By now everyone paying attention to national politics is going crazy about what is wrong with the Republican National Convention process.
Trump supporters are ballistic about how the GOP establishment might swindle their candidate out of the nomination. The Republican establishment leadership is trying to convince the world that it is the party that gets to decide who the Republican nominee will be, not the popular vote.
Actually, they both have it wrong because no one is bothering to ask the most important question: What is the purpose of a political party convention?
The purpose of a convention is to express the will of the party’s general membership, not merely the will of the party’s leadership but of the entire membership.
A legitimately run convention would provide the opportunity for a majority of its members to override party leadership. A legitimately run convention would put the general membership in control to write the party’s platform and rules, and to select the party’s nominees for the upcoming general election.
The general membership would select delegates to represent them at the convention. When the delegates are assembled, they are the convention. And while the convention is in session they are supposed to be the decision-making body of the party.
The convention process put together by today’s Republican National Committee has failed this purpose. First, the general membership has not been allowed to select their national delegates. In Indiana, not even the state delegates were allowed to select its national delegates this year.
Only party officers (county chairmen and vice-chairmen) were allowed to vote for national delegates. The national delegates today do not represent the will of the Republican general membership from whom they were sent to represent.
Secondly, even if the Indiana state delegates were allowed to freely select Indiana’s national delegates and even if we had a truly open state convention where state delegates could nominate candidates for national delegate from the floor of the convention, there’s still a problem.
State delegates aren’t really elected by the general membership of the Republican Party in Indiana. That’s because there is no enrolled “general membership.” Any member of the public, even those hostile to the principles of the Republican Party, are allowed to participate in the Republican primary in May and therefore influence who is elected as a Republican state delegate.
As a result, the election of Republican state delegates is heavily infiltrated by liberal authoritarians. This would be unheard of in any other community organization. Members should be enrolled in the Republican Party just like any other organization (Rotary, Kiwanis, American Legion). Otherwise, it violates the basic right of association.
Yes, this would take a change of the state’s primary election law. But if the Indiana Republican Party made it a priority, the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly would follow.
Third, the Republican National Committee and state committees now routinely change the convention rules on their own without the legitimate authorization of the general membership. The will of the Republican general membership is not reflected in the party’s rules. In other words, the party rules are a result of top-down dictatorship instead of a bottom-up process the Republican Party leadership claims to use.
Fifth, because the general membership should be allowed to determine for themselves who the Republican nominee will be, in a perfect world the national delegates should be free to vote for whichever candidate they think best furthers the principles of the Republican Party.
If we had a legitimate convention process, there would be no problem letting that process determine who becomes the Republican nominee for President of the United States or any other office. As it is, the voices of the Republican general membership will be drowned out regardless if its presidential nominee is chosen by this year’s national delegates or this year’s primary election results. Both Trump and the Republic National Committee have it wrong.