Category Archive 'Republican Convention'

21 Jul 2016

Dynastic Politics

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Political commentators have been speaking of the Trump takeover of the GOP, and conservatives have been worrying about the redefinition of the Party by the amateur outsider who ran away with the presidential nomination this year.

I think last night’s convention showed that there isn’t much to worry about with respect to an ideological remodeling of the GOP by Donald Trump. Convention speakers have been conservatives and the speeches they’ve been delivering have all contained basically nothing but standard current conservative talking points.

Trump has not really added or subtracted anything, which should probably not be surprising. Trump’s candidacy isn’t about ideas. It was never about ideas. Trump hasn’t got any ideas. It has always been entirely about Trump. Just as Mexican bandits don’t need no stinkin’ badges, Donald Trump doesn’t need no ideas or theories. Trump will simply Trump his way to victory using his appetites and oversized personality to get where he intends to go.

Though I think now that we haven’t got any future ideological contamination of Republican purity to fear as the result of the ascension of The Donald, the Cleveland Convention does make evident the existence of one future consequence of all this. There were all those Trump offspring giving speeches, praising and endorsing their father.

Donald Trump deliberately arranged to put one Trump child after another on center Convention stage in prime time, their speeches scattered at intervals between speeches by various national figures. This, I’m sure, was not an accident. In one evening, Donald Trump turned his obscure and unaccomplished sons and daughter into nationally-recognized celebrities.

Donald Trump may not understand, or care much about, the Constitution, but he does understand and cares deeply about branding. Trump has been branding his children. You can bet on it. There is going to be a Trump political dynasty with one Trump after another running for public office, and breezing in on the strength of membership in an American royal family.

12 Jul 2016

Fact: GOP Delegates Are Not Bound

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1876 Republican Convention in Cincinnati

At the Hill, Curley Haugland and Sean Parnell explain both the history and the law.

As the Republican National Convention prepares to kick off next week in Cleveland, there is a lot of confusion and controversy over the question of whether delegates to the convention are “bound” to vote for any particular candidate as a result of primary or caucus results, or state party directions.

The controversy stems from the fact that a large number of delegates believe they cannot in good conscience vote for presumed nominee Donald Trump, while the confusion stems from either a misunderstanding of the history and rules of the Republican National Convention, or more recently a blizzard of misinformation and misdirection coming from those who wish delegates were bound

Here are the facts about delegates to the Republican National Convention and efforts to bind their vote according to primary results or instructions from their state party.

Republican delegates to the national convention have always been unbound by national party rules, with the single exception. The issue was decisively settled in 1876 when delegates voted 395 to 353 to uphold past rulings stating that delegates could not be bound to vote against their conscience. Following the vote, the chairman of the convention summarized the party’s position by saying “[I]t is he right of every individual member thereof to vote his individual sentiments.”

In the following convention in 1880, rules committee chair James A. Garfield, who wound up winning the nomination himself on the 36th ballot and the White House that fall, wrote what is today Rule 37(b) of the temporary rules of the convention. This rule was enacted specifically to provide a mechanism that would ensure every delegate was unbound and free to vote their conscience, and it gave every delegate the right to challenge his delegation’s announced vote on the floor of the convention and have his vote recorded as he wished.

In rejecting the binding of delegates, both the 1876 and 1880 conventions were embracing what had been the understanding of previous conventions dating back to 1856, the first Republican National Convention. At both 1860 and 1868 conventions, some delegations arrived with instructions or recommendations from their state conventions on which candidate to vote for, and at both conventions the right of delegates to ignore those directions and vote their consciences was upheld.

The Republican National Convention has also historically rejected the idea that state laws could bind delegates any more than state party rules or directions could. The very first time delegates were supposedly bound by state law was at the 1912 convention.

Both the Illinois and Oregon delegations announced that state law dictated how they were to vote, but that some delegates did not want to vote as ordered. In the same way the Republican convention had always rejected any sort of binding, those delegates were allowed to vote according to their consciences and ignore state law. The Oregon delegation made similar announcements in 1916 and 1920, and each time delegates were allowed to ignore state law and vote their consciences.

Although some claim it is “illegal” for delegates to defy state laws instructing them how to vote, the U.S. Supreme Court held in two cases nearly forty years ago that state laws could not trump national party rules. Part of their reasoning was that political parties must be free from government control, particularly in matters as important as who the party’s nominee would be, delegate selection, and how delegates could vote.

A careful reading of the rules passed by the 2012 Republican National Convention proves this to be the common understanding and practice of the party. Rules 14 and 16, which govern the election and selection of delegates to the convention, include several references to the fact that the national convention is free to ignore state law, including two occasions where rules begin with the phrase “No state law shall be observed…”

And Rule 16(b)(1) stipulates that state party rules take precedence over state laws governing the election and selection of delegates, and that national party rules take precedence over both. So clearly the national party does not accept that state laws can supersede either state or national party rules.

The only time delegates have been bound by primary results or anything else was in 1976, when the campaign of President Gerald Ford pushed through a rule requiring votes from nineteen states with laws purporting to bind delegates be announced and recorded as if those laws were valid. It was widely understood at the time those laws were unconstitutional as a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling, but the rule was sufficient to bind delegates’ votes for the first time in Republican National Convention history. …

In short, the history of the Republican National Convention proves that delegates have always, with the exception of 1976, been free to vote their conscience, and the rule that has protected this right over the last 136 years remains part of the temporary rules of the 2016 convention. The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on the issue also make clear that delegates are free to ignore state laws purporting to bind them, and the one national party rule purporting to bind delegates expires at the start of the convention.

These facts make clear that all delegates are completely unbound and free to vote their conscience on any and all matters that come before them, including the first ballot to decide the party’s nominee for president. No rule change is needed to unbind delegates, so long as the party stands by its 160-year history (aside from the blemish of 1976) protecting this important right.


The Washington Post reported that a federal judge in Richmond ruled on Monday that Virginia can’t require Republican National Convention delegates to back Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Robert Payne said the Virginia state law requiring delegates who oppose Mr. Trump to vote for him next week at the party’s convention creates “a severe burden” on First Amendment rights.

But Judge Payne explicitly avoided weighing in on whether Republican National Committee rules requiring convention delegates to follow the results of their states as dictated by state and national party rules. Judge Payne said he “lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate” the broader unbinding question.

The Republican Party’s rules explicitly state that they take precedent over state laws and state party rules.

Judge Payne’s ruling has no impact on the rules of the GOP convention, which will be determined by the convention’s Rules Committee when it begins meeting Thursday.

17 Mar 2016

Trump: “Nice Little Convention You’ve Got There… Shame If Anything Happened to it.”

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New York Times:

Donald J. Trump warned of “riots” around the Republican National Convention should he fall slightly short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and the party moves to select another candidate. …

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it would be — I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”

He added: “If you disenfranchise those people and you say, well I’m sorry but you’re 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short, I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I believe that. I wouldn’t lead it but I think bad things would happen.”

How much more of a clue to the character of the real Trump do people need?

He’s already telling us that the principle of a majority vote and the usual rules of political party nominating conventions should be set aside, just for him, or else. Not that he’s threatening anyone…

Obviously, it takes a majority vote, not a plurality, not a number of votes some hundreds short of a majority, to win the nomination. That’s how conventions work. And, the tradition has been that candidates who win a plurality, but who cannot get a majority, generally find their votes deserting them and going elsewhere on later ballots. That is precisely how the process has worked historically and the way it is supposed to work.

And, Donald and all the Trumpkins out there, this is a country of laws and we have plenty of police. Try rioting and America will throw your ass in the cooler. This isn’t Weimar Germany or some Latin American banana republic, and our political decisions are not influenced by threats of violence.

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