As his Twitter banner proudly declares, Donald Trump is indeed the presumptive Republican Party nominee for president. For a lot of people, it’s important to keep saying and writing this in order to confirm that this is reality, and this is actually happening, and we’re not living in a Philip K. Dick novel.
Although Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich finally suspended their campaigns, the dream of #NeverTrump refuses to disappear. There’s a reason. If the NeverTrumpers wake up, they’re finally going to realize the GOP as they knew it has collapsed, and Trump is still going to be the presumptive nominee. So they keep on dreaming up NeverTrump possibilities that somehow lead to a conservative defeating Hillary Clinton this fall followed by 1,000 glorious years of smaller taxes and bigger American flag lapel pins.
Here are the NeverTrumpers’ eight favorite scenarios, ranging from “This won’t happen” to “I guess crazier things could happen.”
8. Trump won’t make the 1,237 delegates
You can still vote in the remaining primaries for whomever you like, even if their campaign is suspended. Everyone who was running, from Carly Fiorina to Sen. Rand Paul, continues to get a few more votes each primary. But Trump is leading in California, and those last 200 delegates are well within his grasp. They can’t count on him failing to get that magic number.
7. Trump doesn’t actually want to be president
An article in XOJane, of all places, suggests something fascinating and oddly credible. Namely, this whole impossibly successful campaign was never supposed to get this far. Stephanie Cegielski, the former communications director for the Make America Great Again Super PAC, writes that she gradually realized this was all a narcissist’s protest run and that Trump was in over his head. She writes, “He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House.” This is an oddly believable argument, especially coming from someone who knows and has worked with the man and spent time looking at Trump’s flapping mouth trying to form policy ideas. The only problem is that it may be too late for Trump to extricate himself. Or he may have learned to love the idea of being president.
6. Technical weirdness and/or conspiracy will take the nom from Trump
Trump supporters were furious during the Arizona primary. Weird glitches, long lines and a confusing process led to Cruz winning more delegates. Either through actual incompetence or a terrible conspiracy something will happen with the process, and Trump will lose somehow. It’s not completely impossible. Richard Nixon may have been loony, but credible people really do think JFK stole the 1960 election from him. It’s not, however, very likely that things will get that cinematic for Trump.
5. The GOP will actually split
This would be the most shocking and arguably the most interesting result of the Trumpocalypse. A brand new party with a brand new name would be great. The one thing America doesn’t have much competition in is competing political parties. If anyone can midwife a new party into being, it’s probably neocons horrified at Trump.
4. #NeverTrump will run an independent
This feels a little risky, considering how poorly independents are treated in the two-party system which, ironically, benefitted the NeverTrump crowd for so long. It might work better if that “independent” was someone who was already in the race for the GOP nom, otherwise the candidate would have no chance in hell of getting the necessary media attention. Is Marco Rubio doing anything? Probably not.
3. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney or another Republican savior will come
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he wasn’t ready to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican nominee (yet). Mitt Romney and Trump feuded earlier in the year. There has got to be some kind of Ronald Reagan 2.0 out there to save the precious, precious party.
2. The NeverTrumpers will invade an existing party
It’s already being discussed in the pages of National Review and other right media. And some people are serious. GOP strategist Mary Matalin has thrown up her hands and registered Libertarian. Arch-conservative pundits such as Erick Erickson and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol have been scheming to get around Trump. The easiest option might be to sneak someone satisfactory to them into the Constitution Party, or better yet, the biggest third party around, the Libertarian. Its convention is at the end of the month, and it’s an open nomination process. The LP had better watch out.
1. Delegates and weird committees at the convention
Not all delegates are bound to the fella they came in with. Others can switch if the convention goes to a second ballot. Most of them are clearly supposed to vote for the person with the magic number (1,237), but saying Trump has it in the bag ignores how weird conventions have gotten in the past.
The key thing to remember is that the GOP is a private organization. And its nominating process is shockingly unrestricted. The credentials committee, for example, has immense power. It could, say, pass a motion to ignore or release all delegates from states with open primaries. In the blink of an eye, Trump might be on shakier ground. In most cases, the only consequences for sudden rule changes would be public and maybe state party anger.
Under the right circumstances primaries can be rendered almost meaningless. Delegates can be unbound. Votes can be called. Such weirdness occurred at past conventions, such as the Democratic Convention in 1968 and the Republican one in 1952. Rules were changed to screw Ron Paul delegates in 2012. The convention is not just a celebration for the nominee but a potentially savage battleground and fluid situation.
Someone more acceptable and less orange could ride in on a white horse and get their name on a second ballot and be the GOP savior. Would Trump fans be furious? Of course. Would the Republicans look shady? Yes. But then Trump gets to play aggrieved narcissist without all the work that having an alarming amount of political power involves. Everybody wins. Well, sort of.