Republican parties in 11 states held their conventions this weekend and at almost every turn, the party leadership fell in behind presumptive nominee Donald Trump while urging the rank and file to unite to support him.
This left the #NeverTrump movement with no traction at all. A few die hards were elected as delegates to the convention, but the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, like hanging, has focused the mind wonderfully. The argument that Trump may be flawed but he’s worlds better than Hillary Clinton has apparently won over most of the party, which will make the convention a coronation.
Eleven states held annual Republican conventions or party leadership meetings Saturday, offering a platform for those who still object to Donald Trump as their party’s standard-bearer a prime opportunity to make mischief. But at almost every turn, they slammed into state leaders who closed ranks around a candidate who many once said they’d never support.
In Nebraska, that meant overwhelming passage of a resolution that indirectly scolded conservative Sen. Ben Sasse for leading the #NeverTrump movement and scuttling a countermeasure to condemn “degrading remarks toward women, minorities and other individuals” by presidential candidates.
In Maryland, it meant the ouster of a veteran Republican committeeman — Louis Pope — by Citizens United chief David Bossie, a conservative activist who is close to Trump and closely associated with the rise of super PACs in American politics. Bossie has been a longtime ally of Trump and represents an early look at how Trump’s takeover of the party could reshape it for years.
In Arkansas, it meant packing the state’s national delegation with Trump allies and granting them influential leadership positions to shape Republican Party rules and policy doctrines at the convention.
There was some remaining opposition, but it didn’t amount to much.
There were, of course, lingering indications of discontent. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan skipped the Maryland GOP convention and hasn’t backed Trump, according to The Baltimore Sun. In Texas, Cruz’s father Rafael earned a delegate slot. In Nebraska, former GOP chair Mark Fahleson — a top ally of Sasse — was selected as well.
Still, it was a far cry from scenes a month ago, when state conventions were tense affairs driven by Cruz’s bid to secure enough loyal delegates to wrest the nomination from Trump at a contested convention.
Unity is a powerful force in a political party. But these are party professionals who have a vested interest in seeing a united GOP going into November.
What about the ordinary Republican voter who can’t stomach Trump? They are not likely to abandon their disgust of the candidate, even if an appeal is made to them that paints Hillary Clinton as the devil incarnate. These are voters far more likely to stay home on election day than vote for either Trump or Clinton.
The #NeverTrump movement never had much of a chance once Cruz dropped out. And with a third-party effort floundering, those voters who feel they can never vote for Trump are going to have to either vote for Hillary Clinton or stay home.