“Point of order, point of order” delegates shouted at the GOP national convention, until the insurrection was put down and part of the Maine delegation had stormed off the floor.
No, not Monday afternoon. Four years ago, in Tampa, when the party got into a bitter floor fight over whether to seat the delegates of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Few remember it because later events didn’t make it important in the bigger narrative of politics. And few will remember Monday’s pitched battle, unless the GOP takes a terrible beating in November.
The “Never Trump” movement took one last shot on Monday at setting up a procedural fight that would allow delegates to vote for whoever they wanted, regardless of the primary or caucus results in their states. The move was defeated, but there were claims that it actually had the support of more than the seven state delegations it needed to force a roll-call vote on the acceptance of the convention rules.
The attempt was stymied and the convention recessed until the evening session, but not before members of the Colorado delegation, yelling “Roll call vote, roll call vote,” left the convention hall as their opponents chanted “We want Trump.”
The chaos on the floor was driven in part by social media. The unruly scene did not set the unified tone top Republicans are looking for this week, but whether it will have any aftertaste for the rest of the week is hard to say.
The last well-remembered floor fight was the one between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford in 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri. It was a bitter battle and the Reagan people would say for ever after, and apparently truthfully, that the Ford forces offered delegates lots of perks large and small in exchange for support. One Long Island delegate, legend has it, was even promised a sewage contract from the White House for his support.
But most likely what makes the 1976 battle so memorable was Ford getting waxed by Jimmy Carter, which let the Reagan supporters say, “See, told you so,” a refrain that became even more powerful when Reagan won the presidency four years later.
So was Monday’s floor fight a footnote in history or a turning point? We’ll just have to wait and see. If Trump wins, it’ll fade into memory. But if he loses by 12 points, and hurts the party down-ballot, they’ll write books about it.