepared temperamentally for the presidency. He even has better qualities in some areas that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sander, although his policy prescriptions are standard GOP nonsense, mostly. So I wouldn't vote for him.

But to these human animals spouting crazy talk in Trump or Cruz's favor, who don't see how terrible they would be for the vast majority of the country, and are blinded by hatred of everything Obama and Clinton (both) and Democrat, they refuse to admit the obvious positive qualities of Obama or Hillary over their preferred candidates, and completely reject any facts which demonstrate that Democratic policy can work, have worked, do work. And many others would vote for Trump or Cruz despite cognitive dissonance that perhaps things aren't so bad under Obama as they declare (via circular reasoning) and that Hillary won't be so bad either.

So if they want to stop Trump, they have to break the fever by declaring that, yes, Hillary would not just defeat Trump, but that she should defeat him and it would be better for the country if she did, imperfect as she might be. Until they do that, they can't stop Trump. And they wouldn't even be trying if they weren't 100% sure he'll get slaughtered wearing their party label, and bring the whole party down with it in November.

Kylopod said...

This time around I think the party faithful actually want a brokered convention, although not necessary the party leaders. They voters want an open, public war for precisely the reasons the party leaders don't.

I think you have it exactly backwards. The GOP base want Trump or Cruz to win outright, and while it looks unlikely at this point that Cruz can achieve that goal, most of his supporters would probably rather see that outcome than a contested convention.

The people pushing hardest for an open convention are the elites. You really think Romney, Graham, and other party figures who have recently started backing Cruz are attempting to get him nominated? Clearly their immediate goal is to deny Trump a delegate majority so that at convention time they can find another candidate. They may be willing to consider Cruz over Trump if it came to that, but they're almost certainly hoping they will get the opportunity to choose someone else (maybe themselves!).

If anything, the "animal brain" of GOP rank-and-file is likely to find this whole talk of brokered conventions disgusting, a confirmation of all they've been saying about the corruption of the Republican "establishment." Any attempt to take the nomination away from the plurality winner in delegates by June will be accused of a coup d'etat (assuming they an pronounce the word). I have a feeling, in fact, that all this brokered-convention talk is already invigorating Trump's support and may, ironically, increase his chances of reaching an outright majority before the convention.

Dangerous said...

We may have some definitional variances here since I agree with your assessment. It's more like the "rank and file" GOP voters don't mind having it hashed out at the convention (where they rightly or wrongly expect their choices to prevail). And the "party faithful" I refer to are more of the party apparatus -- state and county chairs and committeepersons -- who don't want Trump at the top of the ticket impacting their state and local races, and don't have experience with a havoc of a brokered convention. Id' say they think that the party would coalesce around some sort of compromise candidate with a good chance to win in November, or at least not drag the party down with it.

But the national GOP leaders definitely don't want a brokered convention since they know how it will look to the public no matter what. And with Trump and Cruz involved, it would be especially ugly. Gunplay is not out of the realm of possibility among delegates or spectators. Without control over the outcome, they'd rather have a certain loser in November lead the ticket so they can prepare their strategy, than have a certain loser in November come out of a disastrous convention. In the first they can control the narrative. In the second they can't.

My guess is that Trump will fall just short of needed delegates after the primaries, around 1180 or so. Wisconsin is just north of Iowa (which Trump lost to Cruz) and Minnesota (where Trump finished third) so I think we loses there and loses some luster as a result. He comes back during the rest of April but doesn't do well in PA, DE or MD, despite winning New York and the rest of New England.

It will come down to California and New Jersey on June 7. If Trump sweeps those two, he wins on the first ballot. But I don't think he will.

Kylopod said...

I took you to be arguing that those with the "animal brain" are the ones pushing for a brokered convention. I haven't seen any evidence for this. It seems to be coming mostly from moderate pundits like Michael Gerson and Ross Douthat, and from major party figures like Mitt Romney (who hasn't openly endorsed a brokered convention, but it's the logical implication of what he has been arguing).

Personally I think the idea is nuts, and yes, by that I mean the GOP at this point would be best accepting the Donald as their nominee, bracing themselves for the likely electoral debacle, and then regrouping. By moving toward a brokered convention, they not only are just as likely to meet electoral catastrophe in the fall, they'll probably cause a rupture in the party that will outlast this election. It might even inspire Trump to run again in four years. (It amazes me I haven't seen that possibility raised by anyone.) If he's nominated cleanly and loses in the general election, that becomes much less likely.

Still, it's clear that the brokered convention is the only tool that GOP elites have left to get a non-insane candidate as their nominee. And that's why they're the ones pushing for it. The animal-brain types, meanwhile, are almost entirely behind Trump while the rest are behind Cruz--both of whom would be the quickest to cry foul if the convention nominated someone who wasn't the choice of primary voters. They all seem to have a death wish, just not the same death wish.

ModeratePoli said...


What do you make of hints that the Cruz campaign is trying to rig the delegates?

Kylopod said...

What do I make of it? Trump doesn't have a foot to stand on legally (as usual) when he threatens to sue. It's been part of the process ever since the modern system was created in the 1970s. Of course I do think it's unfair and that the system is a chaotic mess.