A message to my fellow delegates: Reform the nomination process

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Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be focusing a lot more here and in real life on the Republican National Convention. (Note to the Cockroach Caucus -- I will still be keeping an eye on City Hall, so don't try anything.)

Earlier today I sent the following e-mail to the chairmen of all the state delegations to the Republican National Convention, asking them to forward it on to their states' delegates and alternates. I will let you know what kind of feedback I receive.

Dear fellow delegates,

I'm an at-large delegate from Oklahoma, and I'd like to take a few minutes of your time to call your attention to an important issue.

In just over a week we'll be gathering in New York City to renominate President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and to celebrate our party's achievements at every level of government.

We will also be looking ahead to 2008 -- we as delegates will vote on the rules which will govern the Republican Party until the next convention, including the 2008 presidential nominating process. The decisions we make at this convention will shape the contest for our party's next standard-bearer, and it's important that we make the most of this once-every-four-years opportunity to reexamine our rules.

Going as far back at least 10 years, there has been a growing sense that the current system of front-loaded and plurality-take-all primaries does not serve our party well, and that the problem is only getting worse as more states move their primaries earlier. At best, we may well find ourselves in 2008 in the same awkward position that the Democrats are in this year. The nominating process would be effectively over eight months before the election, and the party would be stuck with a presumptive nominee who fails to inspire the grass roots of the party and fails to appeal to the American electorate as a whole. At worst, the shortened primary season may not give us enough time to learn about the candidates. Damaging information may emerge about the presumptive nominee during the many months between clinching the nomination and the convention. Under the current rules, if such a flawed candidate refused to step aside, the convention would have no choice but to go ahead and nominate him.

Leading up to the 2000 convention, the Brock Commission studied reforms and brought forward a recommendation known as the Delaware Plan, which would have addressed front-loading by putting the most delegate-rich states at the end of the primary calendar. The plan received the endorsement of the Republican National Committee, but in the Rules Committee it was killed as the result of lobbying by political operatives who were focused on short-term advantage rather than the long-term health of the Republican Party. You can read what happened by clicking this link.

Since 2000, the schedule has become even more front-loaded and the problem has only gotten worse. If we waste this opportunity and take a pass on the issue at this convention, it will be four years before there is another opportunity to reform the process, and changes won't take effect until the 2012 primary season.

The word from on high is that no substantive changes to the rules will be brought before the 2004 convention. But ultimately, that decision is up to us, the delegates.

As a grass roots party activist like you, I've worked on countless campaigns, attended countless caucuses and conventions, was the Republican nominee for a city council race, and currently serve as a state committeeman and member of my county's central committee. I don't have a candidate picked out for 2008 or any axe to grind. I'm not committed to any particular reform proposal. I'm just concerned that we have a process in place that will give us the strongest possible nominee as the standard-bearer for our Republican principles in 2008 and beyond.

We can make a difference. The future of the Republican Party has been entrusted to us as delegates to this year's convention. If you agree with me that this convention should address our broken presidential nominating system, if you agree that we can't wait until 2012, take action today:

  1. Contact your state's delegates to the convention Rules Committee and urge them to consider and recommend primary reforms to the convention. Remind them that any Rules Committee member has the right to bring a reform plan up for consideration by moving to amend the proposed rules. Urge them to give the convention as a whole the chance to consider this important issue. Remind them, too, that it only takes 25% of the committee members to write a minority report, which would also come before the convention.
  2. E-mail me at gopreform -at- batesline -dot- com and let me know of your interest in this issue. In order to bring about reform, we will have to be organized and in communication. When you e-mail, let me know the best way to get in touch with you in New York City. If there's sufficient interest, we may organize a meeting prior to the convention's opening.

If you would like more information, please write me at this e-mail address. A web search for Delaware Plan and primaries will lead you to many articles on the reforms proposed in 2000. This website presents nearly a dozen alternative plans for reforming the nominating process, listing the pros and cons of each. Whatever reform proposal you prefer, let's work together to address the problems in our broken nominating system.


Michael D. Bates
Oklahoma at-large delegate

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Michael Bates is an at-large delegate from Oklahoma to the Republican National Convention, and he's addressed this letter to the chairmen of all the state delegations: [We will be] looking... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 20, 2004 8:26 PM.

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