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Thursday, April 2nd, 2020Last Update: Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 09:38:01 AM


By: Richard Engle

An unprecedented degree of attention has been put on the rules of the Republican Party this election season. This is not surprising as the media is looking for answers to questions which have gone unasked in decades.

It is important at the start to state unequivocally that I believe our Republican Party needs rules which are fair, honest and open. Every effort should be engaged to prevent any manipulation of the rules to create a specific outcome. The rules of the Republican Party are our constitution. As such they are not the plaything of a few. They should be something that projects what we, as Republicans, believe our party should be. They should be designed to survive the test of time rather than to fabricate a short term political goal.

One is reminded of the TV show West Wing, in which presidential Chief of Staff Leo McGarry is shown sitting on a bench after reading the Constitution in the wake of a crisis. It's as if saying, "Oh no, it must be a serious problem if he's reading the actual Constitution!"

Until recently much attention was on the revised Rule 40 which requires that to be nominated a candidate "shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination." In 2012 this rule was amended from the prior requirement of only a plurality of five states. As both Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz are sure to be able to fulfill this requirement the controversy has quieted.

To the surprise of many, nomination is not required for delegates to vote for a candidate. Indeed, if a majority of delegates from eight states vote for a candidate, those votes will constitute the called for demonstration. Presumably, other means of demonstration will be accepted by the convention. But, if in the midst of the convention, a dark horse/white knight candidate were to pick up the requisite eight states then that candidate would be deemed nominated.

Nomination is only required for a candidate to be granted the opportunity to give a nominating speech. Yes indeed, prime time TV is the prize people fight over! To be fair, nomination is also required to win.

The change made in 2012 to Rule 40 was only one of such changes which have become controversial this season.

Rule 12 was adopted permitting "rules flexibility" in which the Republican National Committee may (with a super majority and under certain restrictions) change the rules of the party. This would allow the RNC to enact party rules in direct opposition to the rules enacted by the convention.

The subject of rules flexibility had been long considered. When I became Oklahoma's Rules Committeeman to the convention in 2000 the subject was hotly debated and the Republican National Committee itself rejected the idea. Then in 2012 when I sat as proxy for the sitting National Committeeman on both the Standing Committee on Rules and the Republican National Committee itself, the subject of rules flexibility was defeated. I strongly supported the draft rules proposed by the RNC to the convention Rules Committee.

When the draft/proposed rules were presented to the convention Rules Committee, amendments were proposed to the previously mentioned Rule 40, Rule 12 allowing "flexibility," and to Rule 16. Republican "super lawyer" and Romney advisor, Ben Ginsberg pushed the changes. His changes gave power to the RNC that a majority of its members did not desire. To prevent them from removing the new power from themselves, via the same flexibility, his rule prevented them from changing that one rule alone. Largely loyal to the presumptive nominee the committee approved the changes. The proposed rules then moved to the convention and were adopted in a manner which created additional controversy. A fine article from the time can be found at: .

In defense of Gov. Romney, I have seen nothing that persuades me that Mr. Ginsberg's amendments were at the actual behest of the Governor. It is not uncommon for those associated with a candidate to act on their own out of an overblown sense of devotion. In this case it seems that an intent to help the Governor resulted in events contrary to his current interests.

Another change from 2012 is the "compromise" revisions to Rule 16. Mr. Ginsberg proposed that a presidential candidate be permitted to "disavow" any delegate, forcing a sudden election of a different delegate. The compromise as adopted instructs that a delegate who "demonstrates support... for a presidential candidate other than the one to whom the delegate is bound... shall be deemed to have resigned as a delegate..." This "delegate discipline" rule is draconian to say the least. It is unprecedented to abolish the will of those who voted for a delegate over matters of "demonstrated support" rather than their fulfillment of (or a failure to fulfill) a pledged duty.

A final rule that has come under media scrutiny of late is that of Super Delegates. In actuality, it is the Democrat Party which is overrun by Super Delegates. The Republicans only have the three members of the RNC as automatic delegates. In 2000 I filed a minority report to the Rules Committee Report on the floor of the National Convention to prevent even this minor adaptation. Sadly, my minority report failed despite relatively broad support. Fortunately the RNC itself has taken actions to mitigate the problem. Only the impression of Super Delegates remains, and thus a few in the media have a false target in this matter.

In all of these cases short term, selfish or provincial motives have created many of the controversies now being used to berate the Republican Party and to stir up passions among our candidates and their advocates.

It is my sincere hope that we Republicans will move past these times of dissension and develop honest, fair and open party rules which will then withdraw into the invisible, but necessary, foundation of our party's political system.

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