Yeah, really? Right at the moment that he’ll be begging the Republican establishment to go all-in for him against Hillary Clinton, he’s going to start lopping off heads? It’s not like Trump has some gangbusters national organization that doesn’t need institutional help from party apparatchiks in turning voters out. Just the opposite, actually. If he pushes Reince out, he might find RNC officials bailing out left and right. What happens then?
What we’re really considering here is the classic question raised in the aftermath of any successful coup. Which members of the old regime do you liquidate and which do you keep around because they know how things are run and their continued presence signals stability to the wider population?
“It’s very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep,” Trump said in a 45-minute interview here last week in his Trump Tower office. “We don’t have the people who know how to put showbiz into a convention.”…
Trump left open the possibility that he would seek to install his own allies at the RNC should he accrue the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination by the time primary voting ends in June. Asked in the interview whether he would retain RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in that scenario, Trump replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t made the determination.”
I’m going to file this under “the art of the deal,” i.e. this is Trump’s way of warning Reince that he’ll pay the price if the RNC tries to screw him somehow at the convention. How they might screw him, though, I don’t know. It’s the delegates, not the RNC, who write the rules of the convention; if a rule passes that damages Trump, he’ll have Cruz’s delegates to blame, not Priebus. Whether Trump understands that and is just using the RNC as an establishment scapegoat or whether he genuinely doesn’t understand, only he knows. I’ll confess my own ignorance, though, in noting that I’m not sure what power Trump himself would have as nominee to force Priebus out if he wants his own people in. An elected president typically has great influence over who his party names as party chair since he expects maximum cooperation in fundraising over the following four years, but Trump will merely be nominee, not president. And while the members of the RNC might support the nominee over the sitting chairman in a power struggle during normal circumstances, Trump is sufficiently unorthodox and disliked among Republican power brokers that they might stand by Priebus. Maybe all Trump means is that he’d ask for Priebus’s resignation and expect the Committee to elect a replacement of his choice. But … who would he replace Priebus with? Who’s better positioned than Reince to squeeze money out of Republican billionaires who are lukewarm about Trump? Reince is his pipeline to establishment checkbooks. He’d be a fool to cut that pipeline when he’ll be desperate to raise money to keep pace with Hillary.
The RNC says it’s much ado about nothing, but then they would say that, wouldn’t they?
“I’ll tell you why Reince Priebus was elected unanimously by the 168 members of the Republican National Committee. He will serve until January of 2017 because those are the people actually who elect the chairman,” [RNC communications director Sean] Spicer said. “But more importantly, I think the bigger issue is this — any candidate that got the nomination would beg Reince Priebus to stay as chairman because he’s been so successful.”…
“Under this chairman we’ve put together the best resource and staff and equipped political party in the history of the United States,” Spicer said. “We are the gold standard of political parties. I think any candidate would be lucky to have Reince Priebus as a chairman, and they should be begging him to keep continuing the success that he’s had.”
Below you’ll find Priebus himself yesterday on “Meet the Press” explaining for the 87th time that he doesn’t make the rules at the convention and that the nominee’s always been required to have the support of a majority rather than a plurality of delegates. I could understand Trump’s upset over the delegate system if he had piled up a majority of the popular vote thus far but had earned only a plurality of delegates for his trouble, but the truth is the opposite. His share of the popular vote is actually smaller than his share of delegates, which is to say that he’s right that the primary system is “unfair” — it’s unfair in that it’s biased towards statewide and district winners, which means he’s earned more delegates than he should have if we were going strictly by vote share. Yahoo News asked Elaine Kamarck, a Democratic official and an expert in the primary process, what she thought of Trump’s complaint that the system is “rigged” because it’s not a direct democracy that crowns plurality winners. Her answer:
Trump’s out of his f***ing mind. Every single presidential candidate except for him knows what this system is. It’s not corrupt. It’s the system by which the parties pick their nominee. Parties are protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly. No American is forced to participate.
Parties are institutions. They have an interest in preserving their brand. Coca-Cola doesn’t let Pepsi participate in their brand. Republicans don’t let Democrats participate in their brand. This is a party decision, and parties make these decisions based on their institutional health. Meaning, if you put someone at the top of the ticket that is so unpopular that you lose the House of Representatives, you’re not doing the right thing for your party.
The voters have been included to keep parties from getting really out of touch. In 1968, Democrats did not understand the depths of the antiwar sentiment in their party and cut [Vietnam War opponents] out of their convention. This time, the Republican Party didn’t understand the anger of voters for Trump. But the bottom line is, this is not a public decision — it’s a party decision.
I laughed this morning at the news that “Boaty McBoatface” was the British public’s choice for the name of a new polar research ship, just because it’s so weirdly in sync with the delegates’ dilemma in Cleveland. The Natural Environment Research Council asked for suggestions on what to name its new vessel; the public responded with something that’s funny yet, shall we say, sub-optimal for a serious research expedition. So now the NERC, which has final say, has to decide: Should it do the democratic thing and send Boaty McBoatface out onto the high seas or should it do something more befitting the gravitas of its mission and choose a more traditional name? What they’ll do, I assume, is compromise by giving it a traditional name while formally recognizing somehow what the people’s choice was in the form of a plaque or something onboard. Maybe the GOP’s delegates can do that too. Nominate Cruz at the convention, but call Trump up onstage and give him a nice bowling trophy recognizing that he won the most popular votes. He’d like that, no?
Exit question: Do we really need a “showbiz” convention if the final act is an acceptance speech by … Ted Cruz? What does Trump even have in mind when he says he wants more “showbiz”? Besides lots of garish gold plating on everything, I mean.