Time for Priebus to Go!

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

About a week ago, both the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Virginia state chapter of the RLC issued press releases calling for the resignation of the chairman of the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.  The reasoning for this action revolves around the conflict that took place during the recent Republican Nation Convention in Tampa, Florida.

For many Republican and conservative activists who only heard news of the convention via reports from the mainstream media, much of this article may come as a bit of a shock.  However, behind the cheery exterior in Florida, there lurked a number of troubling accounts.

First, as mentioned in a previous article, the changes in the convention rules greatly upset a number of conservative activists including Virginia Republican National Committeeman and president of the Leadership Institute, Morton Blackwell.  Rather than using proportional voting in early state primaries, which would allow for greater development in the GOP primaries, this switch means that an exceedingly small number of voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will likely dictate future party nominees.  In response, Blackwell warned that these changes would “concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party, and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up”.  Video of the vote on this matter shows that the result was not decisive, but Speaker of the House John Boehner declared in a dictatorial fashion “in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.”

Along these same lines, rather than unify the party behind Mitt Romney, the convention further drove a wedge between the Ron Paul and Romney supporters.  For starters, early in the convention, many delegates from Maine who supported Ron Paul were stripped of their voting power.  To make matters worse, although a candidate and elected official in the Republican Party, Representative Ron Paul was not allowed to speak on the convention floor.  Lastly, in a move which must have been done out of spite, when delegates from each state cast their votes, the officially announced totals made no mention of Paul’s total.

Here is a video which outlines all of the objections raised in this article:

Therefore, as stated at the beginning of this article, as a result of the events that took place under the leadership of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the Republican Liberty Caucus and many state chapters of the RLC have issued a resolution calling for his resignation.

The text of the RLC-VA resolution is as follows:

September 17, 2012 (Staunton, VA) – The Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia Board approved the following resolution in response to the events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa:

Whereas, the management of the Republican National Convention in Tampa displayed a blatant disregard for the rules under which the convention committees and convention’s general business session were supposed to be conducted;

Whereas, national party leaders and agents of the Romney campaign worked to disenfranchise legitimately elected delegates, silence dissent and disregard legitimate motions and the results of votes during the national convention;

Whereas, fraud and coercion were used to pass new rules which reduce the power and autonomy of state and local party organizations, allow future rule changes without proper oversight by the body of the party and impose a top-down structure of governance in place of the party’s traditional bottom-up structure;

Whereas, most of the factional problems at the convention could have been resolved through reasonable negotiation in ways which promoted unity and cooperation, but were instead dealt with by a heavy handed incompetence which has led to greater divisions, a weakening of the party and loss of support for the presidential nominee;

Whereas, responsibility for the mismanagement and abuse of process at the national convention ultimately rests with the national Chairman;

Whereas, it is to the benefit of the party to protect the rights and interests of party members and preserve the traditional and unique practices of the state parties;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We call for the immediate resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus;

We reject the validity of all of the revisions to the party rules passed at the Tampa convention and consider the 2008 rules to remain in effect;

We commend the efforts of the Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, Morton Blackwell, to prevent adoption of these odious rule changes;

We condemn Ben Ginsberg, John Sununu and John Boehner for their leadership of and complicity in these activities;

We assert the primacy of the state parties in determining policy for conducting party elections, nomination of candidates and apportionment of delegates within their states without the interference of the national committee or any campaign or outside entities.

We urge the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee, our State Chairman and our Republican National Committee representatives to act on this resolution and vote to return control of the party to the state parties and the body of party members.  We urge members to take this resolution to their local unit committees for passage by said committees, and for Virginia Republican activists to endorse it.

The unity of the Republican Party is in a sorry state due to the leadership, or lack thereof, of Reince Priebus and his confederates.  Conservatives and libertarians have been demoralized and disenfranchised and his actions have harmed the party and its candidates in not only the 2012 elections, but for elections in the years to come.

Partially as a result of the devious actions which took place at the convention, most Ron Paul supporters I know are unifying behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and, try as I might, I can’t say that I blame them.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Nothing defeats the Republican Party quite as well as the Republican Party.  We should never forget that Reince Pribus bears a considerable portion of this blame.

It is time for Priebus to go!

Morton Blackwell on the Republican Convention

VC Note:  To follow is a letter Morton Blackwell wrote concerning the rules changes that took place at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL.  Although it has already been posted on RedState, I thought that it would be of interest to many activists in Virginia, especially considering the questionable tactics employed against our delegates.

Dated September 2nd, 2012

Dear Fellow RNC Member,

Now that the national convention is over, many delegates and others have asked me to sum up my views on the controversy at the convention regarding The Rules of the Republican Party and where we should go from here.

What happened regarding the party rules in Tampa was a totally unnecessary – but largely successful attempt – to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party and restrict or shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

The effort was led by Ben Ginsberg, a member of the Convention Rules Committee from Washington, D.C., who represented himself as the spokesman for Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ginsberg worked for the Presidential Campaign of Michele Bachmann.  In Tampa, he led the effort to make major changes in the party rules strongly opposed by Congresswoman Bachmann.

Mr. Ginsberg is simply a man unencumbered by principles.

For four years, the Republican National Committee’s Standing Committee on Rules carefully reviewed The Rules of the Republican Party and adopted changes to propose for adoption by the national convention.

Then the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to approve the new rules proposed by its Standing Committee on Rules and sent them on to the Convention Rules Committee.

Enter Ben Ginsberg.

At the Convention Rules Committee meeting, he proceeded to introduce and support many amendments to the newly-revised rules which had been approved the previous day by the RNC.

The changes he proposed shared a common theme:  to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party, and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

Since these rules changes would go into effect for the 2016 presidential election cycle, none of Mr. Ginsberg’s power grabs would in any way help us elect Mitt Romney and defeat President Barack Obama in November.

And I’m sure you agree defeating Obama should be our top priority this Election Year.

But Ben Ginsberg’s efforts predictably enraged conservative Republicans who treasure the protections long incorporated in our national party rules.

The record will show that during the Conventions Rules Committee meeting, as a member of that Committee from Virginia, I repeatedly warned Mr. Ginsberg that his power grabs would hurt the Romney campaign by outraging grassroots conservative and libertarian activists whom we want to support our candidates this year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ginsberg continued on his path.

There are some folks who, if you give them a fur coat, think they’re King Kong.

As anyone with relevant experience should have foreseen, when the Rules Committee report was presented for consideration to the National Convention, a thunderous “NO!” vote arose from the convention floor.

Most of the news media and those of us in the convention hall agree that the vote on adopting the Rules was obviously close. Some believe the “NO” vote was louder, but Speaker Boehner ruled that the “ayes” had it.

I was the youngest elected Goldwater delegate at the 1964 national convention.  I have attended every national convention since, and I’ve represented Virginia on the RNC since 1988.

Nothing like this has ever happened before in living memory at a Republican National Convention.

When they were presumptive Presidential nominees – and when they were Presidents of the United States – neither George H.W. Bush nor George W. Bush ever attempted to undermine the means by which power within the Republican Party structure can rise from the bottom up.

The operatives whom the Romney campaign put in charge of Rules matters seem to want the power to rule the national Republican Party, as Nelson Rockefeller used to run the New York State Republican Party.

These operatives should be repudiated – and it’s not too late to do so.

Later in this email, I’ll discuss some of the awful changes Mr. Ginsberg supported.

But first, it’s necessary to stress how important I believe it is to elect Mitt Romney and defeat Barack Obama in November.

My wife and I have supported Republican candidates every year in our 40-year marriage.  This year, my wife and I have contributed at least five times as much money to Romney Victory, Inc. as we have ever given to any other campaign.

Four years ago, I predicted in a posting which still can be seen on the website RedState, how bad a President Barack Obama would be.

He has been even worse than I predicted.

Barack Obama is a leftist ideologue who has filled his Administration with other leftist ideologues, and their policies are bankrupting our country and destroying many of our liberties.

Mitt Romney strongly supports conservative principles – and he would undo the damage Obama has done.

He would end the slide into national bankruptcy, restore threatened liberties, and put our country on the path toward economic growth and more job opportunities.

It’s little short of tragic that some of his operatives blundered by setting up an entirely unnecessary, major controversy with grassroots Republicans at our national convention.

Undoubtedly, the worst power grab initiated by Mr. Ginsberg was his ramming through a change in the Rules of the Republican Party, a new Rule 12, which permits the Republican National Committee to change national rules between conventions.

The Democrats have had such a rule for years, and those in power in their party spend the periods between their national conventions fighting in their national committee over rules changes to benefit this or that faction, or this or that potential presidential nominee.

We Republicans have avoided that by prohibiting changes in the rules between our national conventions.

The office of the RNC Chairman is – and has to be – very powerful.  A National Committee of 168 members, which meets for a few hours two or three times a year, can’t micro-manage the RNC.

The RNC Chairman has the immense power of the purse and a large staff to influence the decisions of the RNC, so an RNC Chairman can get the votes of a super-majority of the RNC for just about anything he or she desires.

But until now, the fact that the RNC Chairman must abide by stable party rules has served as the main protection for input by grassroots conservatives and libertarians.

For practical purposes, the new Rule 12 adds to the power of the RNC Chairman (or to the White House when there’s a Republican President) the ability to change party rules at will.

Over a number of election cycles, our party has struggled to avoid the front-loading of our delegate selection process, moving us closer and closer to a single national primary as states race to the head of the line to hold their primaries.

Yet prudence dictates that there should be a reasonably long nomination process in order to properly vet all of our candidates.

After special studies and much consultation, many serious party leaders finally came up with a workable solution.  Party rules were changed in this cycle to prohibit winner-take-all primaries in March of presidential election years.  March primaries had to in some way allocate delegate votes proportionally to the popular vote.

The new system worked, and Mitt Romney is a better presidential candidate because of that experience.

Mr. Ginsberg gutted the hard-won reform by ramming through a change in the rules to permit winner-take-all primaries in March.

When I asked him why he did this, he replied to me, “It wasn’t our idea.  We did it as a favor for some friends.”

That’s a far cry from a process in which the best interests of our party are carefully discussed and considered.

I have innumerable times over the years recruited new participants into the Republican Party by stressing the fairness, openness, and stability of our Republican rules compared to those of the Democratic Party.

The way to treat newcomers to our party is fairly, politely, and even cordially.

That’s what we do in Virginia. And that’s how to build and sustain a majority party.

Among the many still-not-publicized rules changes rammed through the Convention Rules Committee by Mr. Ginsberg was one to raise from five to eight the number of states a presidential candidate would have to win in the nomination contests in order to have his or her name formally placed in nomination before the convention.

Raising the bar was a gratuitous slap at prospective new participants in our nomination process.

Despite his success in recruiting new volunteers, Congressman Ron Paul won a majority of the delegate votes in nowhere near five states this year.

To discuss all the power grabs the rules suffered this year would be tedious in a letter, so let me mention only some of them, including the one which resulted in a “compromise.”

Mr. Ginsberg got the Convention Rules Committee to pass a rule change which would allow presidential candidates to remove national convention delegates who were legally elected under the party rules and laws of the respective states.  This caused such a furor that a Minority Report to the Rules Committee Report seemed certain.

That would have forced a debate on the convention floor and a vote of the entire convention body.

A valid Minority Report required the support of 28 members – or 25% – of the Convention Rules Committee.  Well over 35 signatures were certain, despite all available arm-twisting of Mr. Ginsberg and those who supported him on everything else.

State parties, including Virginia’s, fiercely defended their right to elect their own delegates.  The “compromise” was for Mr. Ginsberg to agree to take out the provision which would have given candidates the power to disavow and remove legally elected delegates.

In place of that obnoxious provision was inserted a guarantee that delegate votes would go to candidates who won those delegate votes in binding presidential primaries, a matter which would have been routinely enforced under the existing rules.

Conservatives continued to mount efforts to file two Minority Reports, but in the end, enough Rules Committee members were persuaded not to sign them or to remove their signatures.

Neither had the required 28 signatures and one wound up with 27 valid signatures.

Therefore no Minority Reports reached the convention floor.

I should mention that Mr. Ginsberg moved one rules change which would have required the signatures of 40% of future Convention Rules Committees for a Minority Report to be considered on the convention floor.

That would have rendered future Minority Reports virtually impossible because the signatures would have to be obtained and the Minority Report filed within one hour of the adjournment of the Convention Rules Committee.

The opposition to this attempted power grab was so intense that Mr. Ginsberg withdrew his motion.

There circulated in the media coverage of the Tampa convention a report that a late and wayward bus deliberately prevented the Virginia Delegates from arriving at the convention hall in time for me to take part in the final (usually pro-forma) meeting of the Convention Rules Committee held as the convention began.

It is true that our Virginia bus got our delegation to the convention hall after the Convention Rules Committee meeting adjourned.  But I never for a minute believed our bus had been deliberately delayed.

One should not attribute to conspiracy what can adequately be explained by incompetence.  You will recall that staggeringly bad transportation arrangements inconvenienced most of the states’ delegations that day.

All in all, in most ways our 2012 convention was a roaring success.

We presented great speeches by Mitt Romney and his brilliant choice for running mate, Paul Ryan.  Other great speeches by Anne Romney, Marco Rubio, and a galaxy of others put our party’s best feet forward.  The 2012 Republican Platform clearly expressed our conservative and liberty-loving principles.

My strong advice is for all of us to work tirelessly and give generously to our national campaign.  Everything is on the line this year.

And there’s another reason for solid conservatives to contribute more time and money now.

I believe we shall win this election, and then there’s the important matter of staffing a new Administration.

I worked full-time in the Presidential Personnel Office of President-elect Ronald Reagan and then for three years on his White House staff.

Personnel is policy.

An incoming administration tends to hire people who contributed significantly to winning the election.

If we expect a new President to hire a lot of principled conservatives and libertarians, we should maximize the number of principled conservatives and libertarians who have credentialed themselves by taking part in the Mitt Romney campaign.

And then, in 2016 we can work to repeal the current Rule 12 – and reverse the other mistakes incorporated in the new rules last week.

Cordially,

Morton Blackwell
National Committeeman, Virginia