By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — Delegates from 56 U.S. states and territories have come to the Republican National Convention here to represent the desires of millions of GOP voters who participated in presidential primaries in 2012.
But party activists, delegates and influential observers allege the national party is using rule changes and sleight of hand to quash dissent inside the GOP.
One critic called it a “power grab” by the national party.
As reported by Florida Watchdog on Tuesday, party rules on who selects final delegates were changed to benefit the candidate leading the primary, silencing the delegates of future grassroots candidates. The rule change will be in effect for the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
“What this means is that states will no longer retain the right, under the new rules, to elect their delegates and have them stand. A presumptive nominee will be able to unseat an entire state’s delegates, if his campaign doesn’t like who’s on the slate,” Minnesota delegate Kevin Erikson told Democracy Now! on Tuesday.
Another rule change grants authority to the Republican National Committee to make impromptu changes in party procedure before the next national convention without input from local and state parties. That will likely affect how delegates are elected and which candidates have their names put forth.
“The rules move the national Republican Party away from being a decentralized, bottom-up party toward becoming a centralized, top-down party,” wrote Dean Clancy, legislative counsel for FreedomWorks, a grassroots conservative organization. He said the rule changes amounted to a “power grab.”
As chance would have it, the buses carrying the Florida and Virginia delegations, the latter headed up by veteran conservative activist Morton Blackwell, who sternly campaigned on voting down the rule changes, somehow “got lost” in the last crucial minutes before the vote in the RNC rules committee.
The buses arrived at the Tampa Bay Times Forum after the final vote had been cast.
Many delegates from Maine, Minnesota, Iowa and Nevada later called for a “point of order,” a parliamentary procedure to object to certain rule changes on the floor. But committee chairman House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, never recognized their request, and the rules were adopted by the amounts of audible “ayes.”
The delegations of Iowa, Minnesota, Alaska, U.S. Virgin Islands, Oregon and Nevada also put forth their own resolution on the floor, calling for the nomination of Texas U.S. Ron Paul.
Party rules require signatures from five states to put forth a name for nomination. But quick maneuvers by the national committee upped that number to eight just moments before the roll call vote began, quashing the hopes of the 190 Paul delegates attending RNC.
“This is what the national party has done to us all along,” Paul supporter Josh Iungerman, of Fort Lauderdale, later told Florida Watchdog while at a rally for the congressman. “They change the rules on the fly and use dirty tricks to push the candidate of their choice.”
That was the case in Maine, where Paul delegates elected in county caucuses were replaced at the last minute by a new slate, reportedly much friendlier to GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to the Portland Daily Sun.
“I think they used dirty tricks. I think it was the worst kind of politics: shameful, vile and disgusting,” South Florida Tea Party chairman Everett Wilkinson told Florida Watchdog.
“A political party has rules and they should follow those rules. Whether they like these delegates or not, they were doing what they were appointed for and should have been allowed to vote,” said Wilkinson.
“My simple thought is: don’t give money to the RNC. It’s obvious that they don’t need or want us, so they don’t need our money,” said the grassroots organizer.
“You know, on the left at the Democratic National Convention, it’s just the opposite. They really do have a ‘big tent’— maybe not people we necessarily agree with, but at least they make an effort to include all their people.”
Contact Yaël Ossowski at [email protected]
— Yaël (@YaelOss) August 29, 2012