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Some Republicans are ready to give up on democracy to stop Donald Trump.

Spencer Platt/Getty

With it becoming ever more likely that Trump will be the Republican nominee, his opponents in the Republican Party are openly arguing for a brokered convention to stop him. Writing in National Review, David Harsanyi lays out the rationale for “stealing” (his words) the nomination if Trump wins a plurality of the delegates:

Voters don’t decide the nominations; delegates do—preferably in smoke-filled rooms where rational decisions about the future of a party can be hashed out. The Republican Party is not a direct democracy. It crafts its own rules, and it can change them. 

On a purely factual basis, Harsanyi is right: The Republican Party isn’t a direct democracy (nor, with its super-delegate system, is the Democratic Party). Yet a convention coup would raise issues of democratic legitimacy. After all, why did the party go through the charade of a primary, costing tens of millions of dollars, only to thwart the wishes of the biggest block of voters? And wouldn’t those voters have a right to be angry? “You’d have riots,” Trump has said, and he’s almost certainly right. 

Like all demagogues, Trump poses a problem for anyone who believes in democracy. Fortunately, Harsanyi has no such scruples, since he’s the author of The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy. But for those of us who still believe in popular sovereignty, Trump will have to be defeated at the ballot box, not in smoke-filled rooms.