Republicans are in between a rock and a hard place.
Last week, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump took five out of six primaries, ultimately dominating the night. The only primary not won by him was won by Governor John Kasich, in his own state of Ohio. Although many Republican leaders have said they are going to stop Trump in the next few contests, it doesn’t seem likely.
After last Tuesday, less than half of the delegates are up for grabs and Trump is already halfway towards the majority needed to clinch the nomination. The next contests are winner-take-all, which heavily favors Trump. In these contests, whoever wins a plurality of delegates wins all of them, essentially boxing out the other candidates.
The Republican establishment’s new plan has been to keep Trump from winning the majority of delegates, regardless of who wins the most. However, this strategy is political suicide. Trump recently said “I don’t think you can say that we don’t get [the nomination] automatically. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing many, many millions of people.” Unfortunately, he’s right.
The whole purpose of the primary election is to elect the candidate with the most votes, as in any democratic process. So far, Trump has a plurality of votes at 7.5 million. He leads Senator Ted Cruz, the candidate who has the most potential to beat Trump, by almost 2 million votes. To rob Trump of the Republican nomination now would disenfranchise those 7.5 million voters, risking either a very low Republican voter turnout, or a very powerful third-party candidate.
There is precedent in nominating or electing the less popular candidate. In the presidential election of 1824, then-Senator Andrew Jackson had won 43 percent of the vote. However, since no candidate won a majority of the vote, the election went to the House of Representatives, and they elected the less popular candidate, Democratic-Republican candidate John Quincy Adams. For four years after that decision, Jackson derided the political establishment as a “corrupt bargain,” ran again on the Democratic party ticket, and won the 1828 and 1832 elections. The Democratic-Republican party was completely changed in Jackson’s favor.
If Trump comes out of the nomination process with a plurality (which he most likely will) and is not nominated as the Republican candidate, he most definitely will deride the Republican party as another “corrupt bargain.” Just as Jackson took advantage of the Democratic-Republican back dealing and subsequently won two presidential elections, Trump will establish his own party and take advantage of the splintering of the Republican party.