Supposedly, it was Al Capone who said that "if you're going to steal, steal big." Here's the thing about the Republican Party and its 2016 dilemma (because I'm sure the GOP wants my helpful advice). If the party is serious about the #StopTrump movement, then the party bosses need to start channeling their inner Al Capone. What I mean is this: If they're going to steal the nomination away from the guy who goes into Cleveland with the most delegates (i.e., The Donald), then they ought to steal big -- and give the nomination to whomever they think can win.
Even if it's not someone who's not run in a single primary. Like Paul Ryan. Or Condoleezza Rice. Or Zombie Ronald Reagan.
Let me back up here and clarify something: As a citizen, breathing in American air every day, I find all of these jokers unacceptable (except maybe Zombie Reagan, who would to the far left of the 2016 Republican field on most issues.) I'm talking strictly as a barely graduated political science major of the early 1980s.
But the frustrated political pundit in me can't help but wonder why -- after a winter in which most of the GOP establishment insisted that stopping the extremist and extremely unlikable Sen. Ted Cruz was probably more important than stopping Donald Trump -- have so many Republican insiders turned around and endorsed Cruz in the spring, saying now he's the only one who can stop Trump because he'll have the second-most delegates.
From a realpolitik point of view, that argument makes no sense. If their goal is to save the Republican Party and its current majorities in the Senate and House, a Cruz nomination would be an epic debacle that would make the Barry Goldwater landslide loss of 1964 look like a few pebbles rolling in the wind. At least Trump -- God bless his little neo-fascist soul -- would make a play for white, blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt who would have no patience for Cruz's preachy passion play.
Looking at the GOP race dispassionately, I don't understand why Ohio Gov. John Kasich gets so easily written off. OK, I sort of do understand -- he's only won his home state primary, barely, and he's overseen a badly run campaign that's failed to connect with his natural base of suburban, better educated Republicans. But he's the only current candidate who consistently beats Hillary Clinton in general election polls, whereas Trump and Cruz get trounced.
If you're going to risk ripping the Republican Party in two by disrespecting the millions of people who voted for Trump, wouldn't you hand the nomination to the guy who could win?
Which brings me to all the people who are shocked by the idea that -- after all this! -- the party could nominate somebody who didn't even run in the primaries. Look, in the perfect world, all 50 states would hold open primaries, on a rotating schedule that doesn't give so much power to two small and not particularly representative states. But for better or worse, political parties -- which weren't even mentioned in the Constitution -- aren't a democracy, not at all.
All through U.S. history through the end of the 1960s, nominating a candidate who hadn't run in primaries was....perfectly normal. The classic semi-modern case was Hubert Humphrey, who watched Eugene McCarthy and the tragically doomed Robert F. Kennedy duke it out in a string of primaries, then waltzed into Chicago to grab the crown with the help of bosses like that city's Richard Daley.
So if the bosses of 2016 are determined to #StopTrump, why not just hand the nod to a somewhat attractive (if you like the Eddie Munster look), body building, not-totally-crazy-sounding guy like Ryan, the current speaker of the House?
Well, for one thing, Ryan came out this afternoon and swore on a stack of Qurans Bibles that he's not running:
"Let me be clear," Mr. Ryan said. "I do not want nor will I accept the nomination of our party." He added that he had a message for convention delegates: "If no candidate has the majority on the first ballot, I believe you should only turn to a person who has participated in the primary. Count me out."
Heh, really? Isn't this the guy who didn't want to be a vice presidential candidate, then ended up on Mitt Romney's ticket, then swore up and down he didn't want to be speaker of the House before he was voted speaker of the House? As Princeton historian and Twitter savant Kevin Kruse noted this week, the stealthy rise of Frank Underwood on TV's "House of Cards" has nothing on Paul Ryan.
To be sure, Ryan would be a terrible candidate, too. His close ties to the hedge-fund "industry" and his history of let-them-eat-cake social welfare policies have left him seriously out of step with the American middle-class voter.
But it still wouldn't the kamikaze Cruz campaign for the GOP. Not that this is particularly huge shock, but the leadership of Republican Party clearly has absolutely no idea what it's doing here. If this were an episode of "House of Cards," Frank Underwood would turn slyly into the main camera, gaze at the audience across "the fourth wall" -- and start laughing hysterically.