How the ‘Never Trump’ movement failed at the RNC

'Never Trump' delegates' last challenge to Trump died in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Mike Segar/Reuters
A delegate with a GOP mascot elephant wipes his brow on the floor at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Donald Trump is about to get the Republican Party's formal nomination.

A zero-hour challenge from a group of delegates dubbed the Never Trump movement failed at the Republican National Convention on Monday, sealing the nomination for Mr. Trump. The delegates, led by a Denver schoolteacher and conservative activist, had sought to change party rules binding delegates to the vote pledged during the primaries.

Unbinding delegates from their earlier pledge, said the movement's proponents, would free them to "vote their conscience" – for anyone but Trump. And they said a signature-collection drive had netted enough names to obligate the party to hold a roll-call vote on whether to keep existing rules or scrap them, instead of the less precise voice vote usually used to make that decision.

According to party rules, a roll-call vote requires a majority of delegates from at least seven states to get behind it. Members of the Never Trump coalition Delegates Unbound claimed they'd gotten more than they needed, according to ABC News.

"Despite every obstacle thrown in our way, the movement of all the stakeholders involved in this effort have gained a majority of the delegates in 10 states," Delegates Unbound co-founder M. Dane Waters said before the Convention on Tuesday. "Now we take this fight to the floor."

But their effort came to a dramatic end on Monday on the Convention floor when Rep. Steve Womack (R) of Arkansas, who was presiding over the rule-approval process, twice called a voice vote on the existing rules – and twice deemed that those in favor of keeping them had won out, eliciting boos from some delegates.

That decision roiled the floor, with some Never Trump delegates clamoring for the roll call, and others walking out in protest.

RNC leaders keen on uniting the party around Trump had taken an unusual decision in choosing Mr. Womack to preside over the floor vote rather than House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had recently made comments seeming to suggest sympathy with those pushing for a "conscience vote." And leaders seemed to have prepared for the challenge.

With dissent erupting on the Convention floor, according to an account of the events by Politico, RNC and Trump campaign whips fanned out across the crowd, finding delegates who had signed their support to the conscience-vote drive. In a short time, the whips collected a list of withdrawal signatures that they said was long enough to take several states off of the Never Trump coalition’s list. After that effort, RNC leaders determined that the anti-Trump campaigners had fallen short of the seven-state minimum to force the roll call vote, meaning the informal voice vote would hold.

Never Trump delegates criticized the proceedings afterward. Rory Cooper, a senior adviser with the coalition, accused party officials of "strong-arming delegates and skirting the rules to silence" party members, in a statement to reporters.

The Trump campaign dismissed the group's claims. Campaign leaders had repeatedly downplayed the strength of Trump opponents within the party, with campaign manager Paul Manafort telling reporters on Monday, "It's not a movement. It's some rogue, recalcitrant delegates."

Trump is expected to be formally awarded the nomination at the Convention on Tuesday. Some anti-Trump delegates insisted that their efforts were ongoing. 

"Stay tuned. There's a Plan B," said Kendal Unruh, the Colorado schoolteacher and activist who led the conscience-vote signature drive, in an interview with The Hill. "We're going to go back, we're going to strategize ... what they chose was to play hardball to make sure there wasn't dissent, and now they're going to get it."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.