Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

I really don’t bear the antipathy for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that a lot of people do. We’ve seem some real douchenozzles lead the RNC and if you don’t like Priebus you at least have to acknowledge he is the best of a bad lot. Now he has a disaster shaping up in Cleveland and in the general election. The disaster wasn’t of his making but it will be the one thing people remember about his tenure.

As it stands now it looks like, in my opinion, that Donald Trump will arrive at Cleveland with less than 1,237 delegates and he will not be able to convince enough uncommitted delegates to vote for him. This brings up the spectre of a real contested convention, one that goes on for at least two ballots, and one that Donald Trump simply can’t win because he is a buffoon in manner and simply not a very bright or hard-working guy.

The immediate problem facing Priebus is that if Trump loses he will take his ball in his very, very tiny hands and walk:

First off, Trump will throw a fit over any result other than his nomination. We know that his definition of fairness is, “I win.” But the closer he is to 1,237 bound delegates, the more that cry would resonate with voters and observers.

Throughout the general election, a spurned Trump would continue to get the billions of the free airtime that cable networks love to give him, and he would use it to trash the Republican nominee and the party as a whole. Some share of the 35 percent of the GOP electorate that backed Trump could turn against the GOP nominee. That could also create electoral blowout, also with downballot consequences for the GOP.

And Trump’s goon, Roger Stone has been encouraging the Trump flying monkeys to assault GOP delegates hostile to nominating Trump and to riot to disrupt the convention.

To tamp this down, Priebus has been preaching party unity, particularly to the #NeverTrump types:

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday called for Republicans to unite ahead of the presidential election, striking back against the Never Trump movement.

“It is essential to victory in November that we all support our candidate,” Priebus said at the RNC’s spring meeting in Hollywood, Fla.

“This goes for everyone, whether you’re a county party chairman, an RNC member, or a presidential candidate. Politics is a team sport, and we can’t win unless we rally around whoever becomes our nominee,” he added, drawing applause from the audience.

“They’re trying out for our team. No one is forcing them to wear our jersey. We expect our candidates to support our party and our eventual nominee.”

But there are problems with that. The most obvious one is that about 65% of the GOP doesn’t believe Trump is actually on their team. And Priebus’s call for party unity may actually be making the seemingly inevitable blow-up in Cleveland bigger than need be because it is feeding into the Trump campaign’s neurosis that if it arrives in Cleveland with the most delegates the rules will be changed to award them a victory and everyone will simply fall in line. This from Ben Domenech via The Transom:

…[The Trump campaign] plan to make the explicit case that failing to nominate Trump, even a Trump stuck below 1,200, would throw Cleveland into disarray and lead to his undermining a “stolen” nomination for months. They have been saying this privately for weeks, and they expect RNC officials to increasingly soften their public statements about the need to get to 1,237.

Of course, the weakness of this view on the part of Trump’s associates is that it is the sort of thing one might think about politics if you’ve been away from it since the 1990s, perhaps working for more authoritarian regimes in messier parts of the world, where poisoning opponents and denying their access to political privilege carries a much greater threat. It betrays the assumption that conservatives and conservative delegates are easily led from the top down, and that this angry herd of cats will take direction from power brokers and the likes of Mitch McConnell for the sake of party unity and under threat of losing their political access. And it invests far too much faith in the ability of Reince Priebus to hold the #NeverTrumpers feet to the fire and force them to unite.

In this mistaken view, Trump’s team assumes a far greater degree of natural party unity than exists in the GOP in the past decade. Anyone active in conservative circles more recently knows that the regional governors have nothing to turn to – there is no motivating force of fear to keep the local systems in line. The kinds of people who are making up the current Cruz-leaning delegations – people who have been active in the past decade, who contributed to the rise of the Tea Party and generally have much firmer ideologically driven reasons for being involved in politics – are not just less loyal to the party, they have little use for it if it is taken over by someone who they view as not just a bad choice, but antagonistic to their beliefs.

If any move is made by the GOP hierarchy to pave the way for Donald Trump you can bet their will be a hue and cry raised by delegates who are not particularly loyal to the party apparatus. If those changes do result in a Donald Trump nomination, the bloodbath the GOP will suffer in November will make losing 35% of the GOP electorate look like a bargain.