Rule changes threaten GOP activists

Tropical Storm Isaac isn’t the only thing on the minds of many conservatives who made the trip to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. There is also some concern over what is being viewed as a power grab to give unprecedented influence to estasblishment Republicans over the platform and rules beginning in 2016:

The Republican National Convention Rules Committee voted 63-38 to approve a new rule allowing granting the Republican National Committee — and Mitt Romney — sweeping new powers to amend the governing document of the GOP.

The move came at the encouragement of Mitt Romney supporters on the committee, including Romney’s top lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who stressed that it would grant “flexibility” to Romney and the committee to adapt to changing political environments. The rule allows the RNC to amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention. And it offers the Republican Establishment a new tool to keep at by Tea Party initiatives that threaten to embarrass or contradict party leadership and stray from a planned message.

Romney, as his party’s nominee, exerts significant influence over the RNC, which is made up of elected party officials from all 50 states, while the larger Convention Rules Committee is larger and has a more grassroots membership.

“This is necessary for the world in which we find ourselves in,” Ginsberg told the committee, adding that it is “important for the political survival of the party in the electoral context,” for the committee to be able to change the rules as it sees fit in the intervening four years between conventions.

Virginia delegate and RNC member Morton Blackwell strenuously objected to the proposed rule change, calling it “the most awful proposed amendments I’ve seen presented to this committee.”

“This is dangerous, it amounts to a power grab,” he said. “We are abandoning the historic process by which are rules are adopted.”

Another rule change, one that has equally riled up grassroots, Shane Vander Hart notes that the change is dangerous given that now a nominee can “decide who the delegates are that can go to the national convention. The language of the rule states that the presidential nominee and state party can disavow any delegate.”

Vander Hart explains the problem with this rule:

These are essentially the people who write the platform.  Think about the implications of this:  If the nominee is anti-life, he or she, can essential disavow any pro-life delegate.  If he is in favor of same-sex marriage, he can disavow those delegates.  This gives the nominee too much influence over the party and it diminishes the grassroots who choose the delegates to send.  It is a top-down approach which favors the establishment.

FreedomWorks, which had some success in passing platform planks and has helped organize Tea Party activists, is also concerned about what the new language could mean for grassroots activists going forward:

The process has always been bottom-up, but Romney officials have rewritten the rules so that the nominee can stifle any dissent on the platform committee and even unseat delegates. Make no mistake, this will weaken the process by which Republicans chose their candidate for president and push the grassroots out of the party process.

These and other changes are aimed directly at Ron Paul, who tried to run an insurgent campaign by winning delegates at state caucus and conventions, but only saw limited success. These draconian rule changes would effectively end the threat of rogue delegates. It is effectively the end of grassroot movements inside the party process.

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