The Rules Committee for the Republican Convention meets this Thursday July 14, 2016. Gordon Humphrey and Kendal Unruh are cofounders of an organization called Delegates Unbound. In prior years (1979 – 1990) Gordon Humphrey, a delegate to the convention, served two terms as a Republican Senator from New Hampshire. Kendal Unruh, also a convention delegate, serves on the Rules Committee. It is the Rules Committee that will vote on whether convention delegates will be required to vote on the first ballot for a nominee based on the results of that State’s primary or caucus, or whether they will be permitted to “vote their conscience”.
Humphrey and Unruh contend that the delegates are already permitted to vote for the person they consider to be the Party’s best nominee. They are already unbound; the delegates are not, and should not be a rubber stamp. They want that reality to be formally reflected in the convention rules.
The law seems to be on their side. David French, an attorney and staff writer at National Review, argues that laws regulating how delegates to a convention must vote are an impermissible intrusion by the state on the business of a private organization. The idea that the state can compel members to vote in certain ways is a violation of both freedom of speech and association.
To buttress his argument French cites the case of Cousins v. Wigoda. The dispute centered around two delegations competing to be seated as the Illinois state delegation at the Democratic Convention in 1972. One delegation argued that it was seated in accordance with Illinois State law. But the other delegation was actually seated at the convention. In deciding the matter the Supreme Court held that National Party Rules should be accorded primacy over state law in determining the qualifications and eligibility of delegates to the party’s National Convention, and the rival slate was seated. In short, the Court held it was none of the State’s business.
So it seems that Delegates Unbound has a pretty convincing case on the legalities. What about the merits?
Gordon Humphrey does not mince words. He describes Trump as “…a sick sociopath… [who] has severe personality disorders and is not fit to be president”. A quick trip to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders suggests that Humphrey is not simply engaging in hyperbole. A summary of the essential elements of sociopathy can be found (where else) in Wikipedia at this link.
But let’s leave aside the armchair psychoanalysis. If nominated, Donald Trump would easily qualify as the most ignorant and least qualified person ever to have secured a major party nomination for President. It is also without question the case that Donald Trump embodies virtually everything that self-declared Republicans claimed to abhor prior to 2016.
His attack on free-trade turns 50 years of economic policy upside down, not to mention 140 years of economics. He similarly tossed aside 50 years of well thought out foreign policy when he encouraged nuclear proliferation in Asia and the Middle East, and suggested abandoning NATO. His appeals have had more than a tinge of race baiting; he has encouraged violence at his rallies; he has attacked the independence of the judiciary and he appears to be utterly clueless about the separation of powers. And up until he was 69 years old, Trump was a fan of abortion on demand.
Unruh says they have the votes of the 28 delegates on the Rules Committee needed to send the resolution to unbind the delegates to the convention floor (as a minority report). Then it’s up for a vote by all the delegates. That will be the test. The Republican Party will have to decide to either find a spine or abandon even the pretense of principle.
If Donald Trump becomes the nominee, the Republican Party, as we know it, will cease to exist. There will no longer be an organized party to argue for limited government and individual freedom. Where the party of Lincoln once stood there will be a hollow vessel devoid of principle waiting to be captured by the next demagogue. We already have one of those. We don’t need two.