The California Republican Party met on Saturday to change its rules for how presidential primary delegates are to be rewarded. Now, you're probably thinking that's a pretty boring story, right?
Well you're wrong, because this is the year 2023 and Republicanism now oozes eau de banshee screaming from its every pore. The meeting attracted dozens of flag-waving, cape-wearing, pro-sedition, Trump-backing protesters who nearly came to blows with each other outside the meeting in their bids to out-crackpot everyone else. The Los Angeles Times brings us the story:
Protesters wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps and carrying American, Trump and “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flags gathered outside of the committee meeting, chanting Trump’s name and “America first!”
After they tried to enter the meeting and were blocked by security guards, Irvine police officers showed up and tried to cool emotions.
Later, two pro-Trump factions began screaming at each other, with one side accusing the other of being white nationalists and the other responding that their foes supported open borders. They started jostling with one another and nearly came to blows before other protestors stepped between the two groups.
Kids, kids: Stop the fighting. I promise you you're all absolutely horrible. Now please stop fighting inside the Marriott—you're going to stain the carpets.
Yes, that was the scene inside the Irvine hotel as the state Republican executive committee voted to change the primary rules to a winner-take-all system if any candidate clears 50% of the vote. If you're wondering how adopting a plan pushed by the Trump campaign in order to knife his challengers led to a near-riot from Trump protesters angry it was happening, then join the club. It might help to know that serial bullshitter Laura Loomer was one of the people fanning the flames, telling her online followers that the changes were being made to force a "brokered convention" that would "steal" the nomination from the seditious orange crapsack.
Mostly, though, the angry mob came about because nobody involved quite knows what any of the rule changes being voted on would actually do once inflicted on the actual candidates and voters involved, and so every Republican subgroup arrived quite certain that the proposals were a conspiracy meant to harm their own candidate and boost one of the others.
Look, just assume that every Republican is high as a kite on at least 12 different conspiracy claims at once and it'll start making more sense. Sort of. Probably.
As for the actual details, they go like this: The national Republican Party demanded that each state party update its primary rules for the 2024 election, and in California there were two proposals on the table. Under the first proposal, preferred by struggling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign, delegates would be proportioned out so that the winner of each of the state's 52 congressional districts would receive two delegates, and the second-place winner in each district would receive a single delegate as well.
The other proposal, one being pushed by Donald Trump's campaign, would see delegates chosen proportionally to statewide vote totals—except that if one candidate receives over half the votes statewide, all of those calculations get tossed and that candidate gets all the delegates, period, screw everybody else.
The Trump campaign is quite certain Donald will be topping that 50% mark—which is the reason the Screw Everybody Else Plan got proposed to begin with. The executive committee agreed to it by a whopping 53-16 margin.
So why all the turmoil? It’s simple: Every Republican involved here is bullshitting everyone else quite robustly about the actual purpose of the rule changes. The state backers of the Trump plan are full of bluster about how this new rule change will bring the Republican presidential candidates into the state to make their case to California voters; that seems a biiiiiiiig stretch, and that is putting it mildly. The previous primary system was a straightforward one: win a congressional district, and you win its three delegates. That means that even if a candidate has no chance of winning a statewide vote, they can still pick up delegates by targeting the individual districts most amenable to their message. Sending out mailers, or picking out smaller media markets for ad campaigns, were viable strategies.
Under the new statewide winner-take-all system, however, there's no point. It's the statewide votes that matter, so targeting individual districts will gain you little to nothing. To get a decent percentage of the statewide vote you almost certainly are going to need to be spending big money to run ads in big-money markets. The only argument the new plan's backers can plausibly make is that it might force Republican contenders to spend at least some time in the state to avoid getting completely shut out by the winner-take-all threshold, but that's only true if any of the less-monied candidates think they can move statewide totals enough to spend the enormous amounts of cash required to try.
As for the doomed-to-fail DeSantis-friendly rule change, don't think for a minute it wasn't just as self-serving as the pro-Trump version. DeSantis allies would have kept the state's current district-by-district delegate assignments, while watering down the impact of winning each one by allowing even the runner-up in each district to pocket one delegate to the winner's two. If you were trying to stem the bleeding from an opponent's dominant district-by-district wins while attempting to coast off a distant second-place status, cough-Ron DeSantis-cough, what better way to yank 52 delegates out of the state with little to no work of your own. You wouldn't win the state, but you'd still come away with 52 delegates that could offset other state losses.
Those who backed the DeSantis gambit also insisted that this plan would bring Republican candidates to the state to compete with each other, and again, it's either wishful thinking or bullshit depending on the specific claims. If there are only two viable Republican primary candidates—as there seem to be at present—why would any of them waste a moment in the state? DeSantis isn't going to win unless Trump dies, flees the country, or dies while fleeing the country. And he most definitely doesn't have the cash to compete on the left coast; the man is pushing the bounds of the possible just to scrape through Iowa.
The big takeaway from this story, then, is that with any luck various groups of paranoid Trump supporters will start punching each other's lights out on any given day—hang on, I'm being told that's not the actual takeaway. The more "reasonable" takeaway is that once again, the actual candidates involved in this supposedly sacred democratic act of voting are trying very, very hard to make sure the voters themselves have as little say in the process as possible.
Nevertheless, it was only a matter of time before Trump's supporters began to turn on each other. Between the hats, and the flags, and the shouting, and the threats, and the putting Trump's face on absolutely everything, including their own clothing? It's all just horrible. Nobody can spend time in a group of Trump supporters without coming to hate Trump supporters—not even other Trump supporters.
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