There were several inspiring speeches delivered at last night’s Republican National Convention. Talk of “unity” filled the air. Many GOP leaders praised the “grass-roots.” But behind the scenes, the RNC power grab has exacerbated distrust between a diverse group of rank-and-file activists and party bosses.
I have no patience for the Republican party-bots telling these front-line soldiers to shut up in the name of unity — and to hide “in-fighting” because the Left will publicize it. It should be publicized. Conservative activists and Tea Party members have worked their asses off within the system, doing the groundwork of righting the wayward GOP ship from the inside. These are the door-knockers, sign-makers, phone-bankers, and message-spreaders who fueled the Tea Party revolution and who enabled the 2010 GOP midterm victories. They fought for and earned their place at the table.
I also have no patience for the sideline-sitters who gripe that rules fights are booooooring and meaningless. The Tea Party conservative activists are doing what an effective movement is supposed to be: They’ve moved on from protests and rallies to the nuts and bolts of party politics. These battles matter, because exercising grass-roots muscles makes them stronger.
Finally, I have no patience for the addled critics who think we are unable to multi-task. Yes, you can criticize bad GOP maneuvers AND maintain the fight against Obama and the progressives at the same time! It’s easy if you try.
Below, I’m reprinting the after-action report from veteran conservative blogger and South Carolina GOP activist Drew McKissick, who first alerted me to the battle earlier this week.
The bottom line: Get organized, get loud, and stay vigilant. No matter who ends up in the White House in January, no matter what letter follows the names of the people in power in Washington, the grass-roots conservative movement must be prepared to stand its ground. Forewarned is forearmed.
RNC Rules Fight – After Action Report:
First let me say thank-you, thank-you to conservatives everywhere who spoke up and started a national firestorm over this issue. If you’re like me, you know just how important it is to the future of the conservative movement.
With the Rules meeting itself, the first problem was attendance. Many, many of our supporters simply didn’t make it there do to buses that were up to an hour late to pick them up, (Morton Blackwell of Virginia had this problem). Many of them who didn’tmake it would have been additional signatures to our petition. But they started the meeting anyway, introducing a motion to ratify the final report of last Friday with the exception of the rule 16 compromise language taking out candidate veto power over delegates. This final motion passed.
As the meeting was going on, we were circulating our minority report petition. At one point, the male delegate from Massachusetts snatched it out of the hands ot the lady from North Dakota, refusing to give it back after repeated demands, resulting in a shoving match when the delegate from Colorado came to her defense.
After the final vote was over, according to party rules, we had one hour to file our minority reports, and, according to Rules, they have to be filed with either the committee chair, secretary, or convention secretary. Of course, after the meeting, they were no where to be found.
We continued to pick up signatures after the meeting, getting up to 24 our our Rule 12 minority report…but 4 shy of what would have been needed. Again, many people simply weren’t there. Others had their arms twisted. And others, as I learned, were simply “replaced” on the committee by their delegations.
On the Rule 16 issue, we had enough – IF we could have submitted something on paper – but again, no one there…or to be found. So our only option was to re-submit, via email, the pdf of what we submitted last Friday. We emailed this to Sununu and the convention secretary. The problem however would have been that it had 29 signatures, but since Friday, 2 members asked to have their names removed, so it would have been a no-go.
After the vote on the convention floor, it occurred to me that we probably should have just told everyone to “vote no” on the rules entirely…and yell “division” to force a head count…if the rules failed, a new motion substituting the old rules may have been in order…but hindsight is 20-20.
The upside is that as a result of shining a light on what was going on and alerting everyone to it, we were able to force a compromise to get the worst part of the proposed changes removed, (the change that would let campaigns have veto power over delegates).
The downside is that all of the rest of the garbage went through, (i.e. letting the RNC change the rules between conventions, removing a March proportionality rule that will result in a massive front-loaded national primary in 4 or 8 years, forcing some caucus/convention states to bind delegates against their own rules and state law, etc..).
Worst yet, due to the RNC’s new power to change the rules, the [genie] is out of the bottle and, who knows, a proposal for candidates to have delegate veto power may yet be in our future.
This whole debacle verifies what I call “Drew McKissick’s unified theory of political power” – Those who get involved and stay involved have the power. Even idiots eventually get promoted up the chain to their level of incompotence if for no other reason that there is so much apathy that “somebody” has to fill xyz position and “hey, this guy always shows up, give it to him”. And there you go.
The takeaway for conservatives is this: GET INVOLVED – AND STAY INVOLVED. Yes, those boring old precinct meetings matter. Going to county party meetings matters. Running for delegate matters. Who your delegates pick for Platform and Rules Committees REALLY MATTERS. Show up…support good people who can’t be bullied.
Right now we have a campaign – or many campaigns – to win this November. And conservatives should do everything they can to win. But after Election Day remember, the candidates represent the party, not the other way around.
Keep the heat on, and keep them honest. This shook people up. Keep them that way.
Thanks again for all of the support. You have no idea how much it meant.
At a minimum, the effect of the new rules will be to empower insiders over the broad party electorate and to discourage grassroots activists from taking part in the process. They will thus have a chilling effect on intra-party debate, including debate over the National Platform and, of course, on future rules changes. The “Inner Circle” has scored quite a coup.
…Governor Sununu chaired the meeting. Governor Barbour strongly urged “unity” and the need for everyone to set aside “differences” to “defeat Barack Obama.”
The rules package, containing the insider’s compromise, passed by a decisive vote of 78 to 14. Unfortunately, the Rule 12 change (permitting the RNC to change the rules between conventions) remained in the package, unaltered.
The package then went immediately to the full Convention for approval. On the convention floor, Governor Sununu offered it as a “strong governing framework” for the party over the next four years, and with no debate or even mention of the controversy over Rule 12, Speaker Boehner then called for the ayes and noes. The crowd roared loudly, on both sides of the question. Despite the “noes” being (in this hearer’s estimate) louder than the “ayes,” Boehner hastily gaveled the matter closed.
Apparently — and to our surprise and disappointment — the delegates’ did not have the power to call for a recorded vote from the floor. So we had no recourse from Boehner’s declaration that “The ayes have it.” Had we been able to force a roll-call vote, it would have delayed the day’s proceedings by several hours. We had been counting on this fact to provide us with leverage, since we knew Team Romney would have done almost anything to avoid such an embarrassing logistical foul-up on the Convention’s first night. But alas, it seems, that possibility had been foreseen, and the grassroots revolt was forestalled.
After the disappointing outcome, FreedomWorks released the following statement from Matt Kibbe:
I believe that the Republican party has made a huge mistake by effectively disenfranchising grassroots activists who want to be a part of the party process. If the party sincerely wants the support of citizens, shutting them out of the process is not the way to do it. Sooner rather than later the Republican establishment needs to come to terms with the decentralized nature of grassroots organization circa 2012. The terms of engagement can no longer be dictated from the top-down.
The new rules strongly suggest the insiders don’t think they need the grassroots to win in 2012, despite the critical role grassroots voters played in the historic 2010 wave election.
Despite this setback, we’re proud to have come so close to victory on such short notice and while operating under such severe disadvantages, relative to the insiders. This episode confirms just how powerful grassroots action can be in today’s world — and we hope the party insiders are taking note of this fact.