Conservative critics of President Donald Trump will hold a convention of their own during the Republican National Convention, with plans to craft their own statement of principles and offer it to a post-Trump electorate.
“The Trump administration has failed, and that’s provided us with an opportunity to offer an alternative vision,” said Evan McMullin, who ran against Trump as an independent in 2016 and has been part of multiple anti-Trump efforts since then. “We’ll be ready in the wake of what we see as a coming Trump defeat.”
The Convention on Founding Principles is scheduled to run from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 in Charlotte, the city hosting this year’s RNC. The Republicans for a New President campaign, the chief organizer of the event, is planning an online component and a backup plan for a virtual convention if the RNC is canceled. Asked about the plans on Friday morning, the president’s campaign brushed them off.
“These Trump haters are sad, pathetic, and irrelevant,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “President Trump has united Republicans and has unprecedented support within the party. He’s also attracting non-Republicans and making huge inroads with blacks and Latinos. He will be reelected in November.”
McMullin, who won 0.5% of the vote for his last-minute 2016 campaign against Trump, launched Stand Up Republic when that election was over. Republicans for a New President is that group’s latest project, the most ambitious effort by anti-Trump conservatives who have run ads against Trump and held smaller conferences on what to do about the president.
The Convention on Founding Principles grew out of an event Trump critics held at the National Press Club this year, concurrent with the Conservative Political Action Conference. Organizers were pleasantly surprised when more than 300 people attended their counter-conference, prompting a move to a larger room.
The August event, said McMullin, would more closely resemble an actual political convention. There will be debates and voting on a statement of the attendees’ principles, and a vote on whether they supported a particular candidate for president – presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, or a “well-known third-party candidate.” (Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, has been praised by many anti-Trump conservatives.)
“The convention will be centered around founding principles as its name indicates,” McMullin said. “Candidates as well as current and former officeholders who honor those principles will be invited to speak, though that may or may not include presidential candidates.”
This won’t be the first unofficial gathering designed to contrast with a party’s nominating convention. In 2016, some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., organized a “People’s Convention” in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton was accepting the Democratic nomination, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein stopped by.
In 2008 and 2012, after he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination, then-Rep. Ron Paul held all-day conferences near the sites of the party conventions. In 2000, campaign finance reformers organized a “Shadow Convention” near the DNC, lambasting the corporate donations that funded official party events.
“After Trump’s expected loss to a cross-partisan coalition of voters in 2020, principled conservatives will continue to pursue a new direction for the party through a range of activities, intellectual, electoral and otherwise,” McMullin said. ‘Since 2016, principled conservatives have become more organized and more effective and this convention and campaign represent the next steps in the development of this strengthening movement.”