The Republican Convention my be Contested

By Graham Hess, Staff Writer — In a cutthroat election season which has kept the American public on the edge of its seat, many are now anticipating a contested Republican convention in July. If that speculation becomes reality, it will cause a ripple effect throughout the nation and potentially disrupt a 200-year-old American tradition of a peaceful transition of presidential power.

Typically, party conventions are simply large celebrations for the runaway nominee. Contested Conventions are rare; the last one was between GOP hopeful Ronald Reagan and incumbent Gerald Ford. In order for that to be the case, one candidate must have enough delegates to achieve the nomination. For Republicans, that magic number is 1,237 delegates. Donald Trump has 740 delegates so far, but more primaries are right around the corner and his recent comments regarding women may hurt his chances in the near future. There are 888 delegates still available to claim, and Ted Cruz and John Kasich would love to get those delegates – or would they?

Winning the nomination outright is obviously ideal – however, Cruz and Kasich may have other plans. Political analysts are now saying a contested convention is on the way, and it is the best case scenario for Kasich.

A contested convention would be radically different from a normal one. First, delegates would vote on the floor. All Republican delegates are “pledged”. This means that they must vote for the candidate which the people of their state told them too. But only on the first ballot. If no clear winner is determined on this vote, then the convention will begin voting on a second ballot. And this is where it gets interesting.

On the second ballot, delegates can vote for whomever they want. All delegates are “establishment” Republicans, meaning they were chosen for that role due to their strong connections to the party. Due to the wide consensus that the Republican Party does not want Donald Trump to be the nominee, Party leadership will attempt to pack the convention with anti-Trump delegates who would switch to Cruz or Kasich on the second ballot. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Former Governor Mitt Romney have both taken to the media to express their discontentment with Trump and urge other Republican Officials and voters to support someone else. As reported by the Washington Post, Ryan said “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices; we appeal to their highest ideals”. While Ryan and Romney have tried to take the fight to Trump, they simply are not doing enough to derail him.

However, Trump is not entirely comfortable in his ability to be nominated. He has already predicted “riots” if he does not win the nomination. That is only a prediction, not a denouncement or an endorsement, but given the violent nature of Trump’s events, it is likely to be true. There was a petition among Trump supporters to allow convention attendees to carry firearms into the convention hall, but it was quickly shot down by the Secret Service. Trumps predictions are especially frightening for Ohioans because the Convention is being held in Cleveland. Hopefully nothing will come of it, but it is still possible.

Whomever the nominee is, they will certainly be divisive for Republican voters and the party itself. If it is Trump, people will wonder how American voters could support a routinely racist, sexist, islamophobic with no foreign policy experience or in-rows with the legislative body. If it is Cruz, people will wonder why a Bible-Belt hardliner who thinks carpet bombs are the answer to all foreign policy questions is the Republican’s choice for President. And if it is Kasich, students generations from now will ask how an obscure governor that wrecked education in his own state was able to come back from a 20 point polling deficit with ⅕ the number of delegates than the frontrunner had and secure the nomination. The result of the convention will almost certainly divide and weaken the Republican party for the foreseeable future.

As far as democracy itself is concerned, A Kasich or Cruz victory on a second-ballot vote would be several things: First, it would be a slap in the face to direct democracy and would likely enrage Trump supporters who don’t fully understand the political system. Second, and on a broader scale, it would call into question the merits of a convention system in which the power is put in the hands of the few to make a decision for the greater public. One must ask themselves, Is this what the founding fathers would have wanted? Is this the system they envisioned? And the simple truth, the most basic answer, is yes. The Founding fathers feared, in their time, that a demagogue who preyed on the fears of the general public would win the presidency and become king. While a new monarchy is not a concern, their logic remains sound. Their fear is the reason we have a Representative Democracy. This summer at the contested Republican Convention, that democracy’s strength will be put to the test.

[Updated Aug. 19, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]