One of the most baffling phenomena of the year, in my view, has been the astonishing ease with which so many Republican leaders have accepted Donald Trump as the leader of their party and embraced his whims in lieu of their own preferences and principles. Yesterday he clearly had the party leadership, writ large, marching to his tune.
The proof came during a last-ditch effort, on the part of dissatisfied delegates, to throw a spanner in the gears before the party officially nominates Trump for president. The delegates opposed to Trump had, over the weekend, organized an alternative strategy after their efforts at mutiny on the Rules Committee were unceremoniously squelched. On Monday they launched their plan: a majority of delegates in more than seven states had signed a petition asking for a roll call vote on the adoption of the rules, which were scheduled for adoption by voice vote at late yesterday afternoon. The delay that ensued during the convention proceedings was evidence enough of behind-the-scenes consternation. For perhaps half an hour the podium was deserted, as anti-Trump leaders, easily identified by their fluorescent green baseball caps, roamed the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, rallying their supporters, and Trump supporters did the same, focusing on the unruly states, pressuring individual delegates to recant their support for the roll call vote. The results, which played out on live television, were messy; Rosie Gray, at Buzzfeed, details the parliamentary arguments behind the angry shouting that you might have seen broadcast on live television.
Of note, for Texans, was the relative calm of the Texas delegation during the drama. Our state’s delegates are easily identified at the national convention, thanks to their cowboy hats and Texas flag shirts, and throughout the hour, most of them remained politely in their corral. The state was not among those that submitted a petition; nor did it join its neighboring delegation, Colorado, when angry anti-Trump forces walked off the floor. All of this, I think, can be taken as corroboration that Ted Cruz has been studiously uninvolved in the mutiny, though he surely doesn’t like Trump any more than his best friend, Utah’s Mike Lee, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the RNC’s efforts to stamp out dissent.
In any case, though, the rebellion was squashed. That may, I suspect, turn out to look like a pyrrhic victory for the Trump campaign; they can insist that Trump’s critics would have lost, and they probably would have, but instead, as it happened, they were throttled on live television. And this morning, finally, there are some signs that Republican officials have had enough of Trump’s efforts to cow them into submission. Melania Trump, who gave a keynote speech on behalf of her husband last night, spoke well. But her speech plagiarized from the one that Michelle Obama delivered, in behalf of hers, in 2008. Paul Manafort, Trump’s strongman, has spent all morning insisting otherwise, and trying to blame the controversy on Hillary Clinton. That spin is too inane, it would appear, for even Fox News to rubber-stamp.