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“Nothing Is Off The Table”: 4 Scenarios That Could Cause Havoc At The Republican National Convention

Back when it looked like Republicans might well hold a “contested convention” in Cleveland on July 18 to 21, the excitement of journalists at the prospect of covering something other than the usual four-day infomercial knew no bounds. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that the very recent breathless coverage of dozens of delegates preparing to vote to unbind themselves from primary and caucus commitment in order to make it possible to dump Trump owes a lot to the power of the “contested convention” fantasy, and the need to justify lavish outlays for media outlets for Cleveland.

The odds of a coup are extremely low for reasons I explain here and here.

But even if a rules-based coup to get rid of Trump isn’t happening short of the committing of a major felony by the candidate in broad daylight, that doesn’t mean other wild things are off the table. Here are four scenarios that could throw the RNC into turmoil:

Violent protests and counterprotests.

While the original nightmare of angry Trump supporters rioting as the nomination is “stolen” has abated, protests against Trump are a certainty. And they could get out of hand.

Local police originally drew up a plan to keep protesters as far away from the convention site as possible. But a federal judge has intervened with an order killing the plan. No telling which restrictions might survive.

And yes, even without a coup, there are going to be pro-Trump demonstrators in the vicinity. A group called Citizens for Trump is expecting 5,000 people to show up under its banner. Worse yet, the Traditionalist Worker Party, a pro-Trump fringe group that recently became embroiled in violent clashes with leftists in Sacramento, is planning to travel to Cleveland to “protect Trump supporters.” The convention will be an all-purpose freak magnet. And if that’s not scary enough, it’s clear Ohio’s “open carry” law will be in force in whatever area is eventually made available to the various protesters (it might have been enforced even inside the convention site had the Secret Service not stomped on that possibility).

Are local police up to the challenge? Maybe. But at least one out-of-state police chief who had been asked to bring officers to help with convention security has already pulled out, citing “a lack of preparedness for the RNC.”

It’s true that Secret Service agents will be available to make sure any violent activity doesn’t penetrate the actual convention perimeter. But as we learned in Chicago in 1968, violence in the streets has a way of spreading beyond any security perimeter. If violence is extensive, it will co-star with Donald Trump on television screens around the world.

A veep challenge

The freedom of delegates to do anything they want so long as they respect their binding commitments to vote for a presidential candidate extends to the nomination of a running mate. If a majority of delegates don’t actually favor Trump, there’s no inherent reason they should defer to his wishes on this important matter. There could be a mini-conspiracy to impose a veep on Trump who would make his candidacy or election less scary, like someone with extensive governing experience or perhaps a Latino elected official. Or if Trump names someone deemed unacceptable to a broad swath of delegates, a revolt on the floor could develop spontaneously — especially if the mogul chooses to spring his choice on the convention with no advance notice, which some observers think he would prefer to do to elevate the drama of “his” convention.

There is precedent for a veep revolt. In 1920, the same cabal of party leaders who chose Warren Harding as the GOP presidential nominee in the famous Chicago “smoke-filled room” decided to offer the vice-presidential nomination to Senator Irvine Lenroot of Wisconsin. But delegates stampeded to Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, whose crushing of the Boston Police Strike of 1919 made him popular — sort of the Scott Walker of his time. Coolidge, of course, went on to become president upon Harding’s premature death.

A more subtle revolt occurred among Democrats in 1944. Shortly before the convention, party leaders convinced Franklin Roosevelt to dump Vice-President Henry Wallace owing to his strident liberalism and personal eccentricity. They then talked FDR into their consensus favorite, Harry Truman, who also became an accidental president.

All this talk of strange doings in Cleveland, of course, is pure speculation. Although it’s hard to imagine a convention that nominated Donald Trump for the presidency being “normal” in any real sense, it could lack unplanned drama. The only thing we know for sure is that any private meeting held to make key decisions out of the public eye will be smoke-free.

It’s even possible the convention could turn out to be boring. But the word that threatens to hang over the convention until the whole show is over is disorganized, which is first cousin to chaotic.

A vote on unbinding delegates

While delegates will not vote to unbind themselves from the primary and caucus results, they may have to vote against them. It only takes one-fourth of the Rules Committee to approve a minority report that will be entitled to a vote by all delegates when the convention’s rules are adopted. So a mere 28 delegates on that committee could get the convention off to a bad start by forcing a vote on, in effect, dumping Trump.

There’s no way it will pass, but there could be some anticipatory hype and of course some bad blood between Trump and anti-Trump factions.

A messy platform fight

Even if there is no serious challenge to the binding of delegates on the first ballot, the delegates are by no means forced to follow the direction of “their” presidential candidate on other matters. Platform fights are a time-honored way for party elites, interest groups, and defeated candidates to seek vindication even if they’ve lost the main battle. And in the case of a nominee like Trump, whose fidelity to conservative ideology is very much in question, there could well be efforts to rope him in with explicit platform planks, even on those issues where his positions are ostensibly kosher.  Depending on how Trump and the convention managers handle such efforts, you could wind up with big, noisy platform fights over items the GOP and Trump would just as soon not broadcast nationally during an event that is supposed to make the party look toothsome and non-controversial.

These could include the traditional GOP language opposing any rape-or-incest exceptions to a hypothetical abortion ban (Trump supports such exceptions); abrasive anti-LGBT planks styled as “religious liberty” guarantees; and challenges to Trump’s positions on banning Muslim immigration or deporting undocumented immigrants. Once the Pandora’s box of the platform is opened up, anything could happen.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Every Republican’s Stench”: Trump’s White Supremacist Tweets Aren’t The Problem. They’re A Symptom Of The Problem

We get worked up about a lot of silly stuff in presidential campaigns, micro-controversies driven by faux outrage that are inevitably forgotten in a couple of days once the next micro-controversy comes along. On first glance, that’s what the kerfuffle over Donald Trump’s latest Twitter hijinks — once again, passing on something from white supremacists — looks like. After all, should we really care what’s in Trump’s Twitter feed, when we’re talking about our country’s future? The answer is that we should care, but it’s not about the tweet. The tweet isn’t the problem, the tweet is the result of the problem.

In case you haven’t heard, here’s what we’re talking about, from The Post’s David Weigel:

It was so close to the message that Republicans say they want from Donald Trump: a tweet describing Hillary Clinton as “crooked” and the “most corrupt candidate ever,” on the morning that the likely Democratic presidential nominee met with the FBI.

But the image that Trump chose to illustrate his point, which portrayed a red Star of David shape slapped onto a bed of $100 bills, had origins in the online white-supremacist movement. For at least the fifth time, Trump’s Twitter account had shared a meme from the racist “alt-right” and offered no explanation why.

Trump’s campaign later did some quick photoshopping, replacing the Star of David with a circle. But as Anthony Smith of mic.com discovered, the image originated on an online forum where unapologetic racists and white supremacists gather to bathe in each other’s vomitous hate. I assume that, as with the other times Trump has retweeted something from the alt-right, he was unaware of its origin; one of his followers tweeted it to him, he liked what he saw, and he passed it on.

It’s just a tweet, and in and of itself it doesn’t make Trump a racist or an anti-Semite. To be honest, it doesn’t even make the top 20 most bigoted things Trump has said or done in this campaign. But it should leave Republicans with even more questions about how to square the ideals they claim to hold with the man their party has chosen to lead the United States of America.

We have to understand that this is about both rhetoric and substance. There’s a stylistic element, the way Trump gives people permission to let their ugliest feelings and beliefs out for display under the guise of not being “politically correct.” But there are also meaningful consequences for the course we would take in the future. Trump tells voters to hate and fear people who don’t look like them, but he also tells them to take action. Just the other day he told a crowd that “We are going to be so tough, we are going to be so smart and so vigilant, and we’re going to get it so that people turn in people when they know there’s something going on,” complaining that too many people are worried about being accused of racial profiling to turn in their neighbors. So if you spot a Muslim, go ahead and dial 911. When a woman at one of his events suggested that we “Get rid of all these heebeejabis they wear at TSA, I’ve seen them myself,” Trump responded, “We are looking at that. We’re looking at a lot of things.” I’ll bet.

By this time we’ve all become accustomed to this pas de deux of hate between Trump and his supporters. When he says that a Latino judge from Indiana can’t do his job because “he’s a Mexican,” we shake our heads. When he tells an apocryphal story about a general executing Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pig’s blood as a lesson in how America ought to act, our shock doesn’t last more than a day. When he laments the fact that the Islamic State can behead people while we’re restrained by our laws and morality, saying “They probably think we’re weak” and “You have to fight fire with fire,” we barely take notice. When he weds his support of bigoted policies like bans on Muslims to a fetishization of violence and brutality, promising to use torture and telling his supporters how he’d love to beat up the protesters who come to his rallies (“I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya”), we predict that any day now he’ll “pivot” and start acting “presidential.”

And we forget that not long ago the man now leading the GOP made himself into America’s most prominent birther, going on every TV show he could to claim that President Obama might be the beneficiary of a decades-long conspiracy to conceal the fact that he was actually born in Kenya. If you’re wondering whether that’s just stupid and crazy, or if it’s inherently racist, let me clear it up for you: Yes, it’s racist.

In my analysis of American politics I try as often as possible to put myself in the shoes of people I disagree with, to take their arguments seriously and understand where they’re coming from even when I’m convinced they’re wrong. And I’ve argued that there are perfectly rational reasons a committed Republican would grit their teeth and support Trump even if they found him to be an ignoramus and a buffoon. But there comes a point at which one would have to say: Even if a Trump presidency would deliver much more of what I would want out of government policy, from the Supreme Court to domestic policy to foreign policy, I simply cannot be a part of this. Donald Trump’s appeal to Americans is so rancid, so toxic, so foul that my conscience will not allow me to stand behind him, even with the occasional protest that I don’t agree with the latest vile thing he said, or the insistence that my fellow Republicans and I will do our best to restrain his ugliest impulses.

You might respond: Easy for you to say. Would I be saying that if I had something to lose, if we were talking about some liberal version of Trump who had secured the Democratic nomination? If it meant handing the Supreme Court over to conservatives, and repealing the Affordable Care Act for real, and privatizing Medicare, and dismantling environmental and worker protections, and so many other things that would pain me?

To be honest, I can’t say for sure, partly because I cannot fathom who a liberal version of Trump would be or what that person’s equally noxious campaign would look like. The closest analogy in my lifetime to this situation is the Lewinsky scandal, where Democrats argued that although Bill Clinton’s behavior in having an affair with a 22-year-old White House staffer was repugnant, it wasn’t an impeachable offense and could be separated from his performance as president.

But the difference then was that it could be separated from his performance as president. Clinton wasn’t trying to persuade the country to embrace adultery, or counting on fellow adulterers to put him in office, or promising to institute a government program of adultery.

Donald Trump isn’t hoping that he can keep his bigotry a secret; he’s running on it and promising to enshrine it in federal government policy. He may not be responsible for all the things his fans say, and you might even excuse him for passing on some of their hate by mistake. What he is responsible for is all the reasons those people became his fans in the first place. It isn’t because of economic anxiety, or because he’s an outsider, or because he tells it like it is. It’s because Donald Trump appeals directly to the worst in us, and the worst of us.

And every Republican who stands with him, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them or how much they wish he would change, will have that stench on them for a long time to come.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Racism, Republicans, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Is Low, Even By NRA Standards”: NRA Gets Everything Wrong In New Attack Ad

At least for now, Donald Trump’s campaign doesn’t really have the resources to air commercials in key 2016 battleground states, but the presumptive Republican nominee is getting some help from a controversial ally: the NRA Political Victory Fund, the National Rifle Association’s political arm, is investing $2 million in a new attack ad blaming the 2012 attack in Benghazi on Hillary Clinton.

The spot features Mark Geist, a Marine veteran who survived the terrorist attack, apparently walking through a national cemetery. It will air in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

So, what’s wrong with the ad? Just about everything. First, the New York Daily News reports on the problem of using a national cemetery as a prop in a campaign attack ad.

Federal government officials dismissed the ad, stating that the NRA never requested to film on the solemn, hallowed ground – and would have been rejected if it had.

“Partisan activities are prohibited on national cemetery grounds as they are not compatible with preserving the dignity and tranquility of the national cemeteries as national shrines,” the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration, which maintains 134 national cemeteries, told The News in a statement.

Second, while the ad suggests Clinton was responsible for the attack in Benghazi, the star of the commercial is actually on record saying largely the opposite.

Third, just this week, the House Republicans’ own Benghazi report found no evidence – despite two years of investigating – that blames Clinton for the terrorism.

And finally, note that the ad features hundreds of cemetery tombstones, when the actual U.S. death toll in Benghazi was four people.

I don’t expect much from NRA attack ads, but this is low, even for the notorious gun group.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, National Cemetaries, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Stuff He’s Saying Is Just Incendiary”: Gary Johnson, Toughening Rhetoric, Says Donald Trump Is ‘Clearly’ Racist

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on Sunday went where Hillary Clinton has refused to go, saying Donald Trump is “clearly” racist.

“Based on his statements, clearly,” Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I mean, if statements are being made, is that not reflective?”

Critics of Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — including some in his own party — have said that he makes racist statements, such as when he argued that a Hispanic judge is incapable of presiding fairly over a case involving Trump University. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called that the “textbook definition of a racist comment.” But most have stopped short of declaring that Trump is racist.

Clinton, too, has distinguished between what Trump says and who he is. When MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked last month whether Trump is racist, this was Clinton’s response:

Well, I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I know what he’s saying with respect to the judge, that’s a racist attack. With the attacks on so many other people, he is calling them out for their ethnic background, their race, their religion, their gender. I don’t know what else you could call these attacks other than racist, other than prejudice, other than bigoted.

For Johnson, averaging about 8 percent in national polls, calling Trump racist represents a notable ratcheting up of campaign rhetoric. The mellow former governor of New Mexico said during a CNN town hall on June 22 that he did not plan to “engage in any sort of name-calling” aimed at either of the leading major-party candidates. His running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, called Trump a “huckster” at that event, though.

On Sunday, Johnson initially tried to focus only on Trump’s comments — specifically his recent statement that he is “looking at” replacing Muslim Transportation Security Administration agents with veterans.

“He has said 100 things that would disqualify anyone else from running for president, but [it] doesn’t seem to affect him,” Johnson said. “And just turn the page, and here’s the page turn: Now we have another reason that might disqualify a presidential candidate. That statement [about TSA agents] in and of itself — it really is, uh, it’s racist.

Johnson added that “the stuff he’s saying is just incendiary.”

“Incendiary, but do you think he himself is racist?” asked CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

At that point, Johnson said Trump “clearly” is.

 

By: Callum Borchers, The Washington Post, July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Celebrating The Nation That Can’t Stay Still”: The Purpose Of The Past Is To Serve The Present And Future

It is the birthright of all Americans to be patriotic in their own way, something worth remembering at a moment of great political division. Instead of challenging each other’s love of country, we should accept that deep affection can take different forms.

There is, of course, the option of setting politics aside altogether on the Fourth of July. Anyone who loves baseball, hot dogs, barbecues, fireworks and beaches as much as I do has no problem with that. Still, I’m not a fan of papering over our disagreements. It is far better to face and discuss them with at least a degree of mutual respect.

When it comes to the varieties of patriotism, I’d make the case that some of us look more toward the past and others to the future. Some Americans speak of our nation’s manifest virtues as rooted in old values nurtured by a deposit of ideas that we must preserve against all challengers. Others focus on our country’s proven capacity for self-correction and change.

As a result, one stream of reverence for our founders flows from a belief that they have set down timeless truths. The alternative view lifts them up as political and intellectual adventurers willing to break with old systems and accepted ways of thinking.

These are broad categories, and many citizens are no doubt drawn simultaneously to aspects of being American that I have put on opposing sides of my past/future, continuity/change ledgers.

Nonetheless, most of us tilt in one direction or the other. Standing at either end of this continuum makes you no less of an American.

Eighty years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, to offer an Independence Day address insisting that the inventors of our experiment created a nation that would never fear change. He spoke nearly seven years after the onset of the Great Depression in the election year that would end with his biggest landslide victory. FDR was in the midst of the boldest and most radical wave of reform that the New Deal would produce, and you can hear this in his speech. It still serves as a rallying cry for those of us who see our founders as champions of repair, renewal and reform.

What, he asked, had the founders done? “They had broken away from a system of peasantry, away from indentured servitude,” Roosevelt explained. “They could build for themselves a new economic independence. Theirs were not the gods of things as they were, but the gods of things as they ought to be. And so, as Monticello itself so well proves, they used new means and new models to build new structures.”

Not the gods of things as they were, but the gods of things as they ought to be: Thus the creed of the reformer.

As for Jefferson himself, Roosevelt said, he “applied the culture of the past to the needs and the life of the America of his day. His knowledge of history spurred him to inquire into the reason and justice of laws, habits and institutions. His passion for liberty led him to interpret and adapt them in order to better the lot of mankind.”

Here again, the purpose of the past is to serve the present and future. History is about testing institutions against standards and adapting them, as Roosevelt put it, to “enlarge the freedom of the human mind and to destroy the bondage imposed on it by ignorance, poverty and political and religious intolerance.”

There is a straight line between Roosevelt’s understanding of our tradition and President Obama’s as he expressed it in his 2015 speech on the 50th anniversary of the voting rights march in Selma.

“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished,” Obama declared, “that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?”

No doubt many Americans celebrate a narrative on our national holiday that has a more traditional ring than FDR’s or Obama’s. We can jointly honor our freedom to argue about this but perhaps agree on one proposition: If we had been unwilling in the past to embrace Lincoln’s call to “think anew and act anew” and to find FDR’s “new means” and “new models,” we might not have made it to our 240th birthday.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 3, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | 4th of July, Independence Day, Patriotism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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