Chaos reigned in the early hours of the Republican convention in Cleveland, as a last-ditch effort by Republicans trying to Stop Trump was foiled by Trump loyalists.
Convention delegates opposed to Trump attempted to force a roll-call vote on the convention floor, seeking to block the rules governing the convention — including rules binding delegates to specific candidates.
The power play — a Hail Mary at best — could have opened a door to a contested convention and the outside possibility of a candidate other than Trump emerging with the nomination.
Following the convention’s parliamentary procedure, the delegations of at least nine states submitted a demand to hold a roll-call vote on the rules package. That ought to have forced the issue. Instead, the convention descended briefly into bedlam. On the RNC floor, hoots of “Roll call!” were countered by cheers of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” The scene grew more chaotic when presiding convention master Rep. Steve Womack simply abandoned the podium on the convention center’s stage.
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a Trump opponent, was being interviewed by C-SPAN at the time, and narrated the proceedings from the floor: “We are now in uncharted territory,” Lee said. “I have never seen the chair abandoned like that. They vacated the stage entirely.”
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When Womack finally returned after several heated minutes, he announced that three states had, in the interim, withdrawn their support for the roll-call vote.
Womack then declared the rules package adopted on the basis of a boisterous voice vote in which he judged the “yeas” louder than the “nays.”
The opening hours of the convention underscored that the Grand Old Party is far from unified behind its presumptive nominee, and that even the selection of ur-conservative Mike Pence of Indiana as Trump’s running mate have not calmed the waters.
Regina Thompson, a Colorado delegate and co-founder of Free the Delegates, which was working to secure an RNC rules change to allow delegates to vote their conscience, tells Rolling Stone she doesn’t “for one minute believe that [RNC leadership] are being honest about the process. They did it simply to force through the rules package without any consent.”
Carroll “Beau” Correll Jr., a Virginia delegate who recently won a lawsuit in the state over being able to vote against Trump, says, “It was an absolute strong-arm of the whole grassroots of the party. It was horrendous.”
Correll, a Free the Delegates member, adds that some delegates are “currently considering” boycotting the convention.
Thompson is somewhat more resigned. “I won’t campaign against Mr. Trump — there is no point in that — and I will certainly not campaign for a third party, but I also won’t cast a vote for him,” says Thompson. “I can’t in good conscience vote for someone that I feel is so tragically wrong not only to be the president of the United States, but for the Republican Party.
“I can you that the people down on that floor who yelled and screamed and demanded a roll call vote are not the elites of this party,” she says. “These are the everyday folks who worked hard to have their voice heard.
“What we may find is: When it comes time to nominate the candidate, we may find — spontaneously, across the delegations — that people will refuse to cast a vote for him. That would not surprise me.”