Monday, March 28, 2016
It's going to be an RNC rumble even before the convention
This piece by Ed Kilgore about the probable chaos at the RNC convention planning meeting in light of what may be an undecided contest is fascinating. I hadn't thought about this but all conventions are planned TV events with a nominee in mind these days and this might be one that's very difficult to plan at all. Who knows what might happen?
In this leaderless situation, there are really only two basic approaches the convention management can take. It can treat the absence of a putative nominee as a vacuum to be filled and plunge ahead with good-faith decisions made in loco parentis, subject to reversal by the full convention. If, as seems likely, the two viable presidential candidates in Cleveland are Trump and Cruz, decisions that may affect their interests (on, say, credentials or rules challenges, or even on which friends or enemies get prime speaking roles) coming from convention CEO Jeff Larson — Reince Priebus’s appointee — or from convention chairman Paul Ryan will draw immediate and intensely hostile attention. Remember that Trump and Cruz are living repudiations of everything the RNC called for in its famous post-2012 “autopsy” report. Many of the operational people they will confront during those potentially tense weeks in June when decisions about the convention simply have to be made are presumptive enemies and saboteurs. It will not make for a cooperative atmosphere.
Besides, there’s only so much party or convention officials can do to offset the absence of a putative nominee. The overriding purpose of the modern party convention is to tout the nominee’s sterling personal qualities, inspiring “story,” accomplished record, and courageous agenda. Not knowing the identity of the hero to be lionized leaves little to be done other than to attack the opposition, perhaps too often and too loudly for the party’s good. The 1992 Republican convention, which featured Patrick Buchanan’s prescient but controversial “culture war” speech, showed the risks of too negative a convention message.
The alternative and politically safer approach for a convention without a putative nominee is to allow representatives of all viable candidates for the nomination to participate in decisions. So if Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the only active and feasible candidates going into Cleveland, the convention managers could simply duplicate the usual approach and have two sets of eyes on absolutely everything they do. Aside from making decisions harder rather than easier, this approach could politicize virtually everything the convention does, however minor, generating fight after fight.
This is the messy scenario that a contested convention is likely to create in the run-up to the event and over the first two to three days before the first (and possibly subsequent) presidential ballots are cast. If the chaos is allowed to proliferate or if inversely it is quelled with too much force, the legitimacy of the nomination itself could be called into question. And even if that doesn’t happen, very little time will be available after the nominee is known to get the party and the convention prepared for the rousing unity gestures of the crucial final night. One can easily imagine frantically suppressed protests, rows of empty seats, security and message-discipline lapses (like the Clint Eastwood fiasco of 2012), and just a bad scene all around.
And that's just the run-up.
There's a lot more and you should read it. He doesn't even get into the obvious problem presented by the fact that the leader going into the convention is likely to be a megalomaniacal, neo-fascist Bond villain with a group of rabid followers.
There were hints of the kind of problems that might be expected last time:
Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention erupted in fury Tuesday over decisions that weakened their delegate count and other rule changes that will make it harder for non-establishment candidates in future elections.
Several members of the Maine delegation walked out of the Tampa Bay Times Forum after the convention affirmed the GOP’s decision to replace 10 of Maine’s 24 delegates.
“It’s a disgusting, disgusting display of a hostile takeover from the top down,” said Ashley Ryan, 21, a Maine delegate. “It’s an embarrassment.”
Paul did not win a single state, but his ardent followers worked arcane local and state party rules to take over several state delegations, including garnering 20 of Maine’s 24 spots. The RNC decided to replace 10 of them, effectively stopping the state from being able to submit Paul’s name for nomination. (In response, the state’s Republican governor, a Romney supporter, decided to boycott the convention.)
Although Mitt Romney easily has the delegate support to take the nomination in one ballot, avoiding a floor fight allows the GOP to present a unified front.
But the decision to not seat the original Maine delegation, and the approval of rules that will make it harder for grass-roots-fueled candidates in the future, caused an uproar in the handful of state delegations dominated by Paul supporters, as well as some others that are concerned about the GOP centralizing power in the hands of a few and taking it away from the states.
Wiselot Rouzard, a delegate from Nevada and a Paul supporter, compared the situation to Adolf Hitler taking power in Germany.
I'm going to take a wild guess that the Trump and Cruz people won't roll over if they try something like this. They strike me as being ready to rumble. Eager to rumble.
digby 3/28/2016 10:30:00 AM