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If the Republican Party survives the 2016 presidential campaign, it should seriously consider a rules change to make sure a fiasco like the one it faces in Donald Trump can never happen again.

I’ve been critical of what I’ve called the “rigged” Democratic nominating process, with its large corp of super delegates who can assure a rogue candidate doesn’t hijack the party’s nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders never had a true shot with so many delegates in the pocket of the Democratic establishment even before the voting started.

But those super delegates, which account for one-sixth of the Democratic delegation, help assure that only a candidate acceptable to the Democratic establishment, donors and traditional voters will be the party’s standard bearer in the fall campaign.

On the Republican side, the more open nominating process and the inability of the party to put its thumb on the scale opens the door for an outside populist to bring a large number of non-Republicans into the primaries and compete for the nomination.

And that leads to Donald Trump. The billionaire front-runner has been only loosely associated with the Republican Party in the past, and freely admits to financially supporting Democrats in previous presidential contests and for other elected offices. His credentials as a conservative are spotty.

While he claims to be expanding the GOP base, drawing in millions of new voters to Republican primaries, the loyalty of those voters are to Trump, and not to the party. If he goes away, so will they — two-thirds say they won’t vote for another Republican if Trump doesn’t get the nomination.

That makes their value to the party beyond this one election questionable. And even with their support, Trump’s presence on the ballot is likely to turn out as many or more voters motivated by stopping his election.

A political party should stand a candidate for the presidency who represents its platform and core values. That is not Trump, as much as the left is attempting to cast him as the new face of Republicans. He’s no more that than Bernie Sanders is typical of mainstream Democrats. Both he and Trump reflect a movement that proudly eschews partisan alliances. So why should they carry a party’s banner in November? Sanders won’t, but Trump might.

A desperate Republican establishment is now hoping to stop Trump at the national convention in Cleveland if he falls short of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. There’s some discussion of changing the rules in advance of the convention to make it easier to deny Trump.

That may save the party from the embarrassment of a Trump candidacy. But it’s a disastrous scenario, guaranteeing convention chaos and shrinking even further the chances of victory in November. But the Republican Party, if there’s one left, must change its rules for 2020. Whether it’s the adoption of super delegates, or stricter limits on who can vote in primaries, the party has to take control of the process.

There were good, solid Republican candidates in the race at the start of this campaign. None of them will be the nominee, because the GOP allows others to determine its fate.

Nolan Finley’s “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice,” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

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