Party divisions over Donald Trump reached the floor of the Republican Convention on Monday afternoon as anti-Trump delegates attempted a complicated procedural maneuver: petitioning the convention’s chairman to force a roll call vote over the acceptance of the convention’s rules.
It was an act of desperation.
“I think Trump is the absolute worst candidate that the Republican Party could put forth,” said Craig Licciardi of Flint, an alternate delegate from Texas who said that he supported the roll call vote. (Nearly half the delegates attending the convention are technically “alternates,” who don’t get an actual vote on the floor.)
Like many from his state’s delegation, he wore a Lone Star shirt and a cowboy hat. “He’s a Democrat in disguise,” Licciardi said. “I would hope that everything he says has a measure of truth to it, but it was only a few years ago that he was praising Hillary and Bill as his good friends, and good people.”
Licciardi said that he also took issue with Trump’s character. “His public persona is a projection of who he’s going to be as a president. The flippancy, the insults — it’s just a very base — there’s not a lot of character there to act presidential. You expect a president to have a presence, an aura around him of someone who is mature and level-headed and not a live wire.” Licciardi’s choice for the nominee would be Ted Cruz, he told me.
The demand for a roll call vote was a last-ditch attempt to “unbind” delegates committed to Trump and allow them to vote their conscience.
Complicating the effort to unseat Trump, of course, was the absence of an alternative.
In the convention hall, Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas tried to steamroll the dissenters, banging his gavel and pushing the agenda along as chants of “Roll call vote!” repeatedly erupted from delegations including Virginia’s and Utah’s, two of the 10 states (along with Minnesota, Iowa, Washington, Colorado, North Dakota, Alaska, Maine, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia) that filed a petition asking for a roll call vote, battling with chants of “USA! USA!” from the Trump supporters.
“Delegates, we come here on our own dime,” said Manette Merrill, from Coupeville, Washington, who was among those pushing for a roll call vote.
The chairman left the stage, the music came on, and for 10 minutes, it looked like the roll call vote had a fighting chance.
Virginia delegate Raymond H. Suttle Jr. of Newport News was among those shouting down the “Roll call vote!” chanters, with their own chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
“As it was explained to us this morning at breakfast, they wouldn’t have won the voice vote,” Suttle told me. “It would have been a litmus test, to see who’s on this side and who’s on that side. Most of the people who were supporting it were [Ted] Cruz people. I could care less about the rules. I’m here to get Trump nominated and get him to win in November.”
On stage, Womack said that three of the states that had filed the petition had since withdrawn. He ignored a few shouts from the floor demanding he name them. The dissenters became quiet, except for a few hollers of “point of information!” from a man standing with the Virginia delegation. (It was also reported that some members of the Colorado delegation walked out.) A few more hits from the chairman’s gavel and the last visible signs of rebellion were quashed.