This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 18, 2016:
Morton Blackwell caught the fever at a very young age, attending the Republican National Convention in 1964 as Barry Goldwater’s youngest elected delegate. Active in Republican politics ever since, Blackwell is the Virginia Republican National Committeeman and a member of the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules.
He told the story of how he tried to change the rule that sank Ron Paul’s campaign back in 2012 – Rule 40b – without success: “I attempted at the RNC’s January 2016 meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, to correct this outrageous, unfair, and counterproductive 2012 Romney power grab. I came close [but failed.]”
Blackwell revealed just how the old-boy insider network works in order to make rules that keep them in power, concluding that they have the power, if they care to exercise it, to keep Trump from gaining the nomination. The rules committee could adopt rules, the RNC itself could adopt rules, overriding the rules committee, the rules committee could take recommendations from the RNC and adopt them for itself, and convention delegates could suggest rules changes – but only so long as the convention rules committee allows them.
In other words, the RNC runs the convention and makes and changes the rules to fit its own desires and self-interests.
That’s what makes the suggestion by Solomon Yue, one of the 168 members of the RNC, to toss the 1,500-page rulebook in favor of Robert’s Rules of Order, so laughable. Clearly, Yue doesn’t get it.
But his intentions appear to be honorable: “To make the convention more transparent, I will advocate … adoption of Robert’s Rules of Order to replace the 1,500-page U.S. House rules to govern the convention.”
Yue is already picking up support for the idea, including that of Kansas RNC member Helen Van Etten, who said that “our party’s grass roots have been using [it] to conduct business at the county party, state party and national party levels for many years. Unlike the 1,500-page U.S. House rules, there are, in Robert’s [Rules], no surprises that will [cause] the kind of chaos [the national] media is predicting.”
Robert’s Rules has been used by civic associations, county boards, and state legislatures for years, and, as noted by Ralph Hallow of the Washington Times, would “head off arcane maneuvers designed to deny Donald Trump the presidential nomination … to make it hard to forge in secrecy what voters might see as backroom deals to ‘steal’ the presidential nomination from Mr. Trump, the front-runner.”
But those “arcane maneuvers” are precisely what the GOP establishment relies on to keep itself in control of the party. Included in that massive rule book is the “arcane” Rule 40b adopted by the Romney campaign in 2012 essentially to squelch any opposition from delegates committed to Ron Paul. As Joe Wolverton wrote in The New American at the time: “Maine’s Ron Paul delegates were roughly shoved out of the Republican Party’s quadrennial convention, and as a result of events surrounding the proposal and adoption of new rules to govern the presidential nomination process, every potential Republican presidential candidate with a message that doesn’t parrot the party line has been effectively ostracized. Forever.”
Well, not forever, thanks to Donald Trump. His unexpected rise to the top of the race to the White House is making the establishment so nervous that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus held a secret meeting of the top GOP dogs to talk about the Trump threat to their party – and their Party. The details of the meeting were leaked to the Washington Post by five people who were “familiar” with the meeting. In attendance were Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rob Simms, his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Ron Kaufman, an RNC committee member and advisor to Mitt Romney, and Whit Ayres, an advisor to Senator Marco Rubio. Also in attendance was Vin Weber, an ally of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
This constitutes the bulk of the GOP “establishment,” in case anyone asks. The five confirmed the high level of anxiety over Trump’s unexpected and potentially threatening rise, and, among other things, considered various moves they could make at the convention in the event that Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot. One topic was the 1976 Republican convention where Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford on the floor prior to Ford’s winning the party’s nomination.
Another topic was Trump’s admitted ability to make back-room deals if that becomes necessary. Trump himself has admitted that he’ll be working at a disadvantage, not because of any inability to negotiate, but because the deck is stacked against him:
I’ll be disadvantaged. The dealmaking, that’s my advantage. My disadvantage is that I’d be going up against guys who grew up with each other, who know each other intimately, and I don’t know who they [all] are. That’s a big disadvantage … these kind of guys stay close. They all know each other. They want each other to win.
The question isn’t whether the GOP insiders have the power to end Trump’s campaign at the convention in Cleveland in July. It’s whether they will exercise it. Back in 2012 the outrage over the deliberate exclusion of Ron Paul and his supporters from being able to vote for him at the convention soon dissipated into disgust.
Imagine the new scenario: Trump fails on the first ballot, lacking perhaps a hundred delegates. Then it’s open season. Backroom deals are concluded, and an establishment Republican – Romney? Paul Ryan? Jeb Rush? – suddenly wins on the second or third ballot. It takes little imagination to see what happens next.
Are the GOP insiders so protective of their power that they’re willing to destroy the Republican Party to preserve it?
That’s the real question that will be answered in July in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Washington Times: RNC weighs scrapping convention rule book to head off anti-Trump maneuvers
Morton Blackwell: The Coming Trainwreck: Rules at the 2016 Republican National Convention
The Washington Post: GOP preparing for contested convention