Earlier this week, conservative gabber and opinion-leader Erick Erickson was talking mighty big about the plans of an anti-Trump conservative cabal he was helping convene. Among the options under consideration by the cabal were a third-party candidacy and even a presidential election decided in the U.S. House.
Well, the cabal had its first strategy session in Washington on Thursday, and here’s the brilliant conclusion it reached, according to CNN:
Conservatives at a meeting in Washington on Thursday had “absolute consensus” on trying to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump from getting enough delegates to clinch the party’s presidential nomination, according to a source familiar with the discussion.
Is that it? Yeah, pretty much:
The idea of a third party being formed to combat Trump remained a bone of contention for the group, the source said, adding, there was “real division” over the idea.
Okay. How about a contested convention that might nominate a dark-horse candidate?
Not all the attendees appeared to be giving up on Trump’s existing challengers.
“I’m there to support Ted Cruz,” said Mike Farris, a Republican lawyer, as he left the Army and Navy Club, where the group met behind closed doors for close to three hours. “There’s a lot of Cruz support.”
No wonder another reporter with sources in the meeting, the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, described it as less than a success:
Per three people familiar with the talks, the mood of the room was muted and downbeat. Attendees voiced frustration with the lack of coordination so far and wondered aloud whether Trump could be halted. The third-party scenario drew intense interest, but it also acknowledged that it would be logistically and financially difficult with few major politicians willing for now to agree to take the political risk that such a run would entail.
This and many accounts of schemes to rig the convention against Trump — or otherwise keep him out of the White House through means other than beating him in the primaries — generally suffer from an extreme overvaluation of the ability of Republicans to reach and execute a complex coordinated strategy. If they had that capacity, would 17 people have run for president in this cycle? Would it have taken the Establishment so long to settle on a candidate that it basically did not matter? Does anyone in particular really strike you as having the power to “broker” a brokered convention, and if so, what have they been waiting for?
Some seem to put faith in the Republican National Committee and Reince Priebus to orchestrate things to a successful conclusion. And it’s true the RNC may not have a “putative” nominee telling him and the quadrennial army of convention volunteers exactly what to do every moment of the day leading up to and through the convention. But that doesn’t mean the party hacks will be free to do what they want. No, any surviving candidates, including presumably Trump and Cruz, will demand input on every single decision, no matter how minor. There will be no “private,” much less “secret” meetings at which deals go down; there will instead exist the special transparency imposed on people who don’t trust each other at all.
Right now, the only people who look likely to head to Cleveland knowing exactly what they want and being able to communicate with each other without fearing an imminent knife in the back are the candidates and their loyal retainers, for whom the elevation of their lord and god to the nomination is not just the first but the only consideration. Everyone else may well look as feckless as the conservative revolutionaries who sounded like a threat to Trump until it became apparent they couldn’t find their butts with both hands.