Good luck getting back into the convention through the security lines! Dane Waters, the co-founder of a group demanding that delegates have the right to unbind themselves from the results of the primaries, tells MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff that Delegates Unbound plan to stage protests from the convention floor next week in Cleveland. They may even walk out of the convention, although that sounds like much of the rest of the Trump opposition planning — a gesture without a real plan:
Leader of anti-Trump group told me delegates will protest INSIDE the RNC next week & a walkout is possible. https://t.co/Fg0lyP2BY2
— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) July 16, 2016
“There will be some form of protest,” Waters tells Soboroff, which isn’t exactly a surprise. Some of the delegates may be angry that the DU group failed to convince very many people on the Rules Committee to change course with just days to go before the convention. The question is — how many, and how many still want to press the issue? Waters blames “intimidation” by RNC leadership for quashing the unbinding effort, but nothing over the past few weeks suggested that their movement was anything but a small minority.
This wasn’t “an assault to democracy.” If anything, it’s been a contest between direct democracy in the form of the primaries and the authority of representative democracy — and Waters lands on the latter part of that tension. Respect for “democracy” would require accepting the results of the primaries and the pre-established rules; Waters and his team are arguing for rejection of direct democracy and the use of representation to change the course of the cycle.
That would be legitimate if there was a majority of representatives (delegates) in favor of dumping the rules and unbinding the delegates to undo the results of the primary, but that’s what the Rules Committee considered as its own form of representative democracy. They lost on the same basis on which they want to claim legitimacy.
Besides all that, it still leaves the bigger question: what next? As the Beatles once sang about “Revolution,” “We’d all love to see the plan.” As I wrote earlier at The Week, there is no plan, and the day is extremely late to start over from scratch:
The #NeverTrump movement tried repeatedly to get a candidate to declare against Trump, either as a convention challenger or as an independent, and no one volunteered for the effort. Even now, no one has stepped up to fill the void, which leaves suddenly unbound delegates with no specific direction in a challenge to Trump.
And who would get drafted in such an effort? The 2016 class of primary candidates would have to argue that they could do better running a general election campaign against Clinton than they managed in the primaries against Trump. That includes Ted Cruz, who comes into the convention in second place with 563 delegates, a fraction of what Trump has. Marco Rubio has shifted his attention to the Senate campaign in Florida, getting in under the wire and leaving Republicans with no candidate at all if he changes his mind again. John Kasich only won Ohio in the primaries and has repeatedly repudiated the dump Trump effort (while refusing to endorse the nominee).
But let’s just say this effort still somehow succeeded in producing a consensus nominee not named Trump. There’s the not-inconsequential issue of having a nominee with no campaign less than four months before the election. Trump may have gotten off to a slow start on fundraising and may be risking a landslide defeat by refusing to turn his campaign into a granular ground-up organization, but he does have an organization in place. Four months is barely enough time to start organizing a pre-primary campaign, let alone a national election.
The dump Trump movement would have to convince itself that chaos at the convention will produce a better result for the GOP than the primaries did. That’s a tough sell under any circumstances, and without an obvious candidate to replace Trump, it’s far more likely that we’ll see the end of #NeverTrump rather than the end of Trump himself.
That’s all a walkout would accomplish. It would be a futile gesture to end a futile movement. The rest of the convention would continue, Trump would still get the nomination, and the walk-out delegates would watch from their hotel room TVs. It’ll get headlines for a day or two, and then disappear into the background of the cycle, just as the PUMAs did in 2008.