- - Thursday, March 17, 2016

Donald Trump has clearly put the cat among the pigeons. The Republican establishment, as the party’s elites don’t like to be called, can’t decide what to do about the power of the Trump tornado. They’re suddenly getting a taste of what impotence feels like, learning that money can’t buy love.

It’s the Donald’s rough-cut street talk that most upsets them. He says things the way a lot of folks talk, with bluster and bombast that drowns the excuses and euphemisms that politicians usually employ in public. When he talked about how the elites are scheming to stop him at an “open convention” in Cleveland, he said “I think you’d have riots” if the party establishment tries to undo the work of the primaries. He might be right, but saying so makes the grannies nervous.

This was street speech gone too far for House Speaker Paul Ryan. “Nobody should say such things, in my opinion,” he said. “To even address or even hint at violence is unacceptable.” Mr. Ryan usually prefers softer granny speech, but he sometimes lapses into the violence of metaphors, too. He acknowledges the conventional wisdom that was fantasy only a fortnight ago, that choosing a nominee could “result in a convention fight” this summer. Oh, dear. A fight? Breaking out at a political convention? Heaven forfend, and hide the women and children.

Mr. Ryan says Republicans, and he presumably includes himself, now see “that this is more likely to become an open convention than before.” He tells the Washington Examiner that his party colleagues “are getting our minds around the idea that this could very well become a reality.”

The irony here is that the establishment in both Republican and Democratic parties — the men and women who expect to run things because they always have — wrote the rules that set up the primaries to take the decision out of the smoke-filled rooms and give the choice to the people. And so they did, and the people are speaking.

Now some of the elites want to return to the smoke-filled room (without the cigars and the rambunctious manly talk). Mr. Ryan, as speaker, will preside over the Republican National Convention and have a crucial role in controlling events, the man most responsible for keeping good order if Donald Trump arrives in Cleveland short of the 1,237 delegates he would need to win the nomination on the first ballot.

Washington is abuzz with angry talk, of third parties and behind-the-scene scheming to bend the rules, or find holes in them, to strip Mr. Trump of delegates. This is politics as usual, of course, and high stakes invite high risks, even the risk of a riot. It’s happened before. But those who indulge it should remember that there’s a foot race coming up in November, and the crippled man rarely wins a foot race.

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