Convention Update: How Not to Create Party Unity, Part Leventy Billion
The #NeverTrump movement died this afternoon in Cleveland. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. It’s a whimper that has been heard all too often in GOP circles over the last few years – the age old game of the powerful silencing dissent from the minority.
It’s disgusting, it’s unAmerican, but it’s something that keeps happening over and over in the GOP, and nobody seems willing to stop it.
For those who had something better to do this afternoon than watch the Republican convention on C-SPAN, here’s the Cliff’s Notes. Earlier in the day, petitions were circulated in order to require a roll call vote on the Rules Committee report that would adopt the rules for the convention. Under the existing RNC guidelines in place at the start of the convention, in order to force a roll call vote on any floor amendment, a majority of the delegates from at least 7 states needed to sign petitions to request the vote. According to POLITICO and other outlets, 9 states – including Virginia – presented petitions to require the roll call vote on the floor.
Then this happened.
At 2:30, you can see Ken Cuccinelli take off his credentials and throw them on the floor saying “Virginia, I’m very sorry, but I am not going to do this again.”
When Ken Cuccinelli loses his cool, you know something bad has happened.
Here’s a longer version with interviews with both Ken and Senator Mike Lee.
Here, at 7:38, Ken sums up what happened on the floor – “This is pretty disgusting.”
Later, after an inexplicable delay, the chair of the convention, Congressman Steve Womack (R-AR) came back on the stage and held the vote on the rules again, and when a motion was made for a roll call vote by the Chair of the Utah delegation with Senator Lee at his side, Womack informed the convention that while nine states had submitted petition signatures, enough signatories had since rescinded their signatures to drop the number of states with majorities petitioning for a roll call to six, one state below the threshold. Fast forward to 13:38 in the above video to hear Womack’s excuse for not allowing the roll call vote.
As an aside, it’s funny to hear Womack intone the standard parliamentary procedure of “the motion is not agreed to and, without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table,” all the while hundreds of people are screaming “I object” at the chair. But when you’re just reading what’s in the script and not listening, this is the result you get. It happens in Congress too, but it’s usually not this egregious.
Onward the march of history and the convention proceeded from there, even as the Iowa and Colorado delegations walked out in protest.
The Colorado delegation now pic.twitter.com/I3dYjsFV81
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) July 18, 2016
The media has been having a field day with the visuals from the floor, with every outlet trumpeting about the “chaos” at the RNC. NPR, POLITICO, Bloomberg, NBC, the Washington Post … the list goes on. Chaos is the word of the hour. As usual, our version of chaos is about as chaotic as a church service, but that’s the message they wanted and they ran with it. The power politics shut down of dissent played directly into the message the media wanted to create about our convention – “look at this disunited GOP.” We handed the media a cudgel and begged them to beat us with it, and they are doing so as we speak.
And why? Because the RNC and Trump campaign did not want to take a roll call vote on the rules – a vote that even the roll call vote supporters (not all of whom were #Nevertrump supporters) expected they would lose. Why did the RNC/Trump Campaign not want to take the roll call vote? Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said the push was “was not about Trump” and “[i]t would have been a meaningless gesture [as] [w]e knew the result, everybody knew the result and it would have affected the schedule for tonight so it wasn’t something that was a wise choice.”
Essentially, what Manafort is saying that the RNC/Trump Campaign ignored the desires of a not insignificant number of delegates because they wanted to make sure Scott Baio’s speech tonight wasn’t delayed.
Really. That’s why we needed to absorb this negative press. That’s why we needed to create images we will see forever, images that will be used against Republicans for years to come.
Not “affect[ing] the schedule for tonight.”
It’s important to note that the Roll-Call-Vote supporters who wanted rules changes claim their goal was not to thwart Trump, but to prepare us better for future races (meaning Ted Cruz 2020). They were fighting to ensure the voice of the grassroots is heard. A number of Virginians who are supporting Trump signed the petitions, so there’s no reason to believe that they’re not being honest when they make that claim. Yet despite their efforts, they didn’t win any of the rules changes they were fighting for. The RNC wouldn’t even negotiate with Cuccinelli and company during the Rules Committee debate last week, adding yet another few paragraphs into what some are already calling Ken Cuccinelli’s political obituary.
For those of us who were in Tampa, today’s efforts seem familiar. In 2012, the RNC/Romney Campaign used similar hardball tactics to shut down attempts by Ron Paul delegates who were bound to him through primaries and other convention processes to cast their votes for Ron Paul from the floor. For those who were at the RPV Convention in Harrisonburg, it harkens back to the play Cuccinelli used to slate off Trump delegates from the national delegate race and the RPV Rules Committee’s decision (whether you agree with it or not) to not allow Vince Haley to revive his campaign for Chairman after declaring, qualifying, dropping out and then trying to get back in the race a week before the convention. In all of these situations, a powerful majority used their power to ruthlessly shut down dissent.
And in each of these situations, it didn’t have to happen this way.
One of the benefits of a representative democracy is that the rights of minorities are protected. There are rules that apply equally to the majority and the minority and those rules ensure that even if the minority loses, they still have an opportunity to be heard and have their say. Yet all too often, these convention battles result in the majority using the rules as a weapon, stifling dissent, shutting down the opportunity for the minority to have their say, and instead of creating unity by allowing all sides to buy into a final result – which is what happens when you give it your best chance and fail, but you know you lost fair and square – we create frustration, anger, bad feelings and cynicism.
There was no real reason not to allow the roll call vote on the rules. It was going to fail. There was no real reason to not allow Ron Paul supporters to vote for their guy. Romney was still going to win. There was no reason not to let Vince Haley resurrect his half-assed campaign. Whitbeck was still going to win. There was no reason to slate off Trump supporters from the national convention delegate rolls. Trump already won Virginia.
Each of these situations led to a self-inflicted wound, and these are only the ones that seem most familiar. This kind of rules jockeying to control conventions is why conventions leave a sour taste in the mouth of many, from the grassroots to the establishment.
The worst thing about today’s nonsense was that it was all so pointless and avoidable. Sometimes when you’re in the majority, you have to let the minority have their say – it demonstrates your strength and their weakness, even if it means telling Scott Baio he only gets 3 minutes instead of 15. In the long run, the Party is better off for it. The Trump forces could have emerged much stronger without the “chaos” messaging and visuals out there.
Because, let’s face it – everybody is going to remember when this happened:
Virginia delegate/former VA attorney general Ken Cuccinelli yells shame, chucks his credential on the floor pic.twitter.com/dZwjF3mtqY
— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) July 18, 2016
and nobody is going to remember this guy: