Politics

To Stop Trump, Study The Whigs’ 1836 Strategy?

As we contemplate a future where the Republican Party could come unraveled and possibly go the way of the Whigs, could a strategy employed in the first Whig presidential campaign provide some insight into how to stop Donald Trump?

Something’s got to happen. And since the notion that the non-Trump Republican candidates could meet and agree on a nominee to coalesce around is unlikely to materialize, perhaps it’s time for a Plan B (or is it C?).

Here’s the idea: If winning the nomination is beyond the grasp of any of the non-Trump candidates, perhaps the fallback goal should simply be to deprive Trump of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, thus forcing a convention fight.

The best way to do this might be for the Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio to cut the following deal: Cruz would be allowed to run uncontested in Texas (the problem here is that Cruz already appears poised to win Texas without cutting a deal), Kasich gets a clean shot at Ohio, and Rubio takes Florida.

In essence, they become regional candidates who conspire to deprive Trump of winning their delegate-rich home states.

This is essentially what the Whigs tried (and failed) to execute against Martin Van Buren in 1836, when “Lacking the unity to settle on a candidate or even hold a national convention, the Whigs ran three regional candidates: Tennessee senator Hugh White in the South, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts in the East, and Ohio’s William Henry Harrison in the West.”

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Not everyone agrees this is wise. My colleague Jamie Weinstein even has an alternative theory that suggests my idea is counterproductive. Weinstein essentially argues that the best way to stop Trump is for him to win some of these big states (specifically, Texas and Michigan), thus forcing Cruz and Kasich out of the race. Only if we do that, Weinstein argues, would Rubio get a head-to-head matchup with Trump.

Note: Let’s be honest, the fact that Weinstein and me are inventing tortured (if creative) theories for how to stop Donald Trump is a concession. It’s admittedly a sign of desperation. What I am proposing is a concession that nobody can beat Trump in terms of accumulating delegates, to the goal would be to keep your defense on the field. Lastly, I have no expectation anyone will take my advice. We have seen zero signs that the non-Trump Republican candidates are capable of coordinating such an effort.