Grassroots Activists Turned Away at the RNC
Just days after the Republican National Committee (RNC) rejected most proposed rules changes that would undo the power grab from last year’s convention, a number of grassroots activists stopped by to express their disappointment with party leaders and let them know that they would not give up the fight.
Shortly after 10am, around 50 activists (pictured above) showed up at RNC headquarters in Washington, DC to present a representative from the party with a open letter to Chairman Reince Priebus that hit at the heart of grassroots’ frustration with the party.
“As grassroots fiscally conservative activists from states across the country, we are stopping by the RNC Headquarters in Washington today to express our disappointment in the Party’s continuing marginalization of the individuals who are driving the only credible ground game to combat the progressive liberal political machine,” read the activist-signed letter to Priebus. “After reading the 100-page Growth and Opportunity Project, we had a glimmer of hope that the Republican Party was going to make a sincere effort to make the Party process more bottom-up and transparent in structure.”
“The opportunity to repeal the ‘Tampa Power Grab’ last week was your first big shot at beginning to mend the relationship between the Party and the principled, small-government grassroots activists that you’ve disenfranchised,” the letter continued. “And you blew it.”
At issue are two specific rules — Rule 16 (A) (1) and Rule 16 (A) (2) — which grassroots activists consider unfair.
“Rule 16 (A) (1) was upheld on the floor, giving national leaders the power to dictate how states bind delegates,” the letter stated. “This rule puts underdog challengers to the establishment at an immediate disadvantage with fewer delegates sent to the convention. This is only made worse by 16 (A) (2), which prevents principled challengers from growing their delegate count on the convention floor.”
The activists say that Rule 16 (A) (2) was “a watered down version of a power grab.” They also note that the changes made at last week’s RNC meeting “fail to restore the authority to state delegations to enforce and create their own rules.”
“In fact, it strengthens and reinforces the RNC power grab that outraged the grassroots last summer by giving the RNC Secretary full authority to ignore the delegates’ wishes,” the letter explained. “The language may protect delegates from being stripped of their titles for switching support to another candidate, but it still restricts them from changing their vote at the convention. If you have to make up your mind and cast your vote of support before you even step on the convention floor, then why have a convention at all?”
The letter also brought up the way the rules were adopted at the convention, which only highlights the distrust the grassroots has towards establishment.
“We played by the rules, but when we started winning you changed the rules from behind closed doors in Tampa to shut us out,” the letter added. “We haven’t forgotten that the ‘aye’ result of the voice vote on the convention floor was pre-scripted on Speaker Boehner’s Teleprompter, moving the changes forward despite an objection sufficiently strong enough to force a vote.”
Activists who signed the letter made a clear statement that expect inclusion, not to be shut out of the process through a power grab.
“This is our Party too, and we are going to continue to show up and fight for fair representation in the Party’s political process,” the letter said in closing. “The Republican Party answers to its members on the ground, not the other way around.”
The activists who made the trek from the Hyatt Regency in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC expected to be heard by someone from the RNC. However, they found out when they arrived that the party that they work so hard for every election year wasn’t willing to listen to their grievances.
As you can see in the videos below, Jackie Bodnar, Communications Director of FreedomWorks, was told by security guards that her and the two activists — Drew Martin and Corie Whalen — presenting the letter to Priebus and some 12,000 petitions signatures against the RNC rules would not be allowed in the building.
“We’re a bunch of fiscal conservative activists. We’d like to come in and drop off an open letter, will someone let us in?” Bodnar asked the two security guards standing behind the closed glass door. “I just kind of feel like we’re getting shut out again.”
Rev. C.L. Bryant, a fellow at FreedomWorks, spoke to the security guards, but was unable to get any answer from them. “Let them see a black face,” Bryant said as he approached the door, telling the guards, “We want to come in. We need to come in. We want to come in.”
“Well, this is an example of power, and it’s gone unchecked for too long. And we the people, we’ve come to make a statement,” Bryant told United Liberty in the video above. “And the elected officials that we have placed in this building are ignoring a statement from the people who elected them.”
An older gentleman from Indianapolis, whose name isn’t clear on the video, called the RNC to ask why they were being locked out.
“I’m standing outside your building here, and it says ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower National Republican Center,’” he told the staffer on the other end of the call. “That was my father’s commander in World War II, and my father walked half-way across Europe trying to represent freedom and you’re not letting us in.”
“Hello? Hung up on me,” he said into the camera as he closed his phone in frustration.
After an nearly a half-hour of standing outside the RNC, Bodnar laid the letter and the petitions at the door. There was eventually some indication that the RNC would send someone down, but they were taking their time in getting to the people who work the ground every election year. As they waited, more and more activists signed the open letter to Priebus.
As time continued to passed, Bodnar again talked to those inside. “Just so you know, this is the grassroots calling and you’re not picking up,” Bodnar said. “So when you wonder where we are, it’s because you locked us out. This is all we want to deliver — it’s just an open letter and a petition.”
After a few more minutes, she was eventually allowed to meet with a representative from the RNC who told her that they would be willing to meet if she made an appointment.
Interestingly, a woman approached the group of activists on the street while all of this was happening. She wanted to know what we were doing. After the situation was explained, she identified herself as the spouse of a Republican Congressman who wouldn’t have been elected without grassroots support. A similar story would not doubt told time and time again by Republicans in Congress.
Nevertheless, the experience at the RNC was frustrating for these activists. They’ve already been shut out at the convention through the rules process, and now they’ve found themselves shut out at the RNC headquarters and ignored by tone deaf party.