Give Mr. Trump credit for the spark he has brought to this campaign season. Voter turnout on the GOP side is historically high. The Donald is clearly the catalyst for that development. Ditto for the strong ratings — and resulting free publicity — earned by the Republican debates. In addition, he has expanded the party's base, something none of the GOP's 16 other presidential candidates could have accomplished.
His reward for revitalizing the Republican party? Establishment leaders are striving mightily to deny him the nomination. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus insists that "the people are going to decide," but that sentiment is subverted by the efforts of Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney to run the show at a contested convention if Mr. Trump is not overwhelmed by the forces marshaled against him before then.
Mr. Romney's involvement in this plot is especially troubling, if not downright patronizing. The party's underachieving 2012 standard bearer delivered an acid, bitter screed that was extraordinary for its arrogant tenor. Mr. Romney's scolding was an exercise in bad form — all the more so because he sought and accepted Mr. Trump's endorsement in 2012 when he was in his own dogfight over the GOP nomination. Mr. Romney was effusive in his praise for Mr. Trump then, so you'll have to pardon Trump supporters for not wanting a Romney lecture today — especially when he's threatening to nullify their votes. Whatever happened to the scenario where the party allows the voters to determine who wins? How can the establishment's interference be viewed as anything but a repudiation of its own voters? Mr. Romney has effectively branded Trump supporters idiots.
Here are the optics: The establishment leaders couldn't beat Mr. Trump fair and square, so they decided to gang up on him in an effort to deny him the Republican nomination by doing whatever it takes. Obviously, cheating is very much on the table, if not already part of the party's bully agenda. Establishment leaders believe they need to force a brokered convention to gain control of the nominating process from the people.
After establishment favorite Jeb Bush squandered an ungodly amount of money on his listless campaign and still failed, Marco Rubio became the new establishment darling until Mr. Trump drove him out of the race last Tuesday via a humiliating defeat in the senator's home state of Florida. Because the establishment hates Ted Cruz as much or more than The Donald, that leaves John Kasich as the only acceptable candidate still standing, and he has won exactly once — in his home state of Ohio. So even though Mr. Trump won four of the five states contested last week, his failure to sweep might prove to be his undoing.
While The Donald will almost certainly have a large plurality of delegates heading into the convention, arriving with the magic number of 1,237 to win on the first ballot is now a dubious proposition. The buzz is that if Mr. Trump doesn't prevail then, he'll be blocked from winning in any subsequent round by the party elite and their minions. And if that happens, Mr. Trump's predictions of riots may come true.
So future Republican voters beware: Mitt Romney will be monitoring and evaluating your choices. Be prepared to defend them, because this party has shown it will now eat its own.
Tim Pollins is a writer based in Hyattsville. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.