We are all panicking and with good reason. The Republican Party has not had a contested convention since 1976, when Ford clinched the nomination. Even then, it was not truly “brokered.” Ford won the vote on the first ballot, despite Reagan’s insurgent popularity. The only convention in memorable history to have come close to what we might see this summer was in 1952, when Adlai Stevenson overcame Estes Kefauver on the third ballot.
1952 was 64 years ago.
Setting aside decades of rules changes, in the world of 24-hour news coverage, social networks, and smartphones, the 2016 “open” convention will be a different beast entirely. There are no experts or predictable strategies. Political junkies are breaking out the popcorn.
Lately, we have been hearing a lot of chatter about delegate math and loyalty. Trump may have won states, but Cruz had good ground game; Trump only recently realized in a meeting with Reince Preibus that in the long run he should have been courting delegates. As Trump slips in the polls, will his supporters have buyer’s remorse? As for Cruz, abhorred by the establishment, can he wrangle the RNC system into a nomination? And have we forgotten about Kasich?
He is the candidate from Ohio who just won’t go home. Will Kasich win enough states to meet the Rule 40(b) threshold? Trump and Cruz say no. Then again, if such intense enemies band together in an attempt to cut out Kasich, you have to wonder if they feel threatened.
While I am personally holding out hope for a Kasich upset, I know it is unlikely and impossible without massive changes from the Rules Committee. Barring a Stevenson-like upset, Kasich will not be the Republican nominee. Still, I will not call for him to drop out. It isn’t just his one-in-a-million shot that keeps me on the Kasich bandwagon. No, I am motivated by the conservative value I hold dearest: the marketplace of ideas.
On immigration, he has said that “a lot of these people who are here are some of the hardest-working, God-fearing, family-oriented people you can ever meet,” and he advocates for a path to citizenship. Kasich is a classic fiscal conservative with an eye on school choice. He seeks to tame skyrocketing administrative costs in universities, encourage access to technical and community colleges and make college courses available to high school students. Additionally, he balances his belief that man-made climate change is a real problem with his advocacy for energy sector jobs: “We need everything. We need oil, gas, clean coal. We need renewables.”
As long as Kasich remains in the fight, he broadcasts the moderate conservative message of responsible government and bipartisan action. It may not play at rallies like a Muslim ban, total deportation, nukes or a Mexican wall, but it’s real policy, real experience, and real action. If we forget about Kasich, we forget about the truly conservative ideals that brought us into the GOP in the first place.
Our best bet is a Kasich nomination. If we can’t have it, we need to put our weight behind the only candidate who represents the rational right. Without him, with our silence, we’re whisked away in a populist whirlwind and Hillary gets the White House.