It’s Trump time in Cleveland

Campaign 2016 | Donald Trump seals the Republican nomination, but foes continue to plot an uphill independent bid
by Jamie Dean
Posted 7/20/16, 12:51 pm

CLEVELAND—There’s a scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford hammers away at a clunky typewriter in the newsroom of The Washington Post while a flickering television screen carries live coverage of President Richard Nixon’s re-nomination at the 1972 Republican National Convention.

Delegates in the Miami Beach convention hall chant “four more years,” as Redford (playing journalist Bob Woodward) quietly pounds out work that will eventually lead to Nixon’s downfall in the Watergate scandal.

Last night in Cleveland, journalists hunched over thin laptops and tiny tablets glanced at a bank of flat-screen televisions in the bowels of this city’s sports arena, as Republican delegates nominated Donald Trump for president.

No signs of Watergate investigations here.

One reporter filed a blog post about whether Melania Trump plagiarized her prime-time speech from past remarks by first lady Michelle Obama. (This question dominated news coverage all day, despite a dramatic floor fight the afternoon before.)

A radio reporter on the other side of a blue curtain searched for the vilest clips he could find from a Ku Klux Klan protester in downtown Park Square earlier in the day. (Demonstrations in the public park grew nasty but stayed contained by flanks of police officers surrounding the square on horseback, bike, and foot.)

Behind a cubicle wall with open gaps, another press member leaned back in a chair and watched a movie on his computer: the opening scene from The Godfather, where visitors pay homage to the powerful Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) at his daughter’s wedding reception.

Meanwhile, the Republican roll call continued, as Eric Trump announced the New York delegation cast 89 votes for his father, officially giving the business mogul enough delegates to clinch the GOP nomination. The crowd erupted into cheers and chants of “Trump” and “USA.”

A few blocks away, another scene was quietly unfolding.

In a narrow restaurant space near the city’s Warehouse District, a couple dozen men and women mingled over crab cakes and red wine, discussing another notion: Maybe they could still fight Trump.

This was a reception for the group Better for America, a non-partisan organization formed to explore the possibility of an independent candidate in this November’s election.

Over the din of live jazz music, Anne MacDonald, the group’s executive director, insisted it’s more than wishful thinking. She said the group has about 24 people on staff, and they’re in active discussions with several potential candidates considering an independent bid.

Will one of them run? “Absolutely,” she said.

In late July it’s hard to imagine mounting a serious independent bid to challenge two candidates with bulging campaign coffers, large staffs, and an infrastructure in place. But MacDonald said it’s not impossible, adding that her group is working the legal options to make sure an independent candidate could seriously compete in enough states to win.

The group won’t be the first to pitch an independent candidate.

Near the front door of the Cleveland restaurant, Bill Kristol, founder and editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, chatted with a couple of reception-goers before ducking out to the next event. Kristol made a brief splash last month by suggesting that David French, a columnist for National Review, should mount a presidential bid.

French considered it but ultimately declined. Some saw the episode as a disappointment that didn’t gain much traction and wondered if the prospects of an independent bid were officially over.

MacDonald said no, and suggested that we’ll hear more within the next few weeks. Will we recognize the name of the candidate the group proposes? She wouldn’t leak hints, but she said the organization recognizes the importance of name recognition.

In the meantime, members of the group will soon head to Philadelphia to make connections at the Democratic National Convention. Though Better for America was founded by former Mitt Romney fund-raiser John Kingston, MacDonald said they want to reach a broad swath of voters disaffected by both of the major party nominees.

“When you see a burning house—great leaders are people who would run inside the house and save the people inside,” she said. “We need someone to run inside the house.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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  • Trumpetly Speaking
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 01:47 pm

    This is very good news.  Praying for success for them where the unbind movement has failed.  It would be better this way so that those who support the current nominee won't feel cheated.  Thanks for your expert coverage of this election.  Shall we say Ben Sasse???

  •  SBTB's picture
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 02:46 pm

    Instead of searching for the ideal candidate, perhaps a wiser course of action is to support Trump while seeking to surround him with Daniel-like advisors (similar to what God did with Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius).  An independent candidate will act as a spoiler and give the election to Hillary who has shown no interest in governing based on a God-centered worldview.

  • BostonSteve
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 03:11 pm

    Unfortunately, the election is already bought and paid for by Hillary and gang.  Sometimes I even wonder if Trump (a formert Clinton supporter) is just running at the behest of the Clintons, to foul up the GOP.  Regardless of this speculation, I don't see any way how Trump can win, so it is the perfect time to vote by conscience for a 3rd party candidate.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 03:50 pm

    Dear SBTB: Why can't we do both? Why not surround Trump with Daniel-like advisors and vote for an independent candidate? For my reasoning concerning why voting independent in this election would not be a spoiler activity in my particular state, please see my thought in the comment by West Coast Mom (Comment #4), just beneath your original comment.

    The spoiler argument in American elections has been used over and over again for decades. It is the only reason ever cited why one should not vote third party or independent. Where has such thinking brought us? To the year 2016, in which division is stronger than it has ever been (except for the Civil War), and the American voter is reduced to voting against rather than for, reduced to the demeaning position of voting for the "lesser of two evils." Unless we courageously and in faith begin voting third party or independent, there is no reason to hope that the state of American politics will improve in any way.

  •  SBTB's picture
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 09:20 pm

    As a native Californian who has not lived in that state for over 25 years, I concur with West Coast Mom regarding her vote.  However, the battleground states (which are still in play) are where an independent candidate would likely tip the election in favor of Hillary.  Also, it is too late in the game to launch a viable third-party candidate (notice there is no line of qualified people willing to step-up to the plate).  Perot won nearly 19% of the popular vote in 1992 and likely tipped the election in favor of Bill Clinton, which has in some ways led to the current predicament with respect to Hillary's candidacy.  I agree with "Anonymous", which is to say the most positive and viable course of action is to influence the choice of good advisors.

  • KS
    Posted: Fri, 07/22/2016 02:45 pm

    Whether intentional, or not, and I lean toward intentional, Mr. Trump is a Trojan horse.  His nomination has guaranteed another Clinton presidency which will do more damage to our nation.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 03:39 pm

    Excellent writing, Jamie! I love the sense of movie-like adventure you wove into your opening paragraphs.

    West Coast Mom lives in California, and I welcome the opportunity to viably vote independently this election year (as I often do.) It's a good year to do so in California, because Trump will not win in Calfornia no matter what, so my vote for anyone other than him will not support Hillary in any significant way.

    Since it does appear that Hillary will be our next president aside from my single vote, my question to myself has been, "How can I most effectively use my one vote to influence change?" I truly believe that America needs real choices. We have needed a third party/ies for decades. Ross Perot as a third party candidate received approximately 10% of the national vote. Ralph Nader received much less than that, yet many in the press (illogically) blamed him as the cause of Al Gore's defeat to George W. Bush in 2000.

    My hope would be that disenfranchised Republicans, and even some Democrats, whose consciences won't allow them to vote for either Trump or Clinton, would be given a meaningful alternative. If a group such as Better for America could find a single candidate whom those with wounded consciences could rally behind, it might make a difference in the long term. A meaningful difference in this election would be the demonstration that the possibility of a third party in America has entered into its season of near fulfillment.

    The one thing that might sway me from casting an independent vote would be poll readings near the November election that forecast a close tie between Trump and Clinton. If it appears, however, that Clinton is going to win in California, which is all but guaranteed, then I will be free to support an independent party candidate.

  • David Russell
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 05:58 pm

    Their efforts would be much more impactful if they focused on getting good people on Trump's staff, rather than replacing him.  Trump's presidency will mean little.  The important thing is who he surrounds himself with in and outside of his Cabinet.

  •  Paul B. Taylor's picture
    Paul B. Taylor
    Posted: Thu, 07/21/2016 09:33 pm

    The Thursday night convention opened with a United Methodist minister, meaning that he is pro-gay agenda.  Then a rock band sang lyrics that were vulgar and objectionable.  I could not watch as promises were being made that will not be carried through without a Christian foundation.  It was all just a show with no substance.