Trump can’t beat Clinton. That’s hardly news; it’s been known since he started running, and yet for some Republicans it apparently hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s time that it did.
Trump is one of the few people in the country more disliked than Hillary. His unfavorable rating is unprecedented for a presidential candidate–in one poll, 70% held an unfavorable opinion of him, and among voters his average favorable/unfavorable numbers sit at 34.7/60.3, worse than Hillary’s 41.6/54.5. Polling from the solidly red states of Utah, Texas, and Mississippi shows Trump effectively tied with Clinton, and the same situation holds in the Republican-leaning swing states of North Carolina and Arizona. That’s not the case in the true swing states, though–in Florida Clinton has led consistently, and recent polling shows her widening her lead, while in Ohio Clinton has a small but statistically significant lead and in Virginia Clinton has opened a fairly wide lead.
Nationwide, the last sixteen polls have shown Hillary leading, many by a wide margin. One poll could be wrong, but in this case every single poll is in agreement that Hillary beats Trump soundly (and, interestingly enough, the margin does not increase when you include third-party candidates). Add in the beginning of Trump’s fundraising “effort”–what would be a disastrous month for a lowly congressional campaign–and the sudden firing of his campaign manager, and the stage is set for an electoral disaster like we’ve never seen before.
That won’t just mean that Hillary becomes president, though. That’s inevitable if Trump is the nominee, but the problem is more far-reaching than that. As the most visible race, the presidential race determines turnout and voter attitude for the down-ballot races. Having Trump and his record unfavorable rating on the ticket hurts every Republican candidate. With Trump as the nominee, President Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are nearly inevitable. The question actually becomes whether or not the Democrats will retake the House as well, and give President Clinton a congressional majority and a mandate for her first term.
Naturally, avoiding that outcome seems like a good idea. Republican voters had a chance in the primary, but Trump’s combination of a strong appeal to voters who think the National Enquirer is a serious news source and Democrat crossover voters proved too much for the divided majority of Republican primary voters to overcome. His supporters think we should leave it there and unite behind the New York philanderer, but there is another option.
The US is a republic, not a direct democracy, and for very good reason: direct democracies encourage the tyranny of the masses and are antithetical to liberty. The Republican Party’s system is based on the same model, thus rather than electing a nominee directly, the voters select delegates, similar to the Electoral College, who then select the nominee. Recently, by the end of the primaries there was usually a clear consensus pick as the nominee, and thus little reason for conflict between the delegates and the popular vote total. This year, though, the presumptive nominee has received a lower share of the popular vote than any nominee since primaries started being used to determine the nominee. His margin of victory is the smallest since 1976, and, contrary to the desperate contention of his supporters, his vote share did not significantly increase as other candidates dropped out until the race was over–in other words, his tiny percentage of the popular vote is a result of the fact that not many Republicans want a narcissist pretending to be a fascist for their nominee, and unrelated to the crowded field.
A plurality of the voters have been able to impose their will on the divided majority, and attempted to select a manifestly unfit man as the nominee. This is precisely why we rely on representatives, rather than direct election: instead of blithely going down to defeat by rubber-stamping the immoral and disastrous choice of a few of the voters, the delegates can use the system to do what it was designed to do and select a better candidate–a candidate who stands some chance of defeating Hillary in the general election, and at the very least won’t damage Republican House and Senate races enough to lose the Republican majority in those houses.
It’s simple enough to do this, and there are several ways of going about it. Nothing in the rules requires that delegates vote at all; the easiest course would be for delegates bound to Trump to abstain for as many ballots as they’re pledged to Trump–the chief difficulty here would be convincing the clerk to count the abstentions accurately, instead of non-existent votes for the presumptive nominee, as has occasionally been done before. Others have suggested that state law cannot be used to bind the delegates to a particular candidate, since that would constitute an unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of a private organization. The delegates, therefore, are not bound by law to vote for any particular candidate, and are free to vote their conscience. In support of this idea, the movement to “free the delegates” is working on ensuring that the rules adapted for this convention include a clause that explicitly allows delegates to vote according to their conscience.
This is exactly what the delegates should do, in spite of the possible objections. Trump’s supporters are fond of saying that freeing the delegates would be ignoring the will of the people. That’s false–the majority of the people voted against Trump–but also irrelevant: if the will of the majority really was to nominate an evil man, it would still be right to ignore it. Others have pointed out that allowing delegates to vote their consciences is a deviation from how the rules have generally been interpreted, and prevents the states from setting the rules governing their delegate allocation. That’s true, but also irrelevant: the convention sets the rules for the convention. Nothing about the previous year’s rules is sacred; they’re usually retained as-is, but that’s because it’s easier, not because the convention does not have the authority to change them. The states do have the authority to govern delegate allocation, but they hold that authority at the discretion of the national party. They are not superior to the national party, and their decisions can be overruled when the convention sets its own rules.
Donald Trump is the most openly immoral man who’s ever run for president, and his policy positions are schizophrenic and tyrannical. His candidacy is certain to be a disaster, and his campaign is already setting new records as the worst major-party campaign in history. The delegates have both the right and the duty to make every effort to prevent him from becoming the nominee and instead nominate a candidate who values principle and stands some chance of leading conservatives to victory in November and preventing Hillary Clinton from taking office.
If we want to beat Clinton with a conservative–or at all–we must free the delegates.