On this second day of the Republican National Convention, little has made headlines as much as the controversy surrounding the attempt to change the rules regarding delegate selection for upcoming elections. If you read blogs and listen to media personalities, the attempted rules change was nothing more than the establishment Republicans, affectionately known as the GOP-E, attempting to disenfranchise any future grassroots movement and make the choosing of a party nominee something controlled in smoky back-rooms.
The reality of the situation, however, is far different than the emotional, knee-jerk reaction that many on the Right had. Instead of an attempt to wrestle power away from the grassroots, the changes in Rules 12 and 15 regarding the selection of delegates, was an attempt to preserve the representation of the votes of the people by the delegates.
The need to potentially address a loop-hole in the delegation selection process first started being discussed several months ago as the Republican primary was nearing its end. At the time, Rick Santorum had won several States, but when the delegates were chosen for these States, Santorum had little to no representation among the delegates chosen. Instead, most of the delegates were pledged to Ron Paul, who came in near the bottom in votes in these States. At this time, perhaps confident or gleeful in what was taking place, several Ron Paul supporting websites begin to brag about the “Tampa Strategy”. In short, the Tampa Strategy was not to actually win elections, but to try to instead subvert the voters and win through loopholes in the rules that gave the opening in many States for delegates to be selected who didn’t represent the will of the voters in those States. At this time, Red State also reported that several pledged delegates to Mitt Romney had bragged online they were actually Ron Paul supporters and had no intention of casting their votes for the candidate they pledged to. In Maine, Mitt Romney won 40 percent of the primary vote, yet, almost the entire group of delegates chosen after the primary went to Ron Paul. These delegates refused to sign a pledge to vote to represent the voters of their State, and instead declared that even though Paul lost the primary, they would be casting their vote for Paul.
As unbelievable as it sounds, many Paul supporting groups even claimed to have enough sleeper delegates in place to prevent the nomination of Mitt Romney, who, by the actual votes, easily clenched the nomination. As more and more fights built up around these delegates, including a lawsuit against the RNC by Paul delegates, many Ron Paul supporters started to pledge to create havoc at the convention. On websites like The Daily Paul and Liberty Forest, the strategy was called Fight Club with the joke, “don’t talk about Fight Club”.
With this background, the party looked at how this loophole could be prevented in the future. Rule 12, the rule governing how delegates were chosen, was proposed to be modified to ensure that the winner of each state’s primary is the one who chose the delegates to represent him or her, they would not be chosen by precinct party officials and members who may have volunteered for the job a week before. The integrity of the vote would be preserved.
Unfortunately, this message didn’t get out. As soon as the proposed changes to Rule 12 came up, pundits and Tea Party leaders decried it as an attack on the grassroots by the GOP-E. Personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin quickly hooked on to this anger and sentiment, adding fuel to the fire. Although well intentioned to protect the people from the establishment, what they didn’t realize was the intention and motivation behind these rule changes would have given more power to the grassroots to be duly represented through their votes, not through back-room delegate games.
One State party official put it bluntly: “What if next time, instead of the delegate process being hijacked by a small fringe group of Libertarians, the Democrat Party machine decided to interfere in our primary process?”.
The rift between the so-called establishment and the grassroots, however, has already been torn open. Maybe through years of being under-represented, Conservatives across the country were quick to see a conspiracy against them by entrenched politicians. Somehow, they even saw this as a personal attack by candidate Romney against them even though, ironically enough, Romney wouldn’t benefit from this rule change as his delegates were already chosen.
Still the flames are being fanned. Some want this small incident to suppress the vote and keep the division in the party wide. So as you read stories about Rule 12 and the so called GOP-E, ask yourself, who is benefiting from this division within the party? Who actually gains power if our side is divided?