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Di Leo: Donald Trump and the GOP’s Deep Bench



Chicago Cubs' bench – Flickr photo by Steve Schar

By John F. Di Leo - 

Thoughts on a divided convention

We learned a few interesting things in the weekend before the 2016 Republican National Convention… two particularly important things that had been suspected, but only now are proven.

1: In the Rules committee meetings, we learned that the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee leadership – commonly known as “the GOP Establishment” – are now happy warriors together, working hand-in-glove to manage a rubber-stamp convention.

2: In the preparations for the Rules committee meetings, we learned that the Trump campaign’s own internal whipping of the delegates indicates that they have fewer than 900 delegates who can stand Donald Trump.  The suspicions of the #NeverTrump movement – that the vast majority of Republicans, and even the vast majority of the delegates, can stand him – are proven correct.

What does this mean to us, as we face the week in Cleveland?

A Divided Party

The Republican Party has never been fully unanimous. It is a big tent party, not just by design, but by necessity.  As the Democrats have driven conservatives, moderates, and even mild liberals out of their party, the GOP was the only place for them to go.  The Democratic Party is now, therefore, a fully socialist party, so if you’re not socialist, you’re a Republican by default.

This fact alone should settle every election; since most Americans are not (intentionally) socialist, the GOP should win every election.  But the Democrats are splendid at politics, if not at governing, while the Republicans are fine at governing, but dreadful at politics.  So the Democrats win, and the Republicans lose.

Two key reasons are the massive welfare state and the immigration balloon… The nation – especially the electorate – has essentially been invaded; we have tens of millions of people now participating in the electoral process who have no tie with, possibly even no consciousness of, the Founding Fathers and their philosophy of natural rights, Western civilization, market economics, and the rule of law.  Is it any wonder the Democrats win and the Republicans lose?

All the Republicans need to do is come together, and present a uniform message, through an effective messenger. Unfortunately, the Republicans have had several poor messengers in a row. 

The Republican electorate has been looking forward to 2016 for years; this was to be the year when our deep bench of wonderful candidates was guaranteed to produce a good one.  With proven governors and proven senators, the GOP was certain to nominate a pro… until Donald Trump invaded the process and declared a populist moment.  All you need in a field of 17 is to have the largest 17th, and sure enough, Donald Trump’s primary votes won him the largest share in the convoluted six-month Trial by Ordeal that we call the primary season.

The convention now begins with a division it has never had before.  Past nominees have always been from among the legitimate groups within the GOP. We have had conservatives (Harding, Coolidge, Goldwater, Reagan), moderates (Eisenhower, Ford, the Bushes), even liberals (Nixon, Dole, McCain)… but as they were always experienced people “of the party” – people who had held office as senator or governor or vice president, or even commanding general – the party could always unify, if a bit grudgingly, before.

In 2016, Donald Trump enters the convention without any grounds for demanding such unity.  Never an officeholder before, never a candidate before, never even a precinct captain before.  And yet he and his supporters demand the same kind of partisan loyalty that his predecessors had actually earned.

They wonder why the non-Trump supporters are offended, even repelled, by such an approach.

The divisions that were always there, remain present today.  But Donald Trump has added a whole new layer of division – the entitlement of “the outsider who won the primaries” vs. the disgust of the majority who rightly feel invaded, cheated and robbed by an interloper who has staged a hostile takeover of the Grand Old Party.

The Nation’s Needs

What does America need today?  The daily headlines leave it without question: we need a man or woman at the help who has real-life experience solving our nation’s problems.

We have a criminal justice system that allows criminals to escape conviction, and allows convicted criminals to escape serious sentencing. 

We have a military that is stretched ever further, with ever fewer resources, ever more limited by outrageous Rules of Engagement, and wasted by disjointed and fatalistic foreign policy.

We have ongoing unemployment, spiraling downward for a decade, kept hidden only by growing entitlement programs and new ways of counting, to hide the fact that 95 million people of working age are now outside the workforce.

We suffer an ongoing loss of manufacturing, as plant after plant, industry after industry, have fled to foreign shores… not been stolen, as some would have it, but driven off by a tax structure, litigious legal climate, and regulatory leviathan that have made life unbearable for the manufacturing sector.

Our culture suffers daily from attacks on traditional morality, attacks on church and synagogue, attacks on police and schools, attacks on charities and civic groups.  Obamacare was created to wreck the healthcare sector, from your neighborhood doctor, nurse, and insurance salesman to the wonderful hospital down the street.   The very foundation of American society is attacked daily by the press and the activist Left.  They file class action lawsuits demanding that we throw out physical standards for men at the fire house, that we stop having men’s and women’s bathrooms and locker rooms in the schools…  everything American is under assault, from the local level to the national.

Our nation doesn’t need a Hillary Clinton, who comes to the race with all the negative experience in the world.  Her resume is impressive, from Watergate investigation clerk to corporate lawyer to first lady, from the U.S. Senate to the State Department.  But all her experience, at every level and in virtually every job, proves her to have identified with the problems rather than with the solutions. 

Hillary Clinton is in every way identified with the breaking of our criminal justice situation, not its correction. She is identified with the weakening of our military and destruction  of our foreign policy, not their improvement.  Her economics would continue to worsen our job crisis and our shrinking economy. And she has fought against the wonderful  culture of the American Way her entire life; if elected, she would only work to intentionally worsen everything from which we already suffer.

As an alternative, who does the GOP have to offer?  Through a clever and incredibly lucky combination of marketing talent and an open primary system, Donald Trump won enough delegates to arrive at Cleveland as the frontrunner.  But he has no proven ability to correct any of these problems – he may have undemonstrated ability, of course, but no proven ability – he is a hotel-builder and television star, which certainly takes talent, but hardly talent that translates to the job at hand.

And Donald Trump arrives in Cleveland with forty years of baggage that would sink even the most talented candidate.

The Deep Bench

By contrast, the Republican Party has a deep bench of wonderful talent – the very talent that we saw in the 2016 primaries, but which was too often obscured by the sparkle and flash of the Trump campaign.

We have Scott Walker, who managed a metro area as Milwaukee County Executive, then managed an amazing turnaround that not only saved the State of Wisconsin on a statewide level, but even saved the institutionally bankrupt school districts of his state by retooling their economics to be sustainable at last.

We have Tom Coburn, a six year Congressman and ten year senator, a medical doctor and budget whiz who participated in the great mid 1990s leadership that reined in the Clinton administration and brought the federal budget into balance.

We have Ted Cruz, who as solicitor-general of Texas united dozens of state governments in organized opposition to federal encroachments, successfully arguing case after case before the Supreme Court, becoming the defender of the Constitution in the United States Senate.

And we have so many more… the Republican Party of 2016 has so many talented and experienced potential presidents-to-be… Jindal and Perry, Abbott and Martinez, Rubio and Haley, Sessions and Pence… that many in the Republican base didn’t even participate in the 2016 primaries.  They thought that from such a bench, we couldn’t go wrong, so they sat it out.

Sadly, while an overly confident Republican base sat out the primaries, independents and Democrats, disgusted by the choices in the Democrat primaries, came over and took Republican ballots.  Some for good reasons, some for bad.  Some because they truly liked the 140-character soundbites that Donald Trump issued hourly, some because they wanted to vote for the man they knew would be the weakest candidate in November. 

Some of these will vote for Donald Trump if he’s the nominee; some would never dream of it.   Some will never vote again; they were attracted while he was hot, and they’ll be back to the fall TV lineup again, their interest drawn elsewhere, as it always is.  Many already regret their vote for Trump, as they’ve seen him retreat from what had seemed to be such firm positions in the spring, which he now calls “just suggestions” as he pivots for the fall.

The Republican Convention Delegates face a quandary: what to do, when fewer than half of us can stand him, when most of us sincerely doubt he can win, when most of us know that the only thing he has going for him is that Hillary Clinton’s negatives are as high as his?

The Delegates look back on this spring, and look ahead to the fall, and dream of what might have been…

It’s Not Too Late

But in fact, it is NOT too late.  The fact remains that only 900 delegates are firmly committed to Donald Trump.  And the fact remains that the Republican bench is still as good as it was a year ago. 

Everyone on that beautiful bench  is still there, ready and willing, but with another year of experience!

If just half of the “Trump Delegates” who really can’t stand him just sit on their hands and abstain on the first ballot, we’ll have him under the necessary threshold.  With every successive ballot, more delegates are free to vote their conscience. 

As of this writing, the Republican Party can still have the exciting, thrilling convention that Americans dream of, possibly even the kind of excitement that we haven’t been able to truly enjoy since the television age began.

Just imagine the speeches as delegates place into nomination the knowns – like Coburn and Cruz and Walker – and the dark horses – perhaps senators, governors, past cabinet officials we haven’t thought of yet as well?

The convention will be watched… and Americans will see the Republican party in action, a party that the press has hidden from them for year.  A party of successes at the state level.  A party of principle, a party of proud Americans who love their Constitution and the heritage of our Founding Fathers.

If we leave Cleveland with someone else atop our ticket, we will create levels of genuine interest, and even true excitement, that we haven’t seen since 1980.

Republican Delegates, it’s in your hands.  Be brave, be principled, be Americans.

Copyright 2016 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade lecturer, writer, and actor. A former area Republican party volunteer, campaign manager and onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman, he has now been a recovering politician for nineteen years (but, like any addiction, you’re never really cured).

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.


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  1. If Republicans continue to act so bull-headed over the people’s choice in Donald Trump, then may Heaven help them. There will be no Republican Party to vote for if the idea succeeds of having another person put on the GOP ticket but Trump. Expect a Hillary to win, and with Hillary win will come a progressive Supreme Court that would advance a nation that Trump haters would find a threat to their own liberty and justice which they certainly value. An all Democratic Socialist nation and government would also be the outcome, when millions of immigrants are given amnesty who are already here, and millions more will cross over the southern border into this nation who will gladly take all the goodies and perks that are foolishly being offered because there are Republicans whose brains are addled in believing that what they want to achieve is a good thing.
    To all the Trump haters, may you sleep well when your nation becomes one that is beyond changing because you are so stuck on appearing righteous. Instead you appear foolish. Patriots you are not!

  2. “As the Democrats have driven conservatives, moderates, and even mild liberals out of their party, the GOP was the only place for them to go.”
    That is one of the most unintentionally hilarious statements I ever have read.

  3. Trump won with more votes than any other republican candidate in the history of the party! What is your basis for indicating mainstream republicans sat at home confident their RINO would win?! That is revisionist history, history in which the ink is barely drying! Trump is the Republican Candidate, and every individual that ran against him signed a pledge to support the winner of the primary! Yet the likes of Kasich and Bush sit home and whine like spoiled children, which is precisely what they are, and precisely why they lost. It is time for a leader, a standard bearer that will make America Great Again, and embrace the common American experience that comes through assimilation and is the opposite of the multi-Cultureism destruction our nation is suffering from.

  4. “Trump won with more votes than any other republican candidate in the history of the party!”
    That only tells half the story. It is just as true that more people voted AGAINST tRump than any other candidate in the history of the party!

  5. They don’t get that the 14 million people who came into the party primary this year for the first time will be back in four years if they succeed at stabbing them in the back. This thing isn’t going away, however much they drag their feet. Their attempt to close future primaries yesterday literally crashed.

  6. You do realize thatTrump voters aren’t going away in the future? If NeverTrump succeeds at stabbing them in the back, I don’t know if Trump will run again but I do know that somebody like Sarah Palin will do really well in the primaries if she duplicates Trump. You better get used to it.

  7. Trump voters should know that the primary process is the selection of delegates to come up with a majority-acceptable candidate at the convention. The fact that this has been the frontrunner in the delegate count for 40 years doesn’t change the fact that the frontrunner isn’t guaranteed the nomination.
    The person who OUGHT to get the nomination is the one who can best excite the majority of delegates, period.
    And the trump supporters have four more years to learn that, before the 2020 campaign.
    Here’s the thing… winning elections isn’t supposed to be about finding a majority and satisfying them. It’s supposed to be about being right on the issues, and convincing a majority of that fact so that you earn their support.
    There’s a big difference between “politics by tweet” and “politics by the Federalist Papers”.

  8. Geez, John, give it up aready! Trump is the nominee. You, Michael Medved, and Mark Levin need to stop trashing the people who voted for him. Why don’t you try supporting Trump? He might actually win! But no, we all have to be YOUR type of conservative: an academic purist. Why don’t you guys just vote for Hillary?

  9. Past voting is the best predictor of future voting. The 14 million people who voted for Trump are now 50 times more likely to vote in future primaries than they were before. And actually, winning elections IS about finding the majority and satisfying it. Jefferson was right about that. If Trump were to lose, I predict that Sarah Palin will be the nominee in 2020. Get used to the new party John or get the hell out.
    This is conservatism.