If a normal world of American politics, a candidate for president winning the majority of states during primary elections is obviously the choice of the party. Americans, it seems, are not living in a normal political world. The Republican Party has such a candidate in the form of Donald J. Trump, yet many within that party are decidedly Anti-Trump, being determined to do all they can to prevent his nomination.
What is wrong with Donald J. Trump?
This internal Republican fight may seem strange to outsiders. Why would the party seek to thwart the success of the candidate partisan voters are choosing? It is certainly unusual. Mitt Romney, the previous nominee of the Republican Party of the 2012 campaign cycle, presented a long case against the current frontrunner, which is an unprecedented move. He is not alone.
The first issue for Trump is a split field with several candidates. Where, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been winning a majority of voters in a two-person race (as of this writing, around 60 percent), Trump has only been winning a plurality of voters (as of this writing, around 34 percent). This clearly means the majority of Republican voters are choosing someone else. However, in a split field, winning the largest percentage, though a definitive minority, is enough to win. In spite of winning state after state, he is not as popular as such victories make him appear. With such a demonstrative majority voting against Trump, it makes more sense there is an effort to thwart him.
Why is Trump losing a majority?
Donald J. Trump has yet to win a majority vote in any state that has thus far voted. There are many likely reasons. Obvious reasons include he not being a conventional candidate, his being brash and vulgar, and him being ideologically unprincipled. For the sake of simplicity, many Republican voters are social or economic conservatives; others are religious conservatives or traditionalists, while others care greatly about national security. Some variation of these simplified tenets represent a majority of the party, and thus votes for candidates more in line with them.
Why thwart him?
The summation of the Trump campaign is an ideologically opportunistic one built on xenophobic nationalism, generally attracting voters who tilt toward authoritarianism. Worse for the Republican Party, which is a coalition built upon conservative-orientated political, economic, and cultural philosophies and ideals, he is hardly a conservative. Some of his views are, or at least may have, conservatism as a foundation. However, he is more of a Reactionary. As my conservative colleague wrote several months ago, a Reactionary is not a Conservative. A Trump victory could lead to the revolutionary regressive change commonly seen when Reactionaries achieve power. The coalition making the Republican Party, as known in its modern history, may cease to be, especially if splitting and losing its national appeal as a "Big Tent" party.
A Reactionary and authoritarian demagogue, running an ideologically opportunistic and populist campaign riddled with xenophobia and nationalism, by definition (and frankly speaking), is a fascist candidate. This may seem hyperbolic, yet if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it may be best to call it a duck. This is just about as devastating as thing as can be for one of the great political parties of the world nominating, in 2016, a fascist as their representative. It then comes as little surprise that many within the party are so eager to derail his chances of achieving victory.
Obviously, the concern about Trump is a "worst case scenario" outlook. Lacking prescience, none knows with any certainty what kind of governing coalition he intends, or even could, create. However, the Trump campaign itself, during this primary season, leads little option beyond worst-case fears. Trump, if victorious, will surely move toward the political center for a general election. However, the base he has built carry expectations of their candidate. It is unlikely he can easily walk away from campaigning to build walls or ban humans based on their faith. His style has always been abrasive, lowbrow, and antagonistic. He cannot change who he is, fundamentally, as a human. In addition, fascism seeks a "third way" between the traditional political spectrum of Left and Right. Trump already supports some policy aims traditionally rooted on the Left. He may easily move further Left, being an ideologically opportunistic candidate, if such a move polls well.
How Might They Try to Thwart Trump
The current situation, with his victories thus far, makes Trump appear to be the likely winner of a plurality of delegates. The party will hold its convention in Ohio later this summer. The delegates will gather and vote on whom the party will nominate. If Trump wins a majority of delegates then nothing can stop him. However, if he only has a plurality, and the remaining candidates - collectively - have a majority, the party may then engage in shenanigans to prevent his coronation. Those other candidates, [Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Governor John Kasich (R-OH)] could join their delegates to vote for a "consensus" candidate. This candidate may not even be one of those current candidates - it could be someone like the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan (R-WI), 2012 nominee Mitt Romney (R-MA), or a complete, albeit popular, wildcard, like Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
However, such shenanigans is sure to crash the party. Many Trump supporters may rebel and support a third party, or simply sit out the election. This would ensure numerous Republican defeats in other races, such as Senate and House seats. Yet this problem may also exist if the party does nominate Trump, as many conservatives, to spite Trump, could likewise choose a third party candidate, crossover and support the Democratic candidate, or sit out the election.
As it stands now, neither of the remaining Non-Trump candidates have a plausible path to win a majority of the delegates. Their goal now is to prevent Trump from winning a majority, so the party may go to the convention with options to play, beyond simply accepting Trump as their nominee. For this to be a success, these remaining candidates A] must stay in the race and B] must win some big states, such as Florida (Rubio's home state) and Ohio (Kasich's home state). Losing states like these to Trump will all but ensure he goes to the convention with a majority of delegates and thus win the party nomination.
A Republican Collapse Is Not to be Cheered
For those with liberal politics and progressive ideals, it may seem counter intuitive not to watch a potential Republican collapse with glee. For starters, though it certainly seems unlikely, Trump could indeed win a general election. As noted, he is ideologically unmoored and may shamelessly move as far toward the Left as he feels necessary. If Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) fails to win the Democratic nomination, and with many progressives recently deciding "taking money from Wall Street" is the political issue trumping all other considerations, some may happily crossover to support Trump as the only remaining candidate not accepting money from Wall Street. As a fascist, he can merge Leftwing ideals with Rightwing ideals, creating a governing coalition that appeals exclusively to Caucasian voters of both wings. Having already said, in debates, that he will never allow humans to "die in the streets", if it polls well, he may find it easy supporting a universal Single-Payer healthcare scheme... at the exclusion of immigrants, humans of color, or any other group he needs to exclude to maintain the Reactionary base attracted to his populist, nationalistic, and xenophobic campaign.
Regardless of any of that, a great nation needs a strong, viable conservative-orientated party to ensure progressive politics are well considered and articulated. This works both ways, too. Without the traditional Republican Party as a competitive force, progressive arguments are likely to grow weaker, rather than stronger. A strong debate partner forces more consideration leading to a stronger response. Though a fractured conservative coalition may lead to some short-term victories for a more unified Left, it could lead, over the longer term, toward less vetted and deliberated, and thus less compelling and effective, policy aims. Simply put, the progressive movement needs a stronger foil to help them make stronger cases for their ideals and goals.
A Paw Forward
Perhaps the best bet for the Republican Party is not to stop Trump. It may prove, as the best solution to retain their station as a major political force within the United States, to allow things to play out, without overt interference. The other candidates could stay in the race to the end, though not to deny him a majority of delegates - rather, to continue damaging him for a general election. If Trump completes the primary process clearly with a lead, even if not a majority, allow him his coronation as the nominee. It may be a bitter pill, but the long-term interests of both the party and nation are at stake. Perhaps only offer token support to his campaign, while quietly letting him lose the general election. A Trump victory in November, though a "Republican" victory in name, is not a victory for the conservative coalition. The best outcome for the Republican Party is to retain the unity of its coalition. After a November defeat, it may begin the process of addressing base voter concerns that led to the Trump nomination. They may instead focus on trying to retain control of congress to block the Democratic president. After four years, having retained party unity while also mending their internal wounds, they may try again for the White House in 2020 as a competitive force.