GOP leaders try to centralize power at RNC

Republican leadership attempted to strip states of power to select delegates.

by Jonathan Morris

Last week, the Republican National Convention gave the GOP a chance to rally their base and define their message to the voters before ballots are cast Nov. 6. And while voters may have seen clips of the dog and pony show candidate speeches, Clint Eastwood talking at an empty chair or the rumor of a holographic Ronald Regan a la Tupac at Coachella, voters likely failed to hear anything regarding the business the convention actually set out to accomplish: setting party rules and deciding on a party platform. 

Independent of any policy decisions made, the most concerning matter before the convention was a change of the rules in the delegate selection process. In many states, delegates had been selected independently of the party primary results. For example, here in Minnesota, delegates were not bound to vote for the winner of the state’s primary — Rick Santorum — and through knowledge of convention strategy, Ron Paul supporters captured 33 of the 40 delegates. At the convention, the Republican leadership attempted to change two sets of rules: first, to allow the national party leaders to change the rules between conventions without any input from delegates selected by state parties; and second, to allow for candidates themselves to pick the delegates that would attend the national convention based off of state primary results. These two changes would have centralized power amongst the party elite and effectively silence dissent. 

Grassroots party activists scored a temporary victory and forced leadership to settle on a compromise that would strip delegates of their status should they vote against a candidate whom they were bound to vote for by state party rules — for now. However, the rule to allow the National Committee to change convention rules, and therefore delegate selection rules as well, between conventions was passed by a voice vote on the floor. There were plenty of nay votes to be heard, but Speaker John Boehner ignored them and declared the ayes to have won without a count ever taking place. With the power to change the rules now in the hands of the National Committee, can we expect to see the selection process altered to suit the leadership in 2016 any way?