The Republican Party has already lost the presidency, but if the party wants to save itself for future elections, it has two unfortunate options. If you have paid any attention to the political media at any time over the past few months, the prediction has been clear—the Republican Party is headed for a brokered convention that could potentially lead to its downfall. The first part of this statement is true, but the latter half does not have to necessarily be so. If no candidate has clinched the 1,237 delegates needed to become the Republican nominee, the party can pick its poison and elect Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to the ticket and can hold the party together. As counterintuitive as it may seem, picking either Cruz or Trump in the long run is likely to help moderate Republicans in the future, by showing those on the far right that their extreme candidates cannot win a general election.
As tempting as it is, it would be seen as a validation of both Trump and Cruz to let the party elites choose another candidate like Paul Ryan, who received no votes and no support from the electorate. A choice like this would only further anger those who support Trump and Cruz and would indeed likely cause the split in the Republican Party that many have been predicting. Perhaps it would be good for the party to regroup and rebrand as one with less extreme views than those of Trump and Cruz, but if the party hopes to remain relevant in the contemporary period, it is best served with either Trump or Cruz as its nominee for president.
By the time the convention rolls around, it is almost certain that Trump will be far closer to clinching the nomination than any other candidate. This presents the party’s first option: let Trump be the nominee and show the voters that the primary process does work. In this case, the GOP willingly sacrifices any chance at a general election victory over Hillary Clinton, but it holds together the party by telling voters that their votes actually mattered and the candidate with the most votes is the one who will get the nomination. If anything, the Republican Party could use this opportunity to clean up a murky primary process and open the process up to more transparency, reassuring voters that their voices are being heard.
By doing this, however, the Republican Party will be also sacrificing more than just the presidential election. With Trump at the top of the Republican ticket as the figurehead of the party, the Republicans will also likely lose control of the House and Senate due to Trump’s unfiltered and often controversial remarks that will likely damage many Republicans’ chances of winning reelection.
This leads us to the second option. Though no easier to swallow, the Republican party’s other choice is to let Cruz be the nominee. It would be well within reason and within the rules of the convention process for Cruz to be the nominee if Trump is still shy of 1,237 delegates. By electing Cruz at the convention, it is still possible that many Trump voters will walk out in anger, but the rules do make clear that Cruz would be equally legitimate and the fallout of a Cruz nomination would likely be less severe than the convention choosing another candidate. Cruz received many votes, which gives him credibility as a candidate.
Furthermore, it would teach all those in the Tea Party and other far-right factions within the Republican organization what have long felt the reasonable candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain lose is because they are too liberal that their ultraconservative candidate can and will in fact lose. Cruz would be the most conservative and clear-cut manifestation of the extreme right’s desires, and his defeat at the hands of Clinton would squash the extremist views that have long hindered moderate Republicans’ efforts.
Beyond this, if Cruz were the nominee, the Republican Party might still lose some House and Senate races, but it is unlikely to lose both houses of Congress as it likely would with Trump. Though extreme, Cruz tends to be more tight-lipped than Trump and is less likely to offend as broad a voting bloc.
Only then will the party be able to quiet the calls of those on the far right, and perhaps the party would unite around a more moderate, more electable Republican candidate to emerge as a contender to Clinton running for her second term, if that’s what it comes down to.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor