The Rules Fight Food Fight
Opposition by Ron Paul supporters to rules regarding delegate selection threaten to mar Romney's coronation.
August 27, 2012 - 4:15 pm
That won’t happen to Romney even if the Paul delegates manage to bring the rules change issue to the floor of the convention for a debate. To do so, they must get a majority of six state delegations to vote in their favor — a task that, at this juncture, looks very difficult. But several party chairman are also concerned about the rules changes and might want to express their displeasure to the national party by joining the revolt. If enough of them decide to make a statement, anything is possible, including an old-fashioned roll call vote — a tedious, but sometimes entertaining, procedure that would give delegates a chance to let off a little steam.
The arguments against the rules changes are understandable, if a little overstated. Liberty Caucus chairman David Nalle:
One of the cornerstones of the Grand Old Party is a belief in republicanism and the idea that power is distributed and limited by checks and balances. Those values are embodied in our Constitution and they were the basis of the Republican Party when it was founded and for most of its history. Historically this has meant that most of the power in the Republican Party has rested with the party members in the states, working as delegates through their local and state caucuses and conventions to generate policy for the party in a unique collaborative process where the voice of the people could be heard strongly.
… Now there are those in Tampa who seek to overturn this traditional structure of the party, set restrictions on the free choice of party members and introduce a new and alien process which would minimize the input of the party’s rank and file and put power in the hands of party leaders and wealthy special interests who can buy the loyalty of the mob.
Such high-mindedness is to be admired, but one wonders what party he is talking about. Since the television age, most of the power has resided with the national party as state parties died on the vine. But if there was one prerogative left to state parties, it was choosing who would be rewarded for their service by being tapped to attend the big quadrennial party put on by the national GOP.
Nalle’s points about the effects of the rules changes are well taken. The question isn’t whether Nalle is right, but whether future GOP candidates need these rules changes. Mitt Romney carried 43 states during the primaries and received more than 10 million votes. Ron Paul carried three states and won two million votes. The Republican Party soundly rejected Mr. Paul, and yet because his small cadre of supporters were better organized and more energized than the regular GOP members, they were able to sow discord at state conventions, where they substituted their delegates for delegates who were bound by the primary or caucus results to another candidate. Give them an “A” for effort and an “F” for failing the first lesson in democracy: the people’s voice is the voice of God.
Binding delegates to the results of a party primary — even if some Democrats and independents vote in it — is not only the right thing to do, it’s common sense. How enthusiastic would you be to vote in a national election if the results of your state primary were tossed aside in favor of a candidate whose representatives thumbed their noses at the decision of the majority? The Ron Paul representatives have roiled several state party organizations which will now be less effective in November at getting out the vote and laying the groundwork for Mitt Romney to win. This situation can be avoided next time by passing a rule that prevents this kind of chaos.
The rule that allows the candidate to vet all delegates chosen at the state level to insure their loyalty is also simple common sense. One need only read this dispatch from Mary Grabar about delegates attending the GOP convention from Pennsylvania being members of the “Pennsylvania Working Families,” a front group for ACORN, to realize the efficacy of such a rule being in effect for the future. Opposition political activists have become adept at infiltrating GOP gatherings for several years and if state parties aren’t going to keep the enemy out of the convention, the national party must do it for them.
The chances of seeing a legitimate floor fight over these rules are slim. Mitt Romney has the vast majority of delegates and can easily beat back any challenge. The real question is whether the Ron Paul crowd now will channel their energies into trying to beat the establishment by convincing GOP voters of the righteousness of their cause. Only by winning at the ballot box can their revolution now advance.
And that’s the way it should be.