Sunday, March 06, 2016

Some Seldom-Discussed Options For Defeating Trump

A lot of people are suggesting that Rubio and Kasich drop out, given Cruz's good performance in the voting Saturday. (Make sure you don't just look at the end results in Louisiana. Also look at Cruz's percentage of the early voting in contrast to his percentage of the votes cast yesterday.) Cruz does look more promising as an alternative to Trump now, and Rubio looks weaker. However, yesterday's results need to be combined with polling data about what would happen in the upcoming states if Rubio and/or Kasich were to drop out. If Cruz would lose in Florida and Ohio under a scenario in which Rubio and/or Kasich would drop out, whereas Rubio and/or Kasich would win those states if they stayed in, then I think they ought to stay in for now. (And my understanding is that Rubio was expected to win in Puerto Rico today. If so, he ought to at least wait until after that voting before dropping out.) Here's what I'd suggest doing:

- Run a lot of polling of the potential scenarios ahead, so that our planning can be based on that sort of data rather than being more speculative. A poll released late last week showed Rubio down just five points to Trump in Florida, with Cruz and Kasich each more than fifteen points down. Given Trump's call for Rubio to drop out and Trump's comments in the last debate about how Rubio may beat him in Florida by running so many negative ads against him (Trump), it looks like Trump is concerned about losing to Rubio in Florida. If Rubio is the only one who can beat Trump there, then Rubio probably ought to stay in the race at least until after Florida.

- Denying Trump a majority of delegates should be the first priority. If that requires letting two or more rivals to Trump remain in the race, then take that approach.

- The second priority, after denying Trump the majority of delegates, is to have one of his rivals get a higher minority percentage of the delegates. That way, Trump and his supporters can't argue that Trump should be given the nomination due to having the most delegates. Taking away that argument is important. Since it seems unlikely that Cruz or any other Trump rival would get a majority of the delegates before the convention, what Cruz (or Rubio if he were to improve later) should aim for is to get a higher minority of the delegates than Trump.

- Those of us who are voting should keep the strategy I've outlined above in mind. If you're in Florida or Ohio, and polling suggests that candidate X is the candidate in the best position to beat Trump in that state, then vote for that candidate. In other words, even if you're a Rubio supporter, vote for Kasich in Ohio if Kasich seems to have the best shot at defeating Trump there. If you're a Kasich supporter, but Cruz is best positioned to win your state, and winning your state is important for Cruz to get a higher minority percentage of the delegates than Trump, then vote for Cruz. And so on.

- Keep looking for a way to deny Trump the nomination even if he gets a majority of delegates. He probably won't get a majority. But make plans for that scenario, in case it happens. One approach that I've been considering, though it would have some drawbacks (as other approaches do), would be to change the rules before the convention so as to block Trump on the basis of the Trump University fraud case. Let's say that a presidential candidate gets a majority of delegates, then is caught on video committing murder. We have good evidence that he committed the crime, but he hasn't been convicted yet. Would anybody argue that the Republican party would have an obligation to nominate the man, just because he got the delegates? Surely not. I'd apply the same sort of reasoning to Trump. He's in the midst of a fraud case related to Trump University. The evidence against him is strong. Why is the Republican party obligated to commit electoral suicide by nominating such an individual, even if he has the delegates? Just deny Trump the nomination, even if he has the delegates. There are meetings already scheduled, before the convention, in which rule changes can be made. If a rule change seems needed to block Trump at that point, do it. You can qualify the rule change however you need to (e.g., any lawsuit pending against a potential nominee would have to be non-frivolous in order to disqualify the potential nominee), but rule changes should remain as options on the table.

In closing, I want to respond to a ridiculous article at Slate concerning Cruz as the Trump alternative. Isaac Chotiner writes:

"If Ted Cruz is the only alternative to Trump, it’s hard to see the Republican establishment uniting behind him. Cruz is hated in Washington D.C., and by media elites like Rupert Murdoch; he is also the only candidate thought to be as unelectable as Trump. If the choice is between these two men, it’s possible that #NeverTrump becomes #WhoCaresWe’reScrewedNoMatterWhat."

A sitting senator, Ben Sasse, is at the heart of the NeverTrump movement, and other Congressmen are part of the movement as well. Where's the Cruz equivalent? There isn't one. Cruz has sometimes worked with other senators on various pieces of legislation, and Lindsey Graham has said publicly that Cruz is better than Trump. Cruz would easily get more support than Trump among Cruz's senate colleagues and in Congress in general. And contrast Cruz's winning poll average against Clinton here to Trump's losing poll average here. Furthermore, Cruz has far better character than Trump, doesn't have anything comparable to or worse than Trump's history of scandals, is a better communicator than Trump, has been far more consistent on the issues, is far more knowledgeable of the issues, etc. Cruz has much better electability than Trump.


  1. "Keep looking for a way to deny Trump the nomination even if he gets a majority of delegates."

    That sounds rather undemocratic.

    1. So what? The murder scenario I described is similarly "undemocratic". Would you recommend letting the murderer get the nomination? Being democratic isn't the only or highest standard we should be concerned about.

      Part of the system the Republicans have in place is that rule changes are allowed to be made along the way, including just before the convention. That's the Republican system Trump and his supporters agreed to participate in. Yes, the potential for rule changes makes things less predictable and less stable, and there's potential for the ability to change the rules to be abused. But it's part of the system, and the alternative (no rule changes allowed or the changes in this context aren't allowed) is worse.

    2. I should add that Trump has the potential to get a majority of delegates without getting a majority of the votes (because of winner-take-all states, etc.). If Trump gets a majority of the delegates in such a scenario, how "undemocratic" is it to deny him the nomination? He only had a minority of the vote. And polling has often indicated that a majority views a Trump nomination in a negative way. There are already some undemocratic elements in this primary system (e.g., winner-take-all distribution of delegates). What I'm suggesting is that we make better use of some of those undemocratic elements.

    3. "That sounds rather undemocratic."

      Good thing we're in a Constitutional Republic instead of a democracy then, eh?

      Straight democracy is identical to mob rule.

    4. If 60-70% of Republicans keep voting against Trump in primaries, it would be pretty undemocratic to make him the nominee. For that matter, winner-take-all primaries are "rather undemocratic". Likewise, it's undemocratic that late primary voters get stuck with what's left over after early primary voters drive some candidates out of the running. But that's the system. And there's no ideal alternative.

  2. By the way, I think this primary season suggests that:

    - Every primary and caucus should be completely closed. No Democrats or independents should be allowed to participate. Only Republicans get to vote, and they should have to have been registered long before the day of voting. If we want to know how Democrats and independents will respond to the candidates, then gauge that with polls, focus groups, or whatever other instrument. Don't gauge it by letting Democrats and independents participate in voting on our potential nominees.

    - Early voting needs to be far more restricted than it is currently. The current loose standards allow for a charlatan like Trump to deceive people early on, get their early votes, then continue to benefit from those early votes after he's been exposed or his supporters have done more research. No approach will avoid that sort of outcome entirely. But it seems to me that we should have much less early voting than we do now.

  3. Jason, there is an argument that I haven't seen being made, that ought to be relevant to professing evangelical supporters of Trump. I have seen Trump describe himself emphatically as a Christian multiple times now during this election cycle. His policies aside, this ought to be deeply offensive to any follower of Christ. There is no evidence whatsoever that he is a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, indeed there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. I need not rehearse that evidence. Labeling Trump a Christian is a preposterous, laughable proposition to anyone with a speck of discernment. So he is dragging the fair name of our Savior through the mud in his quest to become President. He has merited the just contempt of true Christians, not their votes or support, regardless of the merits or demerits of his policies.

    One could object that most recent presidential candidates have identified themselves as Christian. Romney, Obama, O'Malley, Rubio, Christie, and others. For the Democrats on the list, I would just add their false (or at least dubious) confessions to a long list of reason not to vote for them. Regarding those who identify with sects (Romanists) or cults (Mornonism), I would regard those self-identifications as unfortunate and detrimental to Christ's name, but at least as honest identifications considered on their own terms. Romney does not have the true Christ, and Rubio doesn't have the true Gospel, but they are moral and devout by the terms of their respective religions. Unlike Trump, they actually attend their churches. More importantly, they are decent and honorable men, though we may differ on policy. Trump has no semblance of Christian morality. He uses the name of Christ for self-gain, pure and simple. His profession of faith is far less credible than even Obama's.

    1. I agree, David. And I suspect that the large majority of the most informed Evangelicals are supporting somebody other than Trump. He wins among less informed Evangelicals, especially in parts of the country where identifying as Evangelical is more popular.

      A key to making the most of your argument and other arguments against Trump is time. We still have three more months in this primary season. That's a lot of time in a political context. Most states haven't voted yet, and we're less than halfway through the primary season. New information about Trump and new scandals keep coming out. Trump's immorality, ignorance, and other negatives will likely make a lot of people more and more weary of him over time. After March 15, the remaining states begin voting at a slower pace. There will be more time to build up arguments against Trump, run negative ads against him, etc. The fast pace we're seeing in these opening weeks of March won't continue much longer. If Trump can be slowed down enough over the next eight days, culminating with at least one big loss for Trump on March 15 (Florida or Ohio), he should fail to get a majority of delegates.

      One big problem, though, is how the media keep making him seem like a stronger candidate than he is. There's no rational way to deny that this past weekend was a major setback for Trump. He lost Kansas, Maine, and Puerto Rico by double-digit margins. He only won Louisiana by means of early votes. The voting that took place there on Saturday itself favored Cruz. So, Trump only won the voting in one place out of five that voted this weekend. Cruz got more delegates than Trump over the weekend, and Trump got less than a third of the delegates overall. Yet, the media aren't covering this weekend as a big setback for Trump. It's important that Republican voters exercise enough discernment to realize what's actually been happening rather than gullibly accepting a false media narrative. And that false media narrative could be repeated by Limbaugh, Hannity, and other Trump supporters and enablers in the conservative media.