“Tis all a chequer board of nights and days, where Destiny with men for pieces plays,
And moves around and mates and slays, and one by one back in the closet lays.”
— “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”
After Tuesday’s primary elections it appears all but certain that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will win their party’s nominations and face each other in the general election this November.
Barring, of course, Destiny’s intervention in a contested Republican convention or, in Clinton’s case, the FBI’s should she be indicted for criminal behavior in the mishandling of classified information on her private email server. As crazy an election year as this one has been, don’t bet the farm that such could not upset the apple cart in one or both major parties. It’s happened before. It will happen again.
Trump’s sweep of all five Northeastern states up for grabs, coming on the heels of an equally impressive victory in New York, crushed whatever hope his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, had of overtaking him in the delegate count. Mathematically, it’s over for him. Politically, the senator’s chance of getting the nomination in a contested convention is about the same as a snowball’s chance in hell. And yes, the Republican convention could well turn out to be just that hellish.
Establishment politicians, though often stupid, are rarely suicidal.
Even if Trump enters the convention a bit shy of the magic number of 1,237 pledged delegates, it’s almost inconceivable that the establishment will deny him the nomination. Note my modifier of “inconceivable,” though.
The Republican establishment is unhappy, to put it mildly, with the outcome of the primary elections. The hoi polloi has not behaved the way expected. In a column published in the April 20 Wall Street Journal, a column headlined “Let’s Get This Straight About the Convention,” it was explained how party rules might be used, legally, to thwart Trump’s nomination. The column was signed by seven former national chairmen of the Republican National Committee.
This could be a record for joint authorship of one newspaper column, though it illustrates how much of one mind the party elite actually is.
I happen to believe that ignorance of party rules is not what has the electorate in both parties stirred up. (For Democrats, think “super delegates.”) Nor do I think that explaining the rules will get either party off the hook. More likely what infuriates the electorate is a growing awareness that party rules often are designed to negate votes cast in primary elections and political caucuses. It’s a blatant example of “mother knows best.”
If Trump goes into the convention with a huge lead in pledged delegates and votes that have been cast in primaries and caucuses, and notwithstanding this is denied the nomination, his supporters are not likely to throw their general election support to the one anointed in his place. At best many will stay home on election day, as they did in 2012. They will have thrown the election to Hillary Clinton as surely as if they had actually voted for her.
In the meantime, the sideshow goes on. Cruz names Carly Fiorina as his VP choice if he is given the nomination.
This ploy didn’t work for Ronald Reagan in 1976 when he chose a liberal senator from Pennsylvania (Richard Schweiker) as his VP should he succeed in wresting the nomination from President Gerald Ford (which he nearly did). It will hardly work for Cruz.
And then there is former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s devastating critique of Cruz on Thursday. “Lucifer in the flesh,” he called him. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a b----.”
Oh, my. That has to hurt.
R. L. Schreadley, a former Post and Courier executive editor, covered eight national political conventions.