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July 21, 2016

Inside the mission to break Donald Trump


July 21, 2016

‘You people need to be round up and shot’. ‘I hope the earth swallows you and your vile children’. ‘F**k you, Nazi’. 

The torrent of death threats and abuse from Donald Trump supporters appeared on the screen as Dane Waters scrolled through the text messages on his iPhone.  

“I have received hundreds upon hundreds of these since we started,” said Mr Waters, whose Delegates Unbound organisation is barely three weeks old.  From a bare, hastily rented office that was dubbed “the war room”, streets away from the convention hall, Waters and his team were fuelling a last ditch rebellion to stop Mr Trump from becoming the party’s nominee. 

On Tuesday night after multiple failed plots, their hopes were crushed as delegates at the Republican National Convention formerly crowned Mr Trump as the party’s presidential nominee.

But the story of their rebellion reveals the depth of the schism that has emerged in the Republican Party.  

It tells the story of how people once on the more extreme fringes of movement succeeded in capturing the party’s core. 

It began many years ago, in the voices of a conservative minority rebelling at what they saw as the liberalisation of the United States.

Statistics showed a decline in the numbers of pious youth; the Supreme Court softened the country’s approach to gay marriage; and Democrats sought to toughen gun legislation, they saw their country as being hijacked by sets of values inimical to their own. 

The Tea Party movement was born. They formed a political insurgency, battling to capture the Republican core and steer its policies towards their own.  But the “establishment”, Republican centre-right moderate conservatives, always prevailed.

Trump’s nomination on Tuesday changed the balance of power of that battle.  For the first time, the populist fringes have been given the chance to take the controls. And the establishment are the renegades.

Delegates Unbound and other anti-Trump groups are made up of a roster of strategists, politicians and financiers who spent much of their careers at the beating heart of the Republican Party. 

Waters, the founder of the group,  has greased the wheels of the presidential campaigns of Republican icons, including George H W Bush, and John McCain. But now he is on the outside looking in. 

This is why this National Republican Convention in Cleveland has proven the most passionate and controversial in the party’s modern history.  

For those in the establishment, it represents the ripping away of power they had help for decades.

And for Mr Trump’s supporters, this is their first grip on the party they have long craved to control, and now they do not want to let go.

The language is vitriolic, and filled with hyperbole on both sides.For the Never Trump camp it didn’t matter that the people had spoken; that Mr Trump won more votes in the primary election than any other Republican candidate. If he wasn’t stopped, they said, the Republican party - and maybe even American democracy -  was dead.

“This is the worst political episode in modern times,”  Gregory Humphreys, a retired senator from new Hampshire and anti-Trump delegate, told The Telegraph.