Raised hands and raised fists

Suppose you are a delegate at a political convention. And suppose a resolution is put forward that “No delegate shall vote for any candidate who threatens violence, or condones violence by his or her supporters, to influence the political process in this party or our nation.” Could you vote against it? In fact the convention is a major one, being watched carefully by many of your compatriots and many people abroad. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s a question of who you are. Are you someone who could possibly fail to support a resolution that forbids thuggery and intimidation as tools for gaining a nomination or winning election?

Now you may see where this is going. But beware of what Soren Kierkegaard called “a covetous eye on the outcome”. Close your eyes and answer the question clearly and frankly in the privacy of your own conscience.

OK. Now do look at the outcome. Because I am indeed thinking about Donald Trump. And I’m thinking about him because of a post by Ilya Somin on The Washington Post’s excellent “The Volokh Conspiracy” blog, in which he suggests that the Republican Party can, and should, stop Trump by adopting precisely such a rule.

As Somin notes, “The Republican National Convention Rules Committee has almost unlimited power to change the rules by which the delegates vote.” And the committee will be selected from delegates to the convention. He says he is not optimistic about their finding a way to stop Trump. But they “certainly will have the power to do so, even if not the will.”

As Somin further notes, among many other observations and arguments worth reading, “Trump has threatened “riots” if he does not get his way at the convention and repeatedly condoned violence by his supporters against even nonviolent protestors. If there has not been a rule against such behavior in the past, it may be because, until this year, no one imagined that a candidate who condones violence in the political process could get so close to the nomination.”

At this point some people will be saying hold on, this is just a trick to keep Trump from getting the nomination. And it certainly would have that effect. But that doesn’t make it a trick. Rather, it would be a principled decision. If it excludes Trump, it’s because Trump is unfit to be given the nomination.

Some Trump backers, including Canadians, might be inclined to dispute that claim. But before doing so, I ask them please to close their eyes, forget that Trump is involved, imagine if it helps that it’s some radical leftist firebrand who’s actually said the kinds of things he has, and then picture themselves confronted with the resolution above as a voting delegate. And never mind “democracy”.

I’m not asking what you think of other people’s decision to back Trump. I’m asking whether you personally could vote against a resolution blocking the nomination of people who openly advocate and threaten violence not against the nation’s enemies, but to gain political advantage in a political system based on liberty under law.

Could you really?