Anti-Donald Trump delegates are hoping to stir up trouble for the RNC and wreak havoc on the Republican National Convention next week, The Washington Post reports.So I guess this is the "battle for the soul of the party" I've heard so much about -- or at least it's a preview of what's to come after November, assuming Trump is defeated. I've been reading the Sunday New York Times, which has three pieces on that upcoming battle. First, in the news section, there's this from political reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin:
A group of delegates opposed to their party's presumptive nominee is plotting a variety of ways to upend the convention as the nation's focus turns to Cleveland on Monday.
As Republicans stream into Cleveland to nominate Donald J. Trump for president, they confront a party divided and deeply imperiled by his racially divisive campaign. He has called for cracking down on Muslims and undocumented immigrants, stoked fears of crime and terrorism and repeatedly declared that the United States is in a war for its very survival.In the opinion pages, Peter Wehner, who's served in many Republican administrations, tells us he's one of those Republicans who disavow exclusionary politics:
But amid gloom about Republican prospects in November, Mr. Trump may have endangered the party in a more lasting way: by forging a coalition of white voters driven primarily by themes of hard-right nationalism and cultural identity.
... Mr. Trump’s candidacy may force [Republicans] into making a fateful choice: whether to fully embrace the Trump model and become, effectively, a party of white identity politics, or to pursue a broader political coalition by repudiating Mr. Trump’s ideas....
In order to build a winning party again, some Republican leaders say, the party will have to disavow Mr. Trump’s exclusionary message, even at the price of driving away voters at the core of the Republican base -- perhaps a third or more of the party.
... while Trumpism is on the ascendancy right now, my expectation is that it will soon be politically and morally discredited, including in the eyes of most Republicans.Wehner also asserts that knee-jerk anti-government sentiments are harmful to the party and the country:
... The party many of us will fight for is a conservative one that appeals to rather than alienates nonwhites, that doesn’t view decency as a sign of weakness or confuse bullying and bluster with strength, and that aims to channel aspirations rather than stoke resentments and organize hatreds.
A friend of mine pointed out to me that part of the problem is that we are drenched in distaste for the actual practice of politics, and there’s an unstated sense among conservative activists in particular that the activity of governing is somehow illegitimate.Also in the opinion section, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam offer a detaled blueprint for a post-Trump GOP, which includes the following:
Instead of arguing for the dignity and necessity of politics -- instead of making the case for why the give and take, the debate and compromise, are both necessary and appropriate -- activists and their counterparts in government disparaged it. This helps explain how Mr. Trump seized on deeply anti-political feelings and used them to his advantage.... That can work only with people who disdain the government and the activity of governing.
... Republican leaders [should] become more selective in their hawkishness, more comfortable with five simple words: Invading Iraq was a mistake.Wow, that's a lot of responsible thoughtfulness.
... Republicans trying to demonstrate that they have learned something from the Trump trauma should consider embracing a new tax pledge. The party will still back tax cuts for the middle class and revenue-neutral tax reforms. But there should be no new income tax cuts for households earning $250,000 or more.
... more can be done to reassure the voters who depend on Medicare and Social Security -- and now Medicaid and Obamacare -- that their interests will be protected when the programs are reformed.
This might mean instituting a minimum Social Security benefit.... It definitely means recognizing that Obamacare’s coverage expansion is here to stay, and reassuring voters that any reform of health care reform will maintain the coverage of working-class Americans who were previously slipping through cracks.
So, um, is any of that driving the upcoming rebellion at the convention? What are the rebels' demands?
Ultimately, this group of delegates -- increasingly resigned to the nomination of Donald Trump -- is hoping to extract concessions from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on the structure of the national party....That's it? That's the rebellion?
Four to six "minority reports" are being drafted....
One proposal would have awarded more convention delegates to states with Republican governors, senators and lawmakers. Another would ban corporate lobbyists from serving on the Republican National Committee, the central body that oversees the party. The panel also soundly rejected a proposal to require the RNC to release the names of delegates serving on the convention committees.
That move especially angered rank-and-file Republicans paying close attention to the proceedings. Despite assurances to the contrary, RNC officials refused to release names and contact information of delegates serving on convention committees before last week, a move designed to make it more difficult for anti-Trump delegates to find one another and start plotting....
Other delegates hope to force a roll call vote of the states -- an hours-long process that would put the votes of every single delegate on the record (with cameras rolling) -- potentially embarrassing Trump if he barely wins more than half of the votes.
Where's the principled rejection of Trump's racism? Where's the effort "to channel aspirations rather than stoke resentments and organize hatreds"? Where's the affirmation of the value of governing? And where are Douthat and Salam's reformicon ideas -- say, the ban on tax cuts for high earners?
Apart from the notion that corporate lobbyists shouldn't serve on the RNC (which I applaud), there's no policy in this rebellion at all. It's just about process.
You could argue that that's because the big policy fights will take place after the election. But I think it's because the Trumpites and the anti-Trumpites have never been particularly far apart. The anti-Trumpites have been perfectly comfortable for years with an ultrahawkish party that makes the rich richer and feeds the lily-white base racial resentment of nonwhites -- the only problem with Trump's approach is that he's so blatant about all the white solidarity, and occasionally ambiguous about his desire to exterminate the enemy and coddle billionaires.
There isn't going to battle for the soul of the Republican Party after November. The party's just going to be what it was prior to Trump, which was already most of the way to Trumpism, except with a veneer of deniability. The only battle will be over how many coats of veneer should be reapplied now that Trump has stripped them off -- if any.