A grassroots campaign has begun to attempt to unbind the delegates to the Republican National Convention so they can be free to nominate a candidate more worthy of the presidency than Donald Trump. The “Free the Delegates” campaign was initiated by Kendal Unruh, a Cruz delegate from Colorado and a member of the convention rules committee. Unruh is a high school social studies teacher and a conservative Christian with the moral firmness of solid rock. Here she is, explaining her position in an interview on nationwide television.
The campaign began with the issuing of a delegates’ Declaration of Independence stating the case for unbinding the convention. It reads in part:
To our fellow Republicans:
We, the undersigned, have decided to come forward “for such a time as this.”…
The rules of the Republican Party have been clear since its first convention in Philadelphia. Delegates can’t be forced to do something which violates their own conscience. Rule 38 clearly states “No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state of a Congressional district to impose the unit rule. A ‘unit rule’ prohibited by this section means a rule or law under which a delegation at the national convention casts its entire vote as a unit as determined by a majority vote of the delegation.”
The Constitution protects freedom of association. It is unconstitutional for state governments to violate the First Amendment by mandating the manner in which private citizens govern private institutions (see Cousins v. Wigoda).
About the most un-Republican thing, the party of Lincoln and Reagan can do is compelling its members to violate their own conscience. And that is particularly true since ours was a party founded by those who refused to violate their consciences as one-time members of the Whig Party. Beyond simply being illegal, such an act is a repudiation of everything it means to be a Republican.
For these reasons, we the undersigned, who have been duly elected as delegates of the Republican Party to represent the interest of our fellow Republicans, consider ourselves unbound and will vote accordingly at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland July 18-21….
We delegates are the closest representation of the base of our party. We are elected officials as well as everyday activists. And because we stand on principle before all else, we are the GOP’s lifeblood.
It is time for actual Republicans to determine who our nominee will be once more. Much time, talent, and treasure has been volunteered in order to be delegates to the Republican Party and, in so doing, preserve the conservative platform for which it stands, ensure its integrity and strengthen its legacy.
Now, more than ever, with American Exceptionalism teetering on the brink of history, the American people and our cherished Constitution both need the real Republican Party to please stand up. That is our charge to keep in Cleveland, and keep it we will.
On the evening of June 19, delegates attracted by the call held a teleconference, and the campaign has now taken off nationwide, breaking press in the Washington Post shortly thereafter. Predictably, Trump supporters have responded to the initiative with rage, exemplified by the postings found here. I don’t think they are going to have much luck with such tactics. This lady is not for turning. If you want to join the campaign to free the delegates, you can do so at on Facebook at Free the Delegates 2016.
The multi-pronged effort includes outreach to individual attendees, national television ads, and even a lawsuit. Trump opponents want to allow the 2,472 delegates to vote for whoever they want instead of casting ballots according to the results of the state primaries and caucuses, in which Trump picked up the most delegates in a crowded field of contenders.
Backers of the efforts to block Trump say extraordinary measures are necessary for light of the candidate’s declining poll numbers, low fundraising and penchant for inflammatory rhetoric. “The convention is not a coronation. They were never meant to be,” said Steve Lonegan, a New Jersey-based Republican operative who is working with Courageous Conservatives PAC, one of the several groups pushing to free the delegates.
Pointing to Trump’s recent gaffes, Lonegan said: “these delegates have an obligation to review all of this.” The grass-roots movement would require organizers to contact scores of delegates and argue the merits of a politically fraught position that would essentially invalidate the results of the primary season. And organizers have not put forth an alternative candidate for the nomination should Trump falter, leaving delegates with no substitute to rally around.
Still, the fledgling effort is being closely watched by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, which worry that any convention chaos would show a lack of confidence about the presumptive nominee within his own party, weakening him before the general election. The movement has thrown a spotlight on the procedures that guide the nomination process.
In this case, Trump opponents are focusing on whether delegates should be bound to the results of the primaries, in accordance with state laws and party rules. Most state delegations are required to vote according to the results of their primary or caucus on at least the first round of balloting. Curly Haugland, a GOP party official from North Dakota, has argued for years that convention delegates are not bound at all. Haugland’s proposal got little traction in the past, but it is now championed by a bloc of Republicans who are calling for delegates to vote freely regardless of primary results.
Another faction, led by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, is proposing a rule to make clear that delegates have a right to “vote their conscience” without risking sanctions or censure from the national or state party.The “conscience clause” proposal would first be considered by the convention rules committee, the 112-member body that will meet a week before the nominating proceedings kick off.
Getting approval from a majority of rules committee members — many of whom are allies of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — is a steep climb, but gaining the support of a quarter of the committee members would be enough to produce a minority report, which would be presented at the full convention. Delegates would then choose between two competing rules packages.
Advocates for freeing the delegates, meanwhile, have been cheered by what they see as subtle nods to their efforts by Republican leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said earlier this month that delegates should follow their conscience when casting a vote. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker echoed those remarks. Proponents have begun to hire staff members, coordinate their efforts through regular conference calls and reach out to delegates. Lonegan, Unruh, and other organizers have become staples on cable news, hoping to build momentum via a media blitz.
The Citizens in Charge Foundation, a conservative organization, has distributed Haugland’s book, Unbound, for free, and an affiliated group is running a television ad nationally to call for delegates to vote according to their conscience. The foundation also is backing a lawsuit filed last week by a Virginia delegate who is seeking to block a state law requiring that delegates cast their votes on the first ballot according to the results of the primary. “Our effort is to provide political cover, understanding and education to the delegates,” said Dane Waters, a co-founder of a group called Delegates Unbound. What they are not trying to do, Waters said, is promote a substitute for Trump.
“We don’t have a dog in the hunt. We’re not trying to push any specific candidate,” Waters said. “As long as the delegates can vote freely, let the cards fall where they may.”
Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal reported: The anti-Trump camp needs the backing of 28, or one-quarter, of the 112 Convention Rules Committee members, in order to place the issue before the full convention. A Wall Street Journal survey suggests it could be close.
In interviews, 20 members said they are willing to consider allowing delegates to be unbound, while 59 support Mr. Trump. The other 33 panelists couldn’t be reached or did not respond to repeated messages.Though a majority of the convention delegates are bound to support Mr. Trump, Mr. Evans’s count shows just about 890 delegates are personally loyal to the New Yorker. Another 680 oppose Mr. Trump. That leaves 900 delegates who are presumed to be “in play,” he said. The stop-Trump forces would have to take nearly two-thirds of them to block his nomination.
In other words, if the vote gets to the convention floor on whether or not to unbound the delegates, all hell could break loose. Trump has shown himself to be an incredibly poor organizer, so if a fight for the nomination breaks out, the anti-Trump forces could find themselves with a chance to rid their party of Donald Trump.
The whole scenario is a bit of a long-shot, but the fact that the anti-Trump Republicans nearly have the votes needed to turn the convention into a real fight speaks volumes about the current state of the Republican Party. Instead of a four-day infomercial centered around the self-styled greatness of Donald Trump, the Republican convention could turn into a bare-knuckled political brawl that will Trump emerge from bloodied and bruised.
None of this is good news for Trump. The never Trumps will make one last stand in Cleveland. With the Republican Party so fractured it would not be surprising to see the GOP dump Trump.Tags: 2016 election Donald Trump GOP Reince Priebus
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.