It seems one of the objectives of Donald Trump’s campaign of late is to prepare his fans to cry foul if he ends up with the most delegates but doesn’t get the nomination at the Republican National Convention. His message declares that having more delegates than anyone else entitles him to be the Republican nominee. That sounds reasonable in some circumstances. After all, Bill Clinton won the presidency twice without ever winning a majority of votes cast. But there’s a big problem with the Trump camp’s reasoning. The rules for becoming the Republican Party’s nominee require a candidate to get, not a plurality, but a majority of delegates.
Whether or not you are Trump supporter, you must acknowledge that this rule is clear and unambiguous and was written long before the Trump Train ever left the station. It is no more an obstacle to Trump’s quest for the nomination than it was for any previous presidential hopeful before him. You may not like the rule, but it is irrational and inaccurate to say that it was created to stop Trump from becoming the nominee.
Let me illustrate the fallacy of Trump’s accusation of injustice if he falls short of the 1,237 delegates and doesn’t win the nomination. Revisit with me Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory in the presidential election. That year, H. Ross Perot mounted a serious third-party run in which he amassed just under 19% of the popular vote nationwide. Perot’s chunk of the vote made it practically impossible for anyone running that year to get to 50%. Indeed, Clinton ended up winning with just 43%. Back then, many Republicans cried foul that Clinton could earn four years in the White House with so little support. However, was there any injustice? Were there any rules broken? No, there weren’t. Clinton won fair and square according to the rules set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
Now, let say for a moment that a majority was required, and the Constitution prescribed holding revotes until one candidate did earn a majority of the vote. In that case, would Clinton’s fans be justified in demanding that he be declared the president without any revotes? Absolutely not. And I imagine many of those who now support Trump would be among the loudest in voicing their demands that the rules be followed. It simply comes down to the rules in place, and the rules in place for winning the Republican nomination prescribe revotes until one candidate has earned a majority.
I could go on with analogy after analogy illustrating the absurdity of calling it cheating to deny Trump the nomination if he doesn’t get to 1,237, but I’ll limit them to just one more. Back in 2000’s famous chad-laced election, Al Gore actually did get the majority of the national vote – and he still lost. How could this happen? Because the rules set forth in the Constitution require a majority of the Electoral College vote, not the popular vote. Was it unfair to Gore? That’s debatable. But was he cheated out of the presidency? Not at all. In the application of the rules, Gore lost fair and square.
As we near the homestretch of this long and entertaining run to Cleveland, one thing remains true. A majority of delegates is required to win the nomination. If Trump gets to 1,237, he will have earned the right to be the GOP nominee – and it doesn’t matter if that happens before the convention or on the 15th ballot. If, on the other hand, he doesn’t get there, the unfairness would be to somehow ignore the rules and give it to him anyway. That would be unjust and unfair. Much to the chagrin of Trump and his supporters, that would be an actual case of cheating.