I have seen a great many comments in several diaries lately asking whether there is any way for the Republican Party to, now, at this late moment, dump Trump. Or, conversely, what would happen if he decided that he was just tired of all of this, and quit.
The first part is easier to answer: no. The process of selecting the candidate from the two major political parties is determined by those parties’ rules—hence the last-gasp NeverTrump kerfluffle (that didn’t amount to much) at the RNC. Simply put, there’s no do-over provision in the Republican Party rules, and the window to amend those rules has long since closed. The Republican Party has taken ownership of him, and they can’t just leave him in a cardboard box on the curb. That’s not to say they shouldn’t, if they can scrounge up some moral decency, repudiate him and his comments, and beg forgiveness from the American electorate from allowing this to happen in the first place. But they still can’t simply strip him of the nomination.
The second part is much more complicated, and literally unprecedented in American politics. What if Trump just quits? As it turns out, the Republican Party does have a plan in case their nominee just goes away—intended for use in the unfortunate circumstance where a candidate dies, but just as applicable if Trump were to simply walk away from his campaign. Should that occur, the Republican National Committee will make a determination which of two processes they will employ (presumably, that’s a majority-carries vote, but that much isn’t clear). As a result of that decision, they will either re-convene the Republican National Convention (amazingly unlikely due to the expense and the fact that it would immediately become the ugly sort of “contested convention” they were warned about) or poll the RNC state representatives (repeatedly, if necessary) until a new candidate receives a simple majority vote. As a quick aside, the GOP rules here are a lot clearer than the Democratic Party rules (which just say the candidate will be replaced, but don’t actually detail how), so be glad we’re not the ones with this problem.
Now, astute observers might conclude that the 165 individuals (a chair and two committee members from each of the 50 states, American Samoa, DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico) would probably not be able to quickly agree on a compromise candidate. They’d probably be right, and the media would (rightly) make a field day of things. Seriously, who do they select? Cruz (not a chance!)? Jeb? Rubio? Ryan? Why would any of those people actually accept such a painfully tainted nomination? Notably, there’s no requirement that they select the VP nominee to be the new Presidential nominee; indeed, a strict reading of the rules suggests that, unless he were to also withdraw, Pence would remain the VP candidate (historical note: if Pence just really wanted to stay, Trump’s hypothetical replacement couldn’t boot him off any more than the GOP can boot Trump; the closest parallel there is to Eagleton, who actually did tender a resignation from the candidacy—although very much at McGovern’s request!).
But the Republican Party’s problems would not end there. Because ballots.
Just because someone stops (or starts) becoming a candidate for an office doesn’t guarantee that physical ballots reflect those changes. Ballots require time to be prepared, printed, and distributed. That process varies wildly from state to state. New Jersey is reasonably representative: their ballots will be finalized on September 19, but, by statute, requires that candidate vacancies be filled no later than September 15. Alaksa’s final deadline to replace a candidate is earlier (as you might expect because Alaska): September 5. And so forth. If the deadlines are missed, well, that’s too bad, the ballots would still show Donald Trump. Taking into account the time necessary for the GOP to choose a new nominee, and to prepare and submit (and have received) the state-by-state recertification paperwork, if Trump doesn’t quit in the next 3 weeks—tops—the party will not be able to do anything to functionally replace him.
If they miss these deadlines, the Republican Party could, of course, file legal challenges that the resulting election was unfair. However, the Supreme Court is, shall we say, deeply unlikely to jump into another Presidential election if they don’t have to, and precedent (from Congressional races) suggests that the ballots (and results) would be permitted to stand. Alternatively, Congress could intervene before November 8, passing a law to delay the 2016 general election (presumably so that new ballots could be prepared); the odds of that actually occurring are somewhat indistinguishable from zero.
So, is there any chance that the Republicans will be able to dump Trump, or that Trump will dump himself? I certainly wouldn’t put money on it! The party clearly has no leverage over their candidate whatsoever, or they’d have long ago gotten someone to scramble the password to his Twitter account. As I write this, it’s August 2. If Trump were to tire of his candidacy and quit by, say, the 19th, the party might have time to fix the ballot problem across the board (although military and other oversees ballots might still be a problem). By the following week, they’d probably start to slip deadlines in states like Alaska. So those hoping to see Trump replaced, ask yourselves: is there anything in the candidate’s behavior that suggests that within the next, say, 20 days, he’s going to stop doing what he’s doing and leave the limelight behind?
No. I didn’t think so either.
Trump will be the candidate on the ballots in November, and we must do everything possible to defeat him and his ilk, along with any Republicans who do anything other than forcefully disavow the monster they have let loose on America.