Luck of the draw


One of the more intriguing proposals put before the Rules Committee on Friday came from Utah State Senator James Evans. Sen. Evans proposed a rule that would reserve four convention speaking slots for delegates selected at random. Evans argued that the grass roots are the strength of the party, and this would be a way to highlight that strength. He argued that delegates are informed, passionate about the party, and any one of them could speak for a few minutes about why he or she is a Republican. Presumably those who would not feel at ease behind the big podium could opt out of the lottery.

The opposition came mostly from the northern states. Those committee members expressed concern that randomly-selected delegates might not "stay on message," and that it was important to use every hour of the dwindling amount of network TV coverage to put the nominee's message across. Never mind that the reason for the dwindling amount of coverage is that nothing unscripted is allowed to happen. Evans tried to calm the control freaks' fears by saying that the RNC would still be able to vet these random delegate speeches, as they vet every other speech.

The proposal was defeated by about a 2-to-1 margin. The lesson that Republican leaders took away from the 1992 defeat was not, as it should have been, "don't renege on a promise not to raise taxes," but "no more Pat Buchanans" -- everything must be scripted and nothing must deviate, down to the signs that the delegates will be instructed to wave. (I don't however believe there is any truth to the rumor that convention organizers studied North Korean political rallies for ideas.)

Evans voiced the heretical notion that the convention is not only for the nominee but for the delegates and the whole party. The question in his mind was one of trust -- why wouldn't we entrust a short speaking slot to a delegate who has given time and talent in support of the party?

Through this debate and several others, I kept hoping one of the rules committee members would acknowledge the elephant in the living room -- the party is being run by control freaks whose control freakery hasn't actually been all that successful over the last few elections. Recall that Republicans haven't won the popular presidential vote since 1988, but we've done remarkably well in congressional and state legislative races, where our candidates are less likely to be polished and professionally managed, and more likely to say something off-message.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 30, 2004 1:25 AM.

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