Are Republicans Trying To Create A Third Party Problem For Themselves?
Republicans here in North Dakota were treated to an ugly spectacle earlier this election cycle in the form of state party leadership running a “railroad job” (to use the words of former state party chairman Gary Emineth) on Ron Paul and Rick Santorum supporters. Santorum and Paul had placed first and second, respectively, in statewide voting among Republicans yet at the state convention it was Mitt Romney supporters who got the nod to be delegates to the national convention.
This inspired angry protests on the floor of the convention, including from Emineth himself (see my interview with him shortly after his speech on the floor here). Unknown to many state convention attendees, the Romney had a powerful Republican lawyer by the name of Ben Ginsberg in attendance at the state party convention backing the play of party leadership as they silenced dissent from Santorum and Paul supporters.
Flash forward to the national convention, Mr. Ginsberg is again leading the charge to change rules that would allow the presumptive candidate to remove any delegates he likes, among other things.
TAMPA, FLA. — The GOP convention doesn’t officially start until Monday, but trouble is already brewing between presumptive nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans who are concerned by his campaign making an aggressive power play to control the party.
The drama Friday centered around a contentious meeting of the powerful Rules Committee, where Romney’s campaign lieutenants, led by his legal counsel Ben Ginsberg, pushed through several changes that would give Romney broad authority over the Republican nominating process.
Republican Liberty Caucus national chairman Dave Nalle has written an open letter to delegates in Tampa condemning the rule changes saying they make delegates “pawns rather than participants.”
One of the cornerstones of the Grand Old Party is a belief in republicanism and the idea that power is distributed and limited by checks and balances. Those values are embodied in our Constitution and they were the basis of the Republican Party when it was founded and for most of its history. Historically this has meant that most of the power in the Republican Party has rested with the party members in the states, working as delegates through their local and state caucuses and conventions to generate policy for the party in a unique collaborative process where the voice of the people could be heard strongly. …
Now there are those in Tampa who seek to overturn this traditional structure of the party, set restrictions on the free choice of party members and introduce a new and alien process which would minimize the input of the party’s rank and file and put power in the hands of party leaders and wealthy special interests who can buy the loyalty of the mob. They have borrowed the organizing structure of the Democrats and authored rules which would cause our delegates to be bound by the votes of primary voters who may not be Republicans or share our values. They have also proposed that the presumed presidential nominee could remove our elected delegates at whim. Finally they want to remove control over the rule making process from the state parties to a small elite within the national committee of the party who can change the rules under which the party operates at any time. Without fixed rules arrived at by the consent of the rank and file of the party we [state and national delegates elected at local conventions] become pawns rather than participants in the political process.
It’s always difficult when a political movement faces dissent from within, but that is no excuse for crushing said dissent. In fact, while crushing this dissent may be good short-term politics for the Romney campaign, among others, they’re bad for the long-term health of the political party.
One reason why third parties never survive long in American politics, and never have all that significant an impact, is because once a movement gets to a certain level of traction it usually gets assimilated by one of the two major parties who shift their platform to support the inclusion of a new part of their base.
What Republicans are doing now is marginalizing within their ranks members of an energetic, well-organized liberty movement. I know not all are enamored with the Ron Paul movement or their tactics – I am skeptical of the man myself, and often frustrated with said tactics – but these sort of exclusionary tactics only work to the ultimate detriment of the party.
If the elements being targeted by these rule changes feel like there’s no place for them in the Republican party, if they feel like their voices don’t matter in the party, then they’ll go somewhere else taking support for Republicans with them.
Many in the GOP are big on unity at this point in the political cycle. They want to unify behind the candidate, Mitt Romney, lest a divided Republican movement result in the re-election of Barack Obama. There’s a lot to that, but this unity stuff cuts both ways.
You can’t demand unity from people you are simultaneously trying to ostracize from your party.Tags: ben ginsberg, mitt romeny, republican national convention