Memo to ‘Never Trumpers’: Better read those rules again

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The Rules of the Republican Party stand in silent opposition to any suggestion (as was most recently made by North Dakota Republican National committeeman Curley Haugland in The Hill) that delegates, who are bound by the laws of their states, or the rules of their state parties, to vote for the candidate who designated them (specifically, the winner of the most primary votes in the history of the Republican party, Donald J. Trump), can instead vote for some newly-minted “White Knight” who will ride into Cleveland to Haugland’s rescue.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Every cycle, it seems, Mr. Haugland floats the misreading of the rules that delegates are not bound. It is bad enough that he deceives himself, but because he may have deceived others, it is worthwhile to make note of his errors.

{mosads}All Rules of the Republican Party, as they currently stand (having been most recently amended on August 8, 2014) are active and in force as of today. Contrary to Mr. Haugland’s theory, none of these rules “automatically expire”.  

Rule 42 doesn’t, as he says, somehow magically “unbind” delegates”; it says nothing of the kind. What Rule 42 provides is that temporary rules for this convention are Rules 26-42. The key word here is “temporary”.  

That is to say, temporary until the report of the rules committee, and any proposed rules changes, is voted on by the convention as a whole on day one. Take careful note, this means that there could be amendments to the Rules adopted. Such would in fact be common practice.

Rule 42 could, itself, be amended, as could any other rule. But to say that certain rules automatically don’t apply, or expire, begs the question of what action the full convention takes on the report of the Rules Committee. But the misbegotten notion that delegates that are expressly bound by the laws of their state are somehow not bound because of the current wording of Rule 42 is patently absurd. 

But what isn’t subject to change are state laws binding delegates to the candidate that got them there. Furthermore, state party rules on the same subject don’t change by act of this upcoming convention. Even without Rule 16, the convention chairman has the inherent power not to count votes cast which are illegal.

Because Mr. Trump has an overwhelming majority of the delegates, Rule 16 is very likely to survive into the convention, and it presently reads, “If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 (voting to nominate the presidential and vice presidential candidates) for any person other than the candidate for whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized.”  

But take Rule 16 away and you still haven’t violated state laws. Mr. Haugland’s notion that there are a myriad of delegates, whose previous devotion to their candidate (and who in most instances passed a rigorous vetting process) has of late somehow evaporated (we are never offered the name of a single such hypothetical delegate, mind you) is nothing less than pure fantasy.

Mr. Haugland suggests that unspecified Supreme Court rulings justify ignoring state laws binding delegates. Once again, he is merely dreaming. As a matter of practical reality, Mr. Trump has hundreds of more delegates than the 1,237 he needs to win the nomination. Moreover, even if Mr. Haugland’s hopes materialize to some degree and a few delegates go rogue, in order for Mr. Haugland’s point to have any merit would require literally hundreds of Trump delegates to prefer some other candidate than the one to whom they, and he, are mutually committed.  

But, even then, the dream of the Never-Trumpers for the nomination of some as-still unknown “white knight” would run smack into Rule 40, which even Mr. Haugland concedes will govern: to have his name placed in nomination, a candidate must — in advance — have a majority of delegates from at least eight states.  

Could Rule 40 be changed? Certainly, any rule can be changed, as we have shown. But as of now, it is in force and will remain so unless changed, and for it to be changed will require 1,237 votes, and thus the defection of hundreds and hundreds of Trump delegates on the first day of the convention.

So, to Mr. Haugland and his small misanthropic band of Never-Trumpers, we simply say, read the rules again. The rules are as they are, not as you wish they were.

Stone is a former consultant to Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, a New York Times Bestselling Author and a veteran of nine Republican presidential campaigns from Nixon to Trump.


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