Opening a door – but will they walk through it?
After the Republican National Convention last August, liberty-minded party regulars were chagrined about changes in the party rules that they felt enriched the party elite at the expense of the grassroots, not to mention the controversy surrounding their very enactment. That bitterness extended through the campaign and was among the many reasons blamed for the demise of the Mitt Romney effort.
So this news was welcome, and it comes in part from Maryland’s National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose:
In response to the concerns expressed by grassroots Republicans surrounding the changes in the rules that govern the party, the RNC today made a decision to bring together the members of The Standing Committee on Rules to revisit the amendments that some believe weaken the GOP.
“Our concern is that these rules will centralize power with the top leadership, and diminish both the influence, and the diversity of ideas and experiences, that the grassroots offers to the party,” said John Noisy Hawk, a member of the elected Maine Delegation to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida where the rules were adopted. “The GOP believes in empowering the little guy, and we want to see that happen both in our party, and nation wide.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Maryland Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose of Baltimore rose to praise the committee members and their newly reelected Chair Reince Priebus for the move.
“I’m grateful to be both a grassroots activist and a member of the RNC. In our deliberations it’s important to recognize the many questions we’ve received from activists and donors about our Rules passed at this past convention.
“I congratulate our National Committee, our Resolutions Committee, and Chairman Priebus on hearing this message from the grassroots. Today, we unanimously passed a resolution supporting the formation of a Standing Committee on Rules to examine these concerns. This is exactly the kind of work this committee can do to be most effective in partnering with the grassroots in each of our states.
“We are hopeful about the future and grounded in the belief that every mom and dad, son and daughter are the grassroots who make this country and our Republican Party great.”
Chairman Reince Priebus responded, “Perfect. And to that point… we will have a rules committee constituted at the spring meeting. We will have that meeting the earliest than we have ever done it before… We will have a rules committee to hear any and all amendments, any and all suggestions. And then we are also going to have an official meeting of the RNC at our spring meeting, something we have not done in the past. So that if there are matters and business and rules amendments that are passed out of the rules committee, we can hear those amendments and those suggestions, in the formal body to make them formal amendments under Rule 12.”
The resolution reads as follows:
WHEREAS, many people are concerned about the rules process at the Convention Rules Committee;
WHEREAS, Rule 12 allows Rule 1-11 and 13-25 to be amended by a majority vote of the RNC Standing Committee on Rules (“Rules Committee”) and a seventy-five percent (75%) affirmative vote by the members of the RNC; and
WHEREAS, the Standing Committee on Rules of the Republican National Committee has not been constituted and therefore cannot consider proposed amendments under Rule 12 of The Rules of the Republican Party (the “Rules”); therefore, be it
RESOLVED, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee 1) will ask all states to submit their Rules Committee member by March 1 and 2) will call a meeting of the RNC in April of 2013 and conduct a Rules Committee meeting during this meeting for the purpose of considering amendments to Rules 1-11 and 13-25.
However, you should color me skeptical until I see action on these concerns, particularly the high barrier to change required. By my count, it would only take 43 “establishment” Republicans to keep the party rules as they are. (Although 125-43 is an overwhelming consensus, it’s less than 3/4 of the group.) That’s a fairly low hurdle for those who resist change to overcome, and as we saw in the fight for two of Maryland’s three National Committee posts, there is significant inertia in the party which needs to be surmounted. Indeed, some will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new paradigm which considers the party as a bottom-up rather than top-down structure; something based more on a TEA Party model but with the significant advantage of easier ballot access.
I will caution readers this post is a work in progress. I’ve played phone tag with Nicolee ever since this issue came up, probably because a) she knows I’m passionate about such things, and b) I’m going to hold her and all my other party leaders accountable. But because I’m working on a deadline – one which is self-imposed, but still tight because I have limited free time – I needed to run with this post today. I would encourage Nicolee, Louis Pope, or any of our Maryland Republican leaders to feel free to add their reactions to the comments section, or I can append as needed.