As if we didn’t have enough on our plates at the moments.
Politico has rounded up the first four members of the GOP convention rules committee who will be meeting prior to the big shindig in Cleveland this summer and gotten their take on one of the more contentious aspects of the upcoming festivities. Their job will be to establish the rules of the road for the nomination, recommending changes to the process which will then have to be approved by the delegates on the floor. (But since such things tend to be done on a voice vote with the host – Paul Ryan – deciding the result, that’s a bit sketchy to begin with.) The big ticket item which Politico asked them about was Rule 40(b) which already has much of the party up in arms.
All four early appointees of the rules committee for this year’s Republican convention told POLITICO they’re prepared to weaken or scrap a rule that could limit the convention’s alternatives to Donald Trump.
The four took issue with a rule, originally imposed by Mitt Romney forces in 2012 to keep rival Ron Paul off the convention stage, requiring a candidate to win a majority of delegates in eight states to be eligible for the party’s nomination — a threshold only Trump has exceeded so far. If preserved, the rule could block John Kasich or Ted Cruz from competing with Trump at the convention, set for July in Cleveland…
“I’m not a big fan of the eight-state threshold. I think that’s an artificial number,” said David Wheeler, a rules committee member from South Dakota. “It was designed to prevent Ron Paul delegates — their votes from being counted. I don’t think it’s necessary to do that this year.”
With all due respect to Mr. Wheeler, it’s precisely these sorts of answers which increase anger among the base and cast a rather unflattering light on the entire process. We can save for another day the debate over whether keeping Ron Paul’s delegates off the floor was the “right” thing to do in what is purportedly a semi-democratic process, but rules are supposed to apply to everyone. Granted… they did apply to everyone for a single week in 2012, but these sorts of discussions make it rather obvious that the rules are not supposed to be guidelines which ensure a steady, predictable process, but instead are set up as situational weapons to train upon whoever you don’t like.
Even if we leave the optics aside, messing around too much with Rule 40(b) is going to open the door for various unintended consequences. Last season’s requirements mean that only candidates who win the majority of delegates in eight or more states can have their name entered into consideration on the floor. Would they reduce the threshold to some lower number… let’s say five? Or would they scrap it entirely? Assuming that Ted Cruz is really surging and has a shot at finishing strong (which should almost certainly be the case) he should be able to meet the eight state threshold anyway. Lowering the number to two puts Marco Rubio back on the table and he quit the race. Is that what we’re looking for?
And as the Politico piece notes, if they scrap the rule entirely, the door is now open to all manner of chaos. Should we actually be looking forward to a convention where someone who didn’t even run (Romney?) or dropped out before the voting even began (Walker? Perry?) comes out as the nominee? I understand the natural temptation for those who are extremely dissatisfied with the final mix of contenders to shout, YES! But at that point we’ve essentially disenfranchised everyone who came out to vote, volunteered or worked on the various campaigns, substituting the decision of a collection of party officials for the judgement of the base.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but… isn’t that what we’ve been complaining about for years now? If that’s the ultimate “solution” then why did anyone bother trying to get involved in the process in the first place?