Here’s a piece of current political wisdom that is very hard to disagree with: The Republicans have no chance to take the White House in 2016. Their leading candidate has managed to alienate roughly 99.999 percent of women and minorities in America—the exactly opposite of the more inclusive party they envisioned four years ago, after Romney’s loss—and stands basically no chance even against a divisive candidate like Hillary Clinton. The national map looks bad in general for the Republicans, and America’s changing demographics don’t help, but issue number one is the candidate. The Republicans don’t want Trump, and it’s looking increasingly like they’ll do just about anything to be rid of him.
Here’s another bit of wisdom that’s tough to ignore: There’s no feasible way to win the election without Trump. I mean, can you imagine putting up a candidate that didn’t even come close to winning the popular vote in the primaries? How does that look for a party that is already under fire for not caring about the common people? It provides the easiest possible sucker punch for the Democrat opponent: “Your own party didn’t even want you!” And won’t Trump just run as a third-party candidate anyway and strip them of their poor, angry, white voters, dooming them to an embarrassing result?
But that wisdom is less ironclad—if the Republicans want to survive as a party, isn’t it better to disavow Trump entirely? Isn’t it better to lose the 2016 election, which they were going to lose anyway, without him? That way, his anti-woman anti-Hispanic schtick doesn’t taint them in future elections, and they don’t suffer the down-ballot losses that he might inspire this year.
So, sure, maybe just drop him and hope for the best. And the great irony here is that when you actually analyze the prospect of the Republicans shedding Trump, it opens up a legitimate path to victory. It’s convoluted, and it’s sneaky, but if political minds have already considered it, you can bet the Republicans have too.
With that in mind, here’s a theoretical seven-part plan to help the GOP beat the odds and regain the White House—aka, their only hope.
1. Pray that Trump doesn’t reach the threshold of 1,237 delegates during the primary process, which would seal the deal and give him the automatic Republican nomination.
2. When he falls short, use whatever hijinx are necessary to screw him over at the convention. And if you don’t think the Republicans have some tricks up their sleeve, you haven’t been paying attention to national politics for the past, oh…40 years.
3. Pray that Trump’s sense of outrage and ego are so high that he runs as a third-party candidate. Pray that his weird appeal continues, and he wins the poor, conservative states where his message appeals the most.
4. Run someone on the Republican ticket who can win regional races in the general election. Someone like John Kasich, who has no shot at the presidency, but can take Ohio and maybe a few other rust belt states along the way as voters specifically go out of their way to not vote for Trump, as they did in the Ohio primary.
5. Pray that between Kasich and Trump, they win enough states to deny Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House (and also that Trump alone doesn’t exceed 270). It doesn’t matter if the Democrats beats them both—even by a lot—as long as he or she is kept under 270.
6. Maintain control of the House of Representatives.
7. Send the contested election to the House, which works like so:
If no candidate receives a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most Electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most Electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.
Voila! Elect Paul Ryan, who is already trying really hard to pretend that he cares about poor people (except that he’s too smart to get involved this year, and is going to rule himself out today). Or Kasich. Or whoever. For extra hilarity points, hope the Senate turns Democrat and the new Democrat VP has to serve under a Republican president.
Is this far-fetched? Definitely. Would it incur the wrath of the the American people if the Republicans actually pulled it off? Certainly. Would they care? Yes, but only on a selfish “how is this going to hurt us down the road?” level. Is it smarter, then, just to throw the 2016 election away and hope Hillary bungles things so bad that the pendulum swings back in 2020, which is a census year and will let them re-draw the maps and control state and congressional politics for another miserable decade? Of course.
Still, if the GOP really wants to win this time around, they have a shot—and they really, really don’t like Hillary Clinton. Never underestimate the appeal of spite for a group of people who bridle with privileged indignation if don’t get exactly what they want.