Last Friday, August 24th, longtime GOP lawyer and Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg surprised Rules Committee members by proposing three basic changes clearly intended to head off a conservative challenge to President Romney and/or tamp down the Tea Party and Ron Paul movements in 2016.
The proposed changes would do two main things:
1.Amend existing Rule 12 to hand national party officials, for the first time, the power to change the party’s rules between national conventions, which take place every fourth year. Three-fourths of RNC members must approve a proposed change for it to take effect. This is unprecedented. It would enable top GOP officials to circumvent rules adopted by state and grassroots leaders at the National Convention. One can imagine how it might be used to shape and control the delegate-selection process to the advantage of insiders and special interests.
2.Amend existing Rule 15 to allow the presumptive presidential nominee to “disavow” duly elected delegates and force state parties to hold new elections to replace any delegate or alternate deemed unacceptable by the presumptive presidential nominee. One can imagine the influence this change would give a presumptive nominee over any delegate that doesn’t toe the line. He could, in effect, choose the people who are to choose him. It’s not hard to imagine the temptation a campaign would feel to use this power to intimidate delegates and to reward friends, supporters, and campaign contributors. The proposal also contained a provision altering the method of allocating delegates, in order to front-load and shorten the primary calendar.
Unfortunately, the proposed change to Rule 12 passed. Thankfully, the proposed changes to Rule 15 were stopped. But an “insiders’ compromise” version of the “disavowal” provision did pass.
Under the “compromise,” a new Rule 16 was added to stop an alleged “faithless elector” problem — delegates who run claiming to support one candidate but then vote for another at the Convention. The new Rule 16 requires that a delegate who attempts to violate his binding pledge to a candidate under state law or state party rules shall be deemed to have resigned and the Secretary of the Convention must record the improper vote as it should have been cast based on state law or party rule. This compromise was supported by conservative stalwart James Bopp, as well as Ron Kaufman and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Blackwell opposed the compromise because it retained the Rule 12 change.
As long as the RNC can change the rules between conventions, the proposed changes to Rule 15 that we managed to stop could easily be revived at any time, without a vote at a National Convention.
What does this really mean? It means that voting in genearl elections isn’t enough to keep our country on track. It requires seasons of getting involved in the GOP to understand and influence how the GOP operates and picks its candidates.
Photo Credit: Donkey Hotey (Creative Commons)