Equal representation for the Northern Marianas


There was very little objection voiced to a rules amendment granting the Republican Party of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas equal status with the 50 states, D.C., and four other territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa). This would give the territory three seats on the Republican National Committee (chairman, national committeeman and national committeewoman), and two seats on each of the convention committees, the same number as each of the states, however large or small.

The Commonwealth enjoys the same relationship with the US as Puerto Rico, but while Puerto Rico has nearly four million people, the Northern Marianas has only 78,252 inhabitants over less than 200 square miles. That's fewer people than Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, but a little more than American Samoa with population of 57,902.

At first I thought it was nice for them to be included, as an acknowledgement of their status as a commonwealth and the strength of the local GOP. There were two gentlemen in the gallery whom I took to be Marianans -- they were very pleased with the result of the vote and were being congratulated by the Rules Committee members from the other territories.

Thinking about it further, it doesn't make much sense for any of the territories to be extended equal status with the states in the Republican Party. The Republican Party exists to fight federal elections for Congress and the presidency, and these territories aren't involved in that process. Unlike the territories of the past, these territories are unlikely to become states and their current status seems permanent. It would make more sense for the Republican National Committee, representing the 50 state parties, would establish a fraternal or affiliate relationship with territorial parties, which would be autonomous.

There's something silly about the tiny Northern Marianas having the same say as Texas in governing the Republican Party and setting its platform and rules. True enough, the final say is given to the convention as a whole, in which the size of state delegations is dependent on population and the success of the state party in electing Republicans to office. But the rules are such that the convention only ever votes up or down on the recommendations from the Rules and Platform Committees. It is just barely possible to bring an amendment from the floor, but it requires a suspension of the rules, and that means the support of a majority of six state delegations just to move for a suspension, and the support of two-thirds of the delegates to approve the suspension and allow you to bring your amendment. For all practical purposes, the decisions are made by the committees, and it would require a good deal of pre-convention organizing to successfully break through that barrier. There are considerable barriers to doing pre-convention organizing, but more about that later.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 30, 2004 6:20 AM.

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