Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Unity is often a message or theme of political conventions. They are the official device used to smooth over any lingering wounds left open from bitter primary battles. There are multiple days of messaging to remind party members that they are the party “faithful”. They are now one ticket, with one purpose. Good party members put aside their differences and line up behind candidate, platform, agenda, and message.
Or that’s how the script reads anyway.
With a TEA Party infused grass roots, unity has its limits. Mitt Romney’s convention team is now attempting to quell a rebellion from within its most fervent ranks, much of it originating from within Georgia’s own delegation.
The dispute is over a rules change on how delegates for the 2016 convention will be selected. The aim is to avoid a repeat of this year’s efforts by Ron Paul’s supporters to pack the convention with delegates who aren’t interested in a unity agenda. Paul’s people were able to pack some state and district GOP conventions and nominate delegates loyal to him, and who aren’t buying in to the thought that they are pledged to any candidate based on primary vote.
The new rules would have given the presumptive nominee the ability to choose delegates of his liking, essentially vetoing any delegate that was not a backer of the standard bearer. Opposition grew quickly for a variety of reasons. The official protest waged by TEA Party groups was that this up-ended the control of the party from being a grass roots based organization into one that is dictated from the top down.
It was a message that resonated throughout Monday, with a letter written by Georgia delegate and TEA Party co-founder Julianne Thompson. The letter made it way via email, twitter, and internet postings throughout the delegations, and was amplified Monday evening by conservative media celebrities such as Michelle Malkin and Mark Levin.
Thompson asks “Why the change in rules? That is the million-dollar question, and it is fairly easy to answer. There are still those in place in the GOP and on campaigns that would like to use the delegate and alternate seats as rewards for donating large checks to campaigns and the RNC.”
The concerns of some other non-TEA Party delegates are also embedded within that concept as well. After all, the power to reward is the power to punish. States who did not originally vote for Romney, including Georgia whose establishment originally backed Newt Gingrich throughout its primary, could see current delegates replaced with those who expressed an earlier loyalty to the ultimate winner. That has some realizing that the seats they occupy this week to ratify their place of importance within the party could be occupied by someone else in 4 years who was more loyal to the eventual nominee.
Late Monday, rules committee members sent an email announcing a compromise had been reached, a potential floor fight averted – maybe. The new proposal indicates that a delegate who does not follow his or her state’s law or party rules when voting for a Presidential candidate is deemed to have resigned upon casting said vote, and the vote is null and void. The language is designed to add enforceability to the pledged delegate rules, yet still preserve the individual state’s selection process for delegates.
Crisis averted? Maybe not. Atlanta TEA Party co-founder and RNC delegate Debbie Dooley posted a note to Facebook early Tuesday calling for continued pushback. “This compromise seems unacceptable, as , via Rule 12, it still allows changes to be made to the rules at an time during the year, meaning, seemingly, any compromise reached now on other rules could be undone after the convention.”
The issue will likely be resolved Tuesday, well before prime time cameras begin to project the message of unity. The convention will then proceed to showcase that divisions from the primary season have been healed. It remains to be seen how these new ones may fester.