It is becoming increasingly likely that the 2016 Republican National Convention to nominate the party’s presidential candidate will be a contested one, for the first time since 1952. Of course, the question for the Republican leadership is whether to use the contested convention to oppose Donald Trump in one last, heroic stand or to oppose the majority of Republican voters who have supported the celerity candidate thus far.
For some, this may be a question of which option produces the least amount of chaos. Should Republicans oppose Trump and likely create his third-party candidacy or allow him to be the face of the party? While I am by no means a Trump supporter, I suggest that the choice for Republican leaders this summer is not a choice between the lesser of two evils but one that pits two evils against each another.
The first evil is Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Donald Trump is, for lack of better words, a mediocre candidate. Major polls consistently show him losing the general election to Hillary Clinton. He has even compelled many Republicans to vow not to support him as the party’s nominee. None of this bodes well for the GOP.
The second evil, and perhaps a more consequential one, is denying the party’s nomination to the candidate with the most delegates and popular support. Regardless of the RNC’s rules, thenew voters that Trump has mobilized would disappear. Mr. Trump would almost inevitably launch a third-party campaign out of spite. By refusing Trump and selecting a candidate with fewer delegates, the RNC would undoubtedly damage the party’s reputation, creating the image of a party dominated by the preferences of party elites, not voters. Such a decision would alienate thousands of new voters supporting Trump and make the upcoming midterm elections unbearable to watch.
A contested convention sounds like an awful thing, even if you do not support Trump. For non-Trump Republicans, the best-case scenario is that another candidate enters the convention with more delegates. Of course, that would take a miracle. But it is the best shot the Republican Party has for saving face following the election.
The repercussions of this nominating process will reverberate for years after 2016. Republican leaders have a difficult decision to make. It is a choice between two terrible options. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up too bad.