While delegates in Tampa Bay were playing checkers, it seems that the RNC leadership was playing chess. The passage of Rule 12 has already caused damage to party unity. And never forget the old adage: “He who knows the rules, rules.”
As Ron Paul retires from the House and we enter the second term of Obama, it’s time to focus on bringing Republicans together. It may be a difficult task. On the plane ride home from the convention in Tampa Bay, I sat by a Ron Paul national delegate who was thoroughly disgusted by how the floor votes were handled. The Paul delegates firmly believed that they had the majority on some key votes and that the Chairman ignored them and railroaded the vote through without taking a standing vote to confirm the result. Because we did not have a division of the house, those Paul delegates will forever believe they were wronged.
Whether you agree with Ron Paul or not, we should all agree that Republicans believe in fairness. This Republican certainly does. Coming from an era when our Texas Republican Party was run by chairmen who rammed votes through and ignored grassroots’ input, and also having spent eight years on the RNC with the same type of top-down, our-way-or-the-highway leadership, we have to support GOP party leaders who will not abuse their power.
The perfect example of a principled party leader is RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri who follows Roberts’ Rules and gives everyone a fair shot. My observation over the years leads to a patently obvious conclusion: When folks are in power, they will use any tool at their disposal to maintain power. Eventually, however, that type of abuse will backfire and always causes rancor and discord among the party faithful.
That brings us to Rule 12.
During the National Convention the Rules Committee voted to give the standing RNC Rules Committee the power to change rules between conventions. For an informative analysis of what happened in Tampa Bay, read Rules Committee and RNC member Morton Blackwell’s opinion here. While proposed changes to national delegate selection did not pass per se, the fact that the RNC Rules Committee members voted to allow changes to the rules between conventions is significant. This means that any proposed change that did not pass in Tampa Bay can now be passed by the RNC standing committee on Rules. If they want to change the delegate selection process, they can do so. All of this was aimed at stopping Ron Paul delegates, or any delegates whom they deemed unworthy, from going to the National Convention, and this fact was not lost on Ron Paul supporters.
How many of those delegates ended up voting for Romney? Would they have voted for Romney had this whole rules debate not occurred? Would it have made a difference in the outcome of the election? Regardless of the answer to these questions, Republicans must stand for fairness. Ronald Reagan famously said that if someone agreed with him 80% of the time, that person is not an enemy. Let’s not continue to make Ron Paul the enemy. The enemy is anyone in party leadership who abuses power and creates infighting and animosity. Republicans will never win again unless we can work together as a team.
As the RNC prepares to convene its winter meeting in Charlotte beginning on January 25, 2013, the focus will be on electing an RNC Chairman (Reince Priebus is running for reelection, challenged by Maine National Committeeman Mark Willis). From now on, though, conservatives must watch to see what happens in the Rules Committee. Unlike the standing committees that are elected, the Rules Committee is comprised of one member from each state/territory and is chosen by the state’s three members. So the Texas Rules Committee member will be one of the three members of the Texas Delegation: Steve Munisteri, Borah Van Dormolen, or Robin Armstrong, and the three of them will decide amongst themselves who sits on Rules.
We do not want to go back to the days when national delegates were chosen from on high. Nor do we want top-down mandates of any kind. Delegate selection must remain in the hands of the grassroots. Stay tuned and stay vigilant.