RNC Rules – Quit Yawning and Pay Attention

“Oh, no. Another post about the RNC rules. Let me see how fast I can click away from this…”

Stop! I get it. Who cares about a political party’s internal rules? And when I see “Rule 16(a)(2)” and “delegate’s affirmative duty under state law or state party rule”, my eyes glaze over a little, too.  Read on, for why you should care. This stuff determines who gets elected and how much freedom you continue to enjoy.

As a result of rules changes made at the Republlican National Committee Spring Meeting in Hollywood, grassroots activists regained a little bit of control in how elections are carried out, and assured that political candidates were a little more honest. 

RNC insiders, for all their talk of letting voters decide candidates, would in fact rather nominate by consensus. That means continuing let the people in Washington, DC and the media choose candidates based on personal wealth, seniority, or whose turn it is.

Rules about the order and type of primaries determine the type of candidates we get to vote for. If you want to choose among lackluster, uninteresting candidates whose sole skill is playing by Party rules, do nothing. The insiders are happy to supply you with them. 

But if you want to open the process to candidates willing and able to run on their ideas, you have to get involved with the rule-making process, and that means joining a political party, starting at the precinct level. Many people who think the way you do are already there. It’s time you joined the fight.

At the meeting, a motion to restore full grassroots control of the Party was quashed (video and state-by-state vote below). We haven’t taken over enough of the delegations. But members undid the worst change pushed through by Romney operatives at the party’s 2012 convention in Tampa, making sure candidates are beholden to delegates and not the other way around.

As reported by Newsmax.com, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said after the rule change that “presidential candidates can neither veto delegates nor unseat delegates.” 

Why is that important, really? Here is the heavy-handed Romney version of Rule 16 (a) (2), which said (pdf) (emphasis added):

(2) For any manner of binding or allocating delegates under these rules, if a delegate (i) casts a vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention inconsistent with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule, (ii) nominates or demonstrates support under Rule No. 40 for a presidential candidate other than the one to whom the delegate is bound or allocated under state law or state party rule, or (iii) fails in some other way to carry out the delegate’s affirmative duty under state law or state party rule to cast a vote at the national convention for a particular presidential candidate, the delegate shall be deemed to have concurrently resigned as a delegate and the delegate’s improper vote or nomination shall be null and void. Thereafter the secretary of the convention shall record the delegate’s vote or nomination in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule. This subsection does not apply to delegates who are bound to a candidate who has withdrawn his or her candidacy, suspended or terminated his or her campaign, or publicly released his or her delegates.

The effect of that was to bind delegates to candidates, turning them into mere functionaries or placeholders, centralizing power with the nominee and the RNC.

I was a convention delegate in 2012, campaigning in my congressional district. I had to choose, before any states had voted, which of the many candidates I would support. Since no candidate is perfect, I had to choose the one among several that I thought would be popular enough in my area to make campaigning for him or her a positive experience.

I had to collect signatures, going door-to-door in the snow (though thankfully it was only uphill one way).  I also had to help organize the candidate’s campaign in my district, signing up volunteers and distributing campaign materials, making speeches and setting up events. 

Delegates are bound to the candidate to which they are pledged by hundreds of promises, one to every voter or caucus member to whom they have appealed to become a convention delegate. Going to the convention is just one part of becoming a candidate’s delegate. Their reputation in the community as an honest broker depends on doing the right thing. Delegates are not likely to switch unless something really big happens.

Suppose that a scandal develops involving immoral, illegal, or unethical behavior, causing the candidate to which delegates are bound to become toxic to voters and to the delegate. Sometimes such candidates don’t drop out themselves

Or suppose that a candidate wins the nomination with a pro-freedom campaign and moves too sharply statist, openly rejecting or even mocking ideas the delegate holds dear. 

Delegate freedom is an important check on candidate integrity.

Under the Romney version of 16 (a)(2), the delegates served the candidate, rather than the candidate having to stay true to the delegates.

Here is an amateur video of how the votes went down. The vote starts at about the 5:00 mark:

Here is the tally for the rules changes proposed by longtime activist Morton Blackwell, undoing all of the changes from the 2012 convention. (Alaska and US Virgin Islands either abstained or were not present to vote.) A No vote was to keep the Romney rules:

Delegations Voting No: (28) Delegations Voting Yes (25)





Matt Kibbe said “The RNC’s spring meeting was just the first skirmish in a fight that can have only one outcome, because the party’s insiders are fighting an inevitable cultural trend toward more decentralization, transparency and grass-roots participation.”

That grass-roots participation happens when ordinary people who are driven by their ideals enter their party at the precinct level

Kristina Ribali wrote:

The RNC is seemingly hellbent on making the same mistakes over and over, relying on a top down, heavy handed strategy instead of trusting their grassroots constituents who actually do the hard work it takes to get candidates elected. We saw the effects of ignoring the grassroots during the 2012 elections. Want a repeat?  Aren’t political parties supposed to be the vehicle for winning elections?  If so, they may want to change their tactics and trust the base.

The base is doing something about it. When thousands of activists sign petitions indicating where their donations and volunteer work will go, the RNC knows there will be a reckoning. But as one Minnesota GOP insider emailed me: 

While I appreciate the efforts that FreedomWorks put in to get the 12,000 signatures, there’s one reason and one reason only that the Minnesota delegation supported the repeal of all these Establishment rules: because the 300 delegates to the State Central Committee convention we held last week, who were elected by delegates to their individual county conventions, who in turn were elected in caucus meetings, made it crystal clear that if they had any notion to crumble under Establishment pressure (not that I think they would have anyway) they would find themselves replaced the next cycle.

Crystal. Clear.

It was Minnesota’s Jeff Johnson who wrote the resolution to repeal the “Binding Caucus” rule which went down to defeat. And since we’re a caucus state, that defeat was very disappointing.

This shows just how arrogant/scared/stupid the Establishment has become. Usually, they see the handwriting on the wall and at least try to co-opt the issue(s). This time they just doubled down…like if they close their eyes we’ll just go away.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

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