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“Woe Betide The GOP If You Do”: The GOP Can’t Legitimately Deny Trump The Nomination

No matter how the Republican presidential primary unfolds from here, all the factions of the #NeverTrump movement—the party operatives attacking him; the conservative opinion leaders holding the line against him; the Republican delegates loyal to Ted Cruz after the first ballot at the party’s July convention—face severe conundrums.

Since March, Trump has been the only candidate with a traditional path to winning an outright majority of 1,237 pledged delegates before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. More recently, it became mathematically impossible for John Kasich to win a delegate majority, and Ted Cruz would now probably have to rely on unpledged delegates to clear the victory threshold. But that already forbidding situation became even more challenging Tuesday night after Donald Trump won the New York primary in dominating fashion.

In the aftermath of Cruz’s victory in the Wisconsin primary, when the Trump campaign seemed to be floundering, it was tempting to imagine that Republicans could keep Trump far enough from 1,237 to justify denying him the nomination: Yes, Trump won vote and delegate pluralities, they could say. But he also has relatively high unfavorables within the GOP, and Republican voters are more supportive, in sum, of a Cruz-Kasich ticket, or a Cruz-Marco Rubio ticket, than they are of Trump winning the nomination.

Now that it looks like he’ll be at least close to an outright delegate majority, it’s difficult to see how anti-Trump conservatives can deny him the nomination and avoid accusations that they have rejected the discernible will of the Republican electorate.

No matter how short of 1,237 Trump falls, his argument at the convention will be simple, and completely intuitive: I might not have won in a way that requires the Republican Party to give me the nomination—but I won a moral victory. It’s in your power to deny me the nomination, but woe betide the GOP if you do. This will ring true both to his own supporters, and to GOP voters who perhaps supported a different candidate but are amenable to Trump and believe instinctually that in an election, the person with the most votes should win.

It’s difficult to see how anti-Trump conservatives can deny him the nomination and avoid accusations that they have rejected the discernible will of the Republican electorate.

At 1,000 delegates or even 1,100 delegates, anti-Trump conservatives would have a not-quite-as-intuitive, but still-easy-to-grasp counterargument: Your plurality is real, but it is small, and we can create a ticket that better reflects the party’s preference than any ticket with you at the top. It would be dangerous and debatable, but not facially illegitimate. And there’s a meaningful distinction between the two.

After New York, anti-Trump conservatives are facing a worst-case scenario in which Trump reaches 1,237 in early June, becoming the nominee in Cleveland by acclamation, and a best-case scenario in which Trump arrives in Cleveland with somewhere near 1,200 delegates, and the Republican Party denies him the nomination solely on the basis of elite disdain.

It’s hard to game this race out with any real precision, in no small part because Kasich’s impact on the race is so nebulous. By staying in, Kasich may have denied Trump some delegates in New York, but were he to drop out, he’d free Cruz up to defeat Trump handily in Indiana. Using a conservative simulation, MSNBC’s election savant Steve Kornacki sees Trump entering the convention with 1,199 delegates—nearly 49 percent. Imagine that’s correct, and the dilemmas becomes clear. If unpledged delegates oppose Trump, the question of whether to force a second ballot will be in their hands. #NeverTrump delegates who are pledged to vote Trump on the first ballot will have to ask themselves whether they’re prepared to deny Trump the nomination on the narrowest of technicalities. Anti-Trump conservative pundits will need to weigh the competing imperatives of defeating Trump and running a candidate who enjoys the presumption of legitimacy. If you’re an anti-Trump GOP operative, now’s the time to ask whether its wise to continue attacking him in ways that will damage him in the general election.

In a narrow, zero-sum sense, it doesn’t matter if Trump takes 5 or 15 or 40 percent of the party with him if he bolts the party, since even 5 percent will probably be too much for the GOP to remain competitive in November. But there’s a real difference between defeating Trump in a way that satisfies the majority of the party, and wresting the nomination from him in a way that strikes a majority of the party as underhanded. That difference will matter when it comes time for Republicans to pick up the pieces after this primary. And what they may have lost tonight is a way to convincingly argue that they beat Trump fair and square.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, April 19, 2016

April 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Pitfalls Of Self-Righteousness”: The Sanders Campaign Needs More Self-Reflection And Less Self-Righteousness

Brooklyn was home to the debate heard ’round the world on Thursday evening, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finally clashed on stage after weeks of increasing hostilities.

The tension was as thick as the candidates’ voices were loud. But while both presidential contenders were fiery, Sanders came off looking particularly irascible. Rather than seizing the opportunity to atone for his campaign’s recent bout of unforced errors, his performance gave weight to the concern Paul Krugman articulated last week: “Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.”

During the debate, Sanders repeatedly interrupted Clinton, at one point even throwing out a long “excuuuuse me” while wagging his finger. When not interrupting, he often smirked and made faces while Clinton spoke, at one point appearing to mumble a sarcastic “OK.” He laughed out loud as she prepared to answer a question on gun control legislation after Sandy Hook.

In sum, Bernie’s performance oozed acrimony and self-righteousness – the same pitfalls behind his campaign’s controversial blunders of late.

When Sanders said he didn’t consider Clinton “qualified” to be president last week because of her ties to super PACs, a low-blow to the former senator and secretary of state that he’s since walked back, Sanders justified his attack by claiming Clinton had said the same of him. She hadn’t, though – Sanders’ campaign seemingly got that impression from a headline and ran with it without checking Clinton’s actual remarks.

A careless attack, yet one that strikes at the heart of the quest to become the first female president. As Clare Malone and Julia Azari wrote at FiveThirtyEight, “Sanders’s remarks and their interpretation play into discussions of the subtle, pernicious forms of sexism that women in positions of power must deal with. At the core of Clinton’s candidate packaging is the idea that she has for decades been the competent woman behind the scenes a workhorse – not a show pony.”

To be clear: Sanders is a man of impeccable integrity and I have no doubt that he would never intend to use coded language on gender. But he was so confident that he was justified that he didn’t stop to consider the implications of his rhetoric.

This wasn’t the first time. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, made a similar misstep with sexist overtones when he complained that Clinton’s “ambition” could tear the Democratic Party apart. By definition anyone who runs for president is ambitious – Sanders is calling for a revolution! – but somehow it’s the woman’s ambition that’s dangerous.

Also recall the constant refrain about Clinton’s being too loud, a complaint rarely if ever leveled against the ever-yelling Sanders. And just this week, a Sanders surrogate contrasted Bernie with not simply, say, corporate sell-outs but with “Democratic whores” at a campaign rally.

The Sanders campaign laid the groundwork for these problematic statements by presenting themselves (and apparently believing it) as the campaign that always holds the moral high ground: From Wall Street to small donors, Sanders, unlike Clinton, isn’t spoiled by establishment ties. With this frame of mind, the campaign can dismiss as illegitimate any attempt by Clinton to take Sanders off his high horse. You’re apt to be less careful with potentially tricky topics if you view any critique as by definition illegitimate.

Protected by self-righteousness, there’s little need for self-reflection. Sanders doesn’t seem to realize he’s “starting to sound like his worst followers,” as Krugman wrote. His debate performance showed that the senator is starting to act like them too.

The Republican contest provides a cautionary tale about the importance of self-reflection in the midst of a campaign. A lack of self-awareness lead several GOP candidates to morph into the caricatures of themselves created by critics.

Jeb Bush kicked off his ‘joyful’ presidential bid in June with so much enthusiasm that it was incorporated into his official logo.(!) But then Donald Trump slapped him with the “low energy” label a few months later, and Bush was so consumed with disproving Trump’s critique that he didn’t notice the life evaporating from his campaign. Attempts to show passion at rallies came off as annoyance, while rehearsed debate zingers bumbled even when they hit their mark.

Similarly, Ben Carson entered the race after years of urging from conservatives impressed by his inner-city-to-neurosurgeon pedigree and bold remarks at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Yet as whispers of ineptitude began to swirl around his campaign, Carson himself became increasingly nonsensical as he struggled to prove his depth. He seemed confused by his own alleged life story and baffled by basic foreign policy and economics. He spent his final GOP debates practically catatonic, blissfully unconcerned by his lack of knowledge. Now he’s just a sideshow, providing comic relief as a disastrous Trump campaign surrogate.

Donald Trump, of course, has built his entire brand around a lack of self-awareness. He defends himself against claims that he’s sexist by treating women like objects and dismisses critics who call him a racist by doubling down on race-baiting rhetoric.

Sanders’ campaign has little in common with this Republican circus, of course. But Bernie isn’t impervious to valid criticism, and his campaign must accept this fact and give more thought to the implications of the rhetoric it chooses or risk turning Sanders into a caricature himself – the quintessential Bernie bro.

 

By: Emily Arrowood, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, April 15, 2016

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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