Would It Be Legitimate to Deny Donald Trump the Nomination?

The debate illuminates different theories of government.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

As the Republican National Convention approaches, and a faction of GOP delegates continues to ponder the possibility of denying Donald Trump the nomination (if it can manage the long-shot maneuvers that would be required for that outcome), political observers are confronted with a test of their theories of government.

Where do you come down?

Are you a democrat who believes that, regardless of Donald Trump’s fitness for office, the nomination is rightfully his, because he won the most primary votes and delegates?

Are you a republican who believes that delegates aren't mere vestiges of an antiquated system, that they’re around for a reason, and that they have a moral obligation to vote their conscience, at least when it is in radical conflict with voter preferences?

Are you a formalist who believes in strict adherence to rules, whether their character is democratic or republican, and that any outcome consistent with the rules is legitimate?

Are you a consequentialist whose position is determined by comparing, say, the likely cost of a Trump presidency with the likely cost of the anti-democratic actions that would be required to deny him the nomination and any chance at victory?

As yet, I don’t know where I stand. But I’d love to know how readers are thinking about this question, to air the most thoughtful opinions, and to formulate my own.

Do you subscribe to one of the theories that I’ve sketched or another one altogether? Email conor@theatlantic.com with your thoughts on what is legitimate and desirable.