Donald Trump is getting closer and closer to securing the majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention that would make him the GOP’s nominee for president this fall.
Republicans, like me, who oppose Trump are now holding out hope that Ted Cruz and John Kasich can win enough support in the remaining primaries and caucuses to prevent him from winning the nomination outright, which would throw the choice of nominee to the convention in Cleveland in July. But the chance that an open convention leads to a different nominee is holding back efforts by Trump opponents to line up a candidate to run as an independent in the general election — because why go through the effort to make the ballot in 50 states only to find out that you’re running as the conservative alternative to Paul Ryan?
There’s a better option, however, for Republicans who don’t want to see Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP succeed. Anyone who’s adamantly opposed to Trump can pledge, today, to donate money to an alternative candidate — and their credit cards won’t be charged unless and until that candidate actually files with the Federal Election Commission. Crowdpac, a start-up created to crowd fund political campaigns, can host crowdfunding campaign pages for any non-Trump candidate, testing support for alternatives and accumulating a cash windfall if one of them actually runs.
So if you like, say, the prospect of voting for Condoleeza Rice better than the idea of voting for Trump, you could pledge to Rice’s account on Crowdpac. Crowdpac pages are also up for House Speaker Paul Ryan, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.). Anyone can create pages for any candidate they’d like to see run; I set those ones up already myself (though I have no contractual or financial relationship with the site).
While the total amount of money pledged is publicly posted, donors’ names can be kept confidential until the candidacy is official and the donation is registered by the FEC. For a stop Trump effort, this is key: Machiavelli’s maxim “Never do an enemy a small injury,” could have new meaning in what would likely be a vituperative Trump administration if he wins in November. But armed with millions of dollars in pledges, the organizers of the anti-Trump campaign could then go to potential candidates and present them with a real chance to win.
After all, small donations collected over the Internet are keeping the campaign going for the alternative to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Bernie Sanders raised $42.7 million in February, and he’s gotten more than 5 million different contributions. He raised $4 million just this weekend, after winning Democratic caucuses in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. Why can’t the GOP do the same? There may be as many as 82 million Americans who wouldn’t be happy with a choice between Clinton or Trump. An election account pre-loaded with $20 million to $30 million, representing a broad diversity of the electorate, would be the most efficient guarantee of reliable support and prove powerfully attractive to a real Republican third-party candidate.
In the last few days, I have spoken with many of the architects of the #NeverTrump movement, who are excited about the prospect of finding a productive outlet for the furious — and up to now near-futile — outrage as Trump creeps to the nomination. Liz Mair, founder of the anti-Trump super PAC Make America Awesome, has been working on an effort along similar lines. “We think it can be tremendously valuable in showing prospective alternative candidates that there is a market for them,” Mair says.
Crowdpac takes a 3 percent fee on each donation, and it withholds another 5 percent (plus 30 cents) on each transaction for Democracy Engine, another startup, which covers credit card processing fees and helps ensure pledges are reported and transferred accurately once they become contributions.
But still, GOP strategists and activists spinning their wheels to stop Trump could suddenly have an immediate outlet to voice the national outrage of not just the donor class, but the grass-roots as well. Smaller donations could play a role, given Trump’s deep unpopularity. Voters who dislike Trump — as 54 percent of Republican voters say they do — may be inclined to cast their financial vote for their dream candidate. Especially as if their dreams don’t come true, they never have to pay.
With the identities of its supporters kept secret while the war chest grows, but the bankroll transparent as the momentum builds, a national pledge campaign for a real Republican could certainly catch fire. It would take the organized amplification effort of all of the anti-Trump forces. The real beauty of it is there need not be a consensus as to whom to support. Voters could seed the pledge accounts of a range of candidates, as it will take a uniquely undaunted visionary to run in these unprecedented conditions — a rare commodity in an organization about to accommodate itself to Trump as its standard-bearer.