September 19th, 2021


The unexpected peril of a brokered convention

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published April 5, 2016

This may be the year they gave an election and everybody wanted to stay home. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have a frontrunner anybody likes very much, and there’s nobody on the bench who can hit a curve ball.

Donald Trump’s shtick of insulting everybody and complaining that, like Rodney Dangerfield, he “don’t get no respect,” is wearing thin. A man who flies around in a gold-plated Boeing 757 and spends a million dollars a week on his personal needs and pleasures, as Rodney might put it, “don’t need no respect.”

Hillary Clinton, never a star on the fashion runway but fretting now over how she would look in prison orange, opened her mouth last week and out popped an abortion remark than managed to offend both pro- and anti-abortion campaigners, heretofore thought as unlikely as Brotherhood Week in Mecca.

The primaries this week in Wisconsin could clarify the bipartisan crisis, but if the past is a guide the primaries are more likely to thicken the fog and murk. Hillary infuriated abortion aficionados when she called a child in the womb a “person” instead of the feminist-approved term “fetus.” She infuriated the anti-abortion lobby when she said the child in the womb has no constitutional rights. A candidate who says the wrong word in the wrong way in the wrong place at the wrong time can expect to be fried to an unbuttered crisp.

Hillary’s troubles, which spring from an addiction to greed and avarice, threaten to overcome the Republican establishment’s determination to burn the forest, drain the lake and salt the earth to stop Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention only three months hence in Cleveland.

John Kasich, out of the running but sniffing opportunity in the wind, says a deadlocked convention would be “so cool” and “so much fun,” and so entertaining that “kids will spend less time focusing on Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian and more time focusing on how we elect presidents.” That’s expecting a lot from kids.The real fun, he says, will be when “the convention would look at somebody like me.”

The Republican establishment, which expects to hold the whip hand at Cleveland, likes John Kasich all right if that’s all there is, but its real preference is Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives who sent no hearts aflutter as Mitt Romney was blowing Republican chances four years ago.

Mr. Ryan says all the kumbaya things that establishment Republicans want to hear. Love your country, but not too much. Ours is the exceptional nation, but not that exceptional. America is just an idea, and a pretty good one, sometimes. But effective borders, after all, are for bigots.

Mr. Ryan once campaigned with Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who said he had only one loyalty, “and that’s to the immigrant community.” That sounds radical to a lot of Americans, but not to Mr. Ryan. Why should it? If America is only an idea, ideas have no borders. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who has endorsed Ted Cruz (at least for now), spins that notion further. He told the immigration advocacy group La Raza that “an American is an idea. No group owns being an American. Nobody owns this. It’s an idea that’s unique to the planet.”

Mr. Ryan once told a radio interviewer that “immigrants from the third world” make “some of the best Americans,” and “some of the best Americans are the newest Americans.”

All true, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far as an explanation for the crisis before us. It’s dreamy and gauzy drivel, meaningless boilerplate, and it drives the masses who found the imperfect mouthpiece in Donald Trump, certifiably crazy. It’s sentiment like that that put the establishment in its painful place. For these masses, the great unwashed in the eyes of establishment elites, America is more than an idea. It’s a place, bought by the blood and bone of generations of seekers of the “city on a hill,” in John Winthrop’s famous instructions for “a model of Christian charity.”

The brokered convention the elites are hankering for would be no sure thing for the likes of Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan or John Kasich. Many unexpected things have happened in brokered conventions past. The success of a dark horse like Mr. Ryan would not “save” the party, but save Hillary Clinton, in an orange jump suit or not. The elites would prefer to lose honorably with the proper loser – they have lots of experience with that – than win with the people’s choice.

John Kasich is right about one thing. It would be a lot of fun.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.