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Romney Rules Change

Mitt Romney’s forces won a rules change that will allow future nominees to have more say over their conventions. While this strikes me as a no-brainer, some conservative activists are up in arms.

Melissa Clouthier pointed me to the controversy via Twitter and cites a blog post by Michelle Malkin.  Given the decreasing overlap in our audiences, I’ll quote liberally (no pun intended):

Drew McKissick is a longtime conservative activist and blogger who is in attendance at the Republican National Convention’s Rules Committee meetings. He and others on the ground are sounding the alarm over rules changes that he and many other attendees believe will hurt grass-roots movement conservatives. The battle is being cast by some observers as a narrow fight between Ron Paul advocates and the rest of the party. Drew says that’s not true. And many other state delegations who oppose top-down delegate choices are chiming in.

First, here’s Drew’s call to arms (my emphasis added in bold):

Fellow conservatives,

Those who are in Tampa working to maintain the influence of grassroots conservatives in the Republican Party need your help!

This past Friday, the RNC’s Convention Rules Committee voted – after several contentous votes – to change the party’s rules to allow future presidential candidates to have veto power over who can be delegates from any state – in other words, take power away from the grassroots and their ability to elect fellow conservatives as delegates.

This represents a brazen move by several Washington Beltway consultants and party insiders to diminish the power and influence of conservatives over the party.

At least 29 members of this committee are filing Minority Reports to the full convention to try and make sure that these changes are NOT adopted into the final changes the full convention will approve on Tuesday. But we need your help to spread the word. 28 members are required to issue a minority report for the convention to even consider…and you can be sure others are working behind the scenes to peel some of them off before the meeting…so we need to create pressure for others to join!

Let me stop here and say that this is NOT…REPEAT NOT a move by a bunch of disgruntled Ron Paul supporters. This is a group of long-time conservative activists, even “party regulars” and lots of Romney supporters, many who go back to the Goldwater days.

There’s more to Drew’s appeal but you get the drift. Michele reports that the Texas GOP delegationMatt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, Julianne Thompson of Georgia’s GOP delegation, and others are outraged. Mostly, they’re worried that the grassroots—read: conservative activists—are being disenfranchised.

Since this is a future rules change—i.e., one that won’t impact the existing delegates or anyone else who knows how their own interests will be impacted—this strikes me as more than reasonable.  Granted, I think political conventions themselves are a relic of a bygone era and would be happy to see the delegates go away and just have the cable networks just give over the time for the big speeches and dispense with all the rest of it, including the writing of party platforms.  Absent that, however, it makes perfect sense for the party’s presidential nominee to have more control over the convention than now exists.

Currently, we have the absurd spectacle of a bunch of local party activists getting “elected” in a series of primary elections where 99 percent of those voting think they’re simply voting for the party’s presidential nominee when, in fact, they’re voting for a slate of delegates for said nominee that they almost surely don’t know. Then, said delegates go off to a convention city and hammer out a party “platform” that the assembled delegates vote on and then the mass media treat as a meaningful document that the nominee has to spend valuable time talking about.

So, for example, we spend an inordinate amount of time every four years talking about the Republican Party’s absurd abortion plank, which calls for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortions, sometimes with and sometimes without an exception for rape and incest. No Republican President—and we’ve had a passel of ‘em—has ever actually proposed this amendment to Congress and there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that such an amendment would get a supermajority vote in both Houses of Congress and approval by 37 states. Yet, every four years, we pretend that this platform plank is a real thing.

Beyond that, we have the nonsensical process whereby a candidate can “win” a caucus and then, months later, the state’s party delegates get awarded to a different candidate entirely because of arcane rules that have nothing to do with the voters of the state. There was real concern that Ron Paul, who continues to be a novelty candidate with little real support, would wind up manipulating these rules to gain substantial leverage at the convention this year because his handful of supporters happen to be zealots with a lot of time on their hands. Thankfully for Romney, the effort ultimately fizzled out. But it was nonetheless worth amending the rules to ensure that a future (presumptive) nominee could avoid that sort of hijinx from overshadowing his coming out party to the American people.

UPDATE: Mark Levin takes to Facebook to urge, “Damn it, defeat this RINO power grab!

Conservatives of all stripes, especially Tea Party activists, this is an attempt to destroy your ability to influence the presidential and vice presidential nomination process in the Republican Party.  It is an attempt to eviscerate the input of state parties.  It is a brazen assault on the grassroots.  And it is sleazy to the core.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think Obama was behind it.  Instead, Romney’s operatives are orchestrating it.

Now, I’m sure I was right.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Commonist says:

    Not so much fun when voting rules are changed to make you less influential, eh teepers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. I tend to think that most of these rules changes are just fine. A process whereby a candidate who came in last place in popular votes, trailing the presumptive nominee by more than 8 million votes, could use antiquated procedures to hijack delegate selection at the convention level is absurd.

    I would have preferred if they’d gone father and done something like eliminate caucuses entirely but the RNC doesn’t really have the authority to do that, alas

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Also, I had some thoughts of my own on this subject over the weekend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Me Me Me says:

    This plus Citizens United means that in 2016 Republicans will have to line up behind whoever a small group of plutocrats pick.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  5. @Me Me Me:

    As will the Democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  6. Me Me Me says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That’s right, Doug, because as we know, the one rule of OTB is, no matter what the question is, the answer is both sides do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  7. @Me Me Me:

    You do realize that Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign got millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and the banks, right? You do know that his 2012 campaign has legions of rich bundlers collecting donations for him, right? You’re not naive enough to think that doesn’t come with a price, are you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Good move by the RNC. It really is a no brainer. Lunatic fringes are fine in media, Internet and academic circles, but the reality is that national elections are far too critical to allow riff raff to have disproportionate influence. I would go several steps further — including radically increasing the minimum voting age — but those are topics for other times and places.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. Anderson says:

    to change the party’s rules to allow future presidential candidates to have veto power over who can be delegates from any state

    I take Doug’s point, but isn’t this the stake in the heart for having a “convention” in the first place?

    The theory is that the delegates select the nominee; now the nominee decides who the delegates can be? Bass-ackward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. @Anderson:

    No, the principle behind the rules changes as I see it is that the primary voters decide who the nominee is going to be. Tightening the delegate is meant to ensure that. We are long past the day where candidates were selected at conventions, the entire nomination process as been a pro forma thing for decades now. It’s time to change the process and modernize it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Anderson says:

    Of course you’re right, Doug, that primaries decide the nominee; but my point is, if there’s not even going to be a pretense that the convention does the nominating, then why have a convention?

    Couldn’t that money be better spent on TV ads in Ohio?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. BarryBarryd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I agree, Doug. It gets ridiculous and IMHO morally fraudulent when the voting is so disconnected from the elevate counts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Me Me Me says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If I may be allowed to ape your favorite rhetorical style of rebuttal:

    You do realize that Barack Obama’s 2008 primary campaign was outspent by nearly 25% and yet he won anyway, right? You do know that his 2012 primary campaign was unopposed, right? You’re not naive enough to think that you’ve somehow proven that he is the plutocrats choice, are you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  14. PJ says:

    Some Republican billionaires have paid millions for their candidate to win the nomination, they should obviously also get to pick their delegates, either by themselves, or through the proxy of the candidate, anything else would be seriously unfair and undemocratic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  15. RonLUVPaulBot says:

    …Ron Paul, who continues to be a novelty candidate with little real support,..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrD4adjNud0

    Start video at 1:23 to see me cry!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. Scott says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: How about a maximum voting age?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. wr says:

    @Me Me Me: “This plus Citizens United means that in 2016 Republicans will have to line up behind whoever a small group of plutocrats pick. ”

    Unlike this year, when the grassroots all rose up and nominated… Oh, right. Never mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. wr says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: ” I would go several steps further — including radically increasing the minimum voting age — but those are topics for other times and places. ”

    Unless by another place you mean some nutball blog I never have to see and by another time you mean never, no they’re not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Scott says:

    @Anderson: It does turn conventions into something as useful as the electoral college.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Mitt Romney’s forces won a rules change that will allow future nominees to have more say over their conventions.

    Since there is no nominee until after the convention, how exactly does that work? Time travel?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. jan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “You do realize that Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign got millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and the banks, right? You do know that his 2012 campaign has legions of rich bundlers collecting donations for him, right?”

    Don’t forget oil companies like BP who also heavily donated to Obama, who outraised McCain handily. But all this left-ward money gets lost in their disingenuous rhetoric, just like the stunning number of fundraisers Obama has had (versus other presidential candidates), as well as Hollywood events.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: But it’s been decades since we entered a convention not knowing in advance who the nominee was. It’s a charade. So, to the extent they exist, it makes sense for the presidential standard bearer to control the process.

    @Anderson: While I think most of the convention nonsense is a relic, there’s still substantial value in having some rallying point where the candidates give speeches to the nation and the party gets to highlight its stars for a national audience. (The Democrats have done a better job of this, launching Clinton and Obama to the presidency with their keynote speeches.) That and the debates are the only time when the candidates are forced to speak to the country rather than to either adoring crowds or via slick ad spots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. c4lcncpls says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If, the candidates don’t want to see the delegates go to another candidate, they should show up at the conventions instead of sitting at home. That’s what the conventions are for! Ask Obama. He played the same delegate strategy in 2008.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. c4lcncpls says:

    @jan: did you know that BP wrote off all the expenses of the gulf oil leak on their taxes and the tax payers ended up footing the bill! Don’t ya just love how the corporations have designed the tax code to benefit them in every way. The tax payers are always getting screwed!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  25. @James Joyner:

    So, to the extent they exist, it makes sense for the presidential standard bearer to control the process.

    That’s great, but what is the process for determining the identity of said standard bearer prior to the nominating convention? Have someone watch Fox News until an anchor calls someone “the nominee” like some bizarre political version of Groundhog Day?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. c4lcncpls says:

    @Doug Mataconis: After watching this election season and seeing how on numerous occasions whole boxes of votes were somehow lost or misreported, I don’t like the idea of turning the voting process over to the MSM and the parties themselves. Taking the delegate process out (Removing the people from the process) is dangerous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The fact that all of the candidates except Ron Paul, who won zero states, have endorsed Mitt Romney might serve as some clue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. @James Joyner:

    I’m not disputing that Romney should be considered the nominee prior to the convention. I’m questioning what the process for making that official is. It’s not like the GOP hive mind will magically reach some collective recognition of this fact. There has to be some explicit procedure now by which a “nominee elect” is declared. What is that procedure?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. IMO it’s perfectly reasonable for the delegate selection rules to require that delegates who are pledged to support a particular candidate be approved by that candidate. If a candidate doesn’t want to surrender their pledged delegates to the presumptive nominee (like Paul), or someone is chosen as an unpledged delegate, then the presumptive nominee shouldn’t be able to veto their selection, but if you’re supposed to be a Romney delegate, ISTM Romney has every legitimate right to insist you’ll support him and the things he wants at the convention.

    If nothing else, it may restrain the circus of base-pandering in future platforms (and might reasonably lead to people insisting the nominee actually take ownership over the platform, rather than being able to wash their hands of it as they can now).

    Hopefully this also marks the end of the RNC just half-assed doing things the DNC has done in the past. The DNC rules like proportional allocation, superdelegates, and crap like that (that the GOP has been adopting too without much thought recently) were designed to solve problems the Democrats faced in the 70s and 80s, as a highly factionalized party that had to appeal to a broad coalition. The GOP has always been more homogenous, so the DNC-style rules don’t make a lot of sense where you have essentially 3 factions (socon, main street/Rockefeller, libertarian, with the tea party being a bit of a blend of the 1st and 3rd, rhetorically more libertarian but operationally more socon) as opposed to 30 (ethnic/racial/gender, generational, union vs immigrant, social moderate vs social liberal, social democrat vs capitalist vs democratic socialist, etc., all in overlapping combinations).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  30. Robert Bell says:
  31. Rafer Janders says:

    The long-haired bearded freak at far left in the photo at the top of this post should get a job rather than parading around in furs, a blouse and other weird clothing…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. melvin polatnick says:

    [Trolling deleted by editors]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Davebo says:

    Ah, another Romney flip-flop.

    TAMPA, Fla. – Republican leaders hastened on Monday to quell an uprising by Texans and Ron Paul supporters that threatened to steal the spotlight from Mitt Romney and expose rifts in the party just as its nominating convention got under way.

    Under a compromise reached late Monday, Romney supporters and GOP leaders agreed to back down from a proposed rule change that effectively would have allowed presidential nominees to choose which delegates represent them at national conventions.

    The proposed change was aimed at muting the power of insurgent candidates such as Paul, a tea party favorite. But the move prompted an uproar from Texas Republicans, who select their delegates through successive votes in conventions at precincts, then districts and finally statewide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0