RNC 2012 rules fight: What happened, why it matters

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The last three evenings were occupied with an election night watch party (disappointing results, but some good conversation late into the night that only confirmed my conviction that Oklahoma is much the poorer that someone as principled, intelligent, and sincere as Shane Saunders won't be serving in the state legislature next year), dinner with visiting customers, and grading Greek papers.

There's a lot I'd like to say about the rules changes that Romney's forces pushed through the Republican National Convention Rules Committee last week and the convention as a whole on Tuesday, but no time to say much now, so I'll point you to four articles that cover the important details and correctly comprehend the significance of what came to be tagged on Twitter as #goppowergrab.

First, just a few points from me:

1. This wasn't about Ron Paul and his supporters. It was about shutting down grassroots conservatives of all stripes -- old timers and newcomers alike -- in favor of the wheeler-dealers and K Street insiders.

2. It wasn't about 2012. It was about 2016 -- protecting Romney from a conservative challenger if he turns out to be a RINO in office -- and 2020 -- letting the next establishment candidate sew up the nomination as quickly as McCain did in 2008. The rules don't just govern this convention; they govern the party until the next convention, and they set precedent for future rules.

3. Too many conservatives want to know why we wind up with candidates like Dole, McCain, Romney, but then they dismiss rules disputes as "inside baseball," not worth noticing, not worth fighting about. Folks, it all starts here. Rules shape the race. Rules shape the structure of the party and the distribution of power. If you want to debug the system, you have to analyze the source code.

4. I had been trying for some time, without much success, to get conservative bloggers to pay attention to this issue. Back in January I'd suggested to a conference planner that the "inner workings of the Republican Party" should be a panel topic at the next conservative bloggers conference, with a panel made up of bloggers who, like myself, had been involved in Republican Party politics:

I see a lot of frustrated commentary from conservative bloggers about the GOP, often anthropomorphizing the party as a monolithic entity, when it's really a complex system of individuals, forces, rules, and institutions. Rather than blame the party as a whole and attack the symptoms with no lasting impact, conservatives need to identify and target the causes of the problems we see, and conservative bloggers can play an important role in providing context and directing activist energy in productive ways.

More recently I suggested that any bloggers who could be in Tampa before the convention began should report on the Rules Committee meeting, as I had done in 2004 and 2008, specifically mentioning the possibility of an effort to undo the primary calendar reforms that governed the 2012 primary cycle, reforms that this time around prevented a super-frontloaded national primary. As far as I know, no conservative bloggers reported from the meeting itself, and there weren't any conservative-leaning news outlets there either. Live tweets (which I captured with the GOP 2012 Rules Twitter list) were coming from reporters with Buzzfeed, CNN, Huffington Post, and Politico.

If more conservative bloggers and reporters had been paying attention from the beginning, and if Team Romney and the Rules Committee knew we were paying attention, perhaps some of the Romney changes would not have been put forward by the Romney people or won the Rules Committee's approval.

All that said, here are four well-done articles on the controversy and its aftermath:

Washington Examiner's Tim Carney: Republican leaders trample their grass roots in Tampa

Michelle Malkin: RNC Power Grab: The Aftermath

FreedomWorks' Dean Clancy: Romney's "RNC Power Grab": What Really Happened

Mark America: Becoming a Top-Down Party of Nothing

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1 Comments

Laramie Hirsch said:

I simply don't think I can take American elections seriously ever again. It's been great fun, but it's become a bore.

People scoff at the idea that there's "king makers" out there. Why argue? People want delusion, so who am I to ruin their fun?

Pepsi or Coke? What a joke.

ELECTION 2012: WHO CARES?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 30, 2012 11:04 PM.

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