I’m seeing this thrown around a lot over the last few days. Especially by Trump surrogates insisting that if he doesn’t get the nomination “the establishment” has interfered.
Let’s lay some ground work first. If Trump gets to 1237 and the GOP pulls some hijinks, then yes, I’d say they overruled voters. Sure Trump is likely to only get a plurality of votes when this is all in, but the system works how the system works.
The question of “the establishment” bolting from the party under nominee Trump is a bit trickier, but I’ll say this: It’s paradoxical to say “the GOP has to earn my vote” when you’re angry at them but then screaming at anyone who leaves because of Trump. (Granted if the establishment that is elected, i.e. congressmen and senators, want to back a 3rd party candidate, they should switch affiliations.)
But let’s set that aside for a moment and look at what is shaping up to be a possibility: that Trump enters the convention with some number less than 1237. I think it’s more than fair to say at that point that “not Trump” carried the day (having won a majority of delegates.) It’s going to come down then who’s delegate selection process was the best on the later ballots.
Now it is true that delegates are chosen (in most cases) after the primary, but in many states you do at least have some say in it. (I for example will go to caucus in MO on April 9th. There we’ll elect people to go to congressional distract and state conventions to chose delegates for the national convention. I might even throw my hat into the ring.)
Now yes, in MO at least for the state convention delegates must be elected as a slate (that is a complete list of all 25 potential delegates. But guess what campaigns can put forward slates! And then send people to caucus to push for those slates to be sent to congressional district and state caucuses!
So yes “the establishment” has control, in the sense that the establishment is the people who bother to show up on those days. Ground game matters big here. If the self-proclaimed “greatest deal maker ever” can’t figure out how to navigate this process, then he’ll lose an open convention. And if Ted Cruz figures it out and wins on a later ballot, did “the establishment” really steal anything? Or did the committed party members (i.e. those who showed up) make their voice heard.
Now yes, there can be parliamentary games played here, for example eliminating “Rule 40” which sets a floor of having won a majority of delegates in 8 states to be on the ballot. But guess what, those games are played by…wait for it…the delegates. So once again, we see that an open convention comes down to a) who’s supporters were committed enough to show up and b) who navigated the delegate choosing process the best.
If Trump can’t get to 1237, and then blows it at convention he has no one to blame but himself and his strategy of running a campaign on the cheap with no ground game. (Similarly, if Cruz holds Trump to a draw and blows it at convention he didn’t run his game hard enough.)