Back in the bad old days of the GOP primary when #NeverTrump was still all the rage, we were having a heated debate over the rules of the convention. It seemed like every trick in the book was up for debate in an effort to thwart Trump’s nomination in a dreaded “contested convention” scenario in the event that the primary voters selected him. All of these tactics seemed to revolve around ways to use the existing convention rules to swing delegates away from Trump or to rewrite the rules entirely to make that possible. Such talk hasn’t ended entirely since we’re still hearing rumblings about allowing all of the delegates to vote their conscience, similar to an option held by the Democrats.
Now, at the eleventh hour, one party official who is a member of both the RNC standing rules committee and the convention rules committee wants to cut these ideas off at the pass. This new plan, if somehow adopted, would freeze the convention rules as they stand now and have any changes adopted in the week before the convention not apply until 2020. (National Review)
[Solomon] Yue is a member of both committees — and he wants to fundamentally alter this process, both to protect Trump and prevent chaos in Cleveland.
Under his proposal, submitted to the party’s legal department on Tuesday, the 2016 convention would be governed only by the language approved by the RNC Rules Committee. Members of the Convention Rules Committee would still be authorized to introduce, vote on, and approve additional changes, but those wouldn’t be implemented until Trump’s coronation in Cleveland is complete – meaning they would govern the 2020 convention, not this one.
Yue is seeking to change Rule 42, which currently states that the standing committee rules may be modified by the convention committee and that those rules will be in effect for this year’s convention. If he gets his way, Rule 42 will now read as follows:
The Rules adopted by the 2016 Convention, as amended under Rule 12, shall constitute the Rules of the Republican National Committee and the 2016 National Convention. Any amendments herein to these rules, as adopted by the 2016 National Convention, shall take effect at the adjournment of the 2016 National Convention and constitute the Rules for the Republican National Committee and the 2020 National Convention.
It’s unlikely that this change will be approved (sadly) as it takes a lot of power out of the hands of a small group of people who are used to wielding this sort of influence and it could only be done with their approval. That’s a pity because the proposal is almost exactly the same as one which I suggested back in March. The idea that the candidates should spend a year building and implementing a strategy based on their understanding of the rules of the game, only to be handed a new rule book when they arrive at the convention is about as far from a democratic process as one could imagine. When originally pitching this idea I used the following analogy.
Imagine for a moment that you’re the anchor runner in a relay race who has opened up big lead coming into the final stretch. Then, when you are twenty yards from victory, you see a rules official nailing up a sign near the finish line saying, “All Runners Must Use Pink Batons.” You look over your shoulder and see, fifty yards behind you, another official handing out pink batons to your opponents. Do you suppose that your fans in the stands will shrug their shoulders and conclude that you should have been carrying a variety of different colored batons if you really wanted to win?
I realize that there are still quite a few party officials and very vocal observers who are unhappy with the way the primary battle turned out. But basing decisions about the process on the result of a single voting cycle is an invitation to disaster. Trust in the party and the process could be greatly enhanced (likely resulting in more participation by registered Republicans) if there was one set of rules which all contenders had available to them at the beginning of the primary. If we massively rewrite them in the hours before the convention it simply makes the process look rigged and it will push more voters away from the party.
Unfortunately, Yue’s proposed change is unlikely to be approved. That’s a pity because it could solve a number of problems over the long run.