But the problem that the GOP establishment faces is that hasn’t been that way since four decades ago, when the modern era of primaries and caucuses really began and voters took the initiative away from the denizens of the smoke-filled room. And now Republican elders who are desperately trying to derail Trump are openly contemplating going back to the old ways, handing the nomination to someone who never spent a day on the campaign trail, never tried to persuade single voter, and was simply delivered the nomination by an arena full of anonymous delegates. Somehow, the establishment thinks, it can instruct all those millions of Republican voters who came out for Trump and Cruz and Kasich to fall in line behind, say, Speaker Paul Ryan.
This is the nostrum being proposed to save the Republican Party. The greater likelihood is that it will blow the party up, triggering everything from brawls over rules and credentials, to post-convention efforts to launch a third party or write in campaign, to guerrilla wars at the state and local level, with primaries and party purges threatening anyone who embraced the “party will decide!” philosophy.
Why the likelihood of such fury? Because the underlying question the Republicans will face in Cleveland is whether one can really turn back the clock. Now that ordinary Republican voters, like Democrats, have experienced decades of real democracy, what will their reaction be if it’s taken away from them? The polls tell us that Republican voters want no part of such a process. Even in Wisconsin, where GOP voters decisively rejected Trump, exit polls indicated that most Republicans want the nominee to be the one with the plurality of votes.