Thursday, April 7, 2016

To 40b, or not to 40b?

That is the question. Before the 2016 election season, how many Republican voters knew there were convention rules, knew there was a rule 40, knew that there was a rules committee? Now we have pundits, and GOP Party spokespeople talking about sub-rule b of rule 40, and what it may or may not mean for this summer's convention in Cleveland. And it's all about to make my head explode. How can so many people that make their living off of the wonky world of politics be so profoundly ignorant about the basics of the process?

People are running in the streets crying in fear over the possibility of the "Establishment" rewriting all the rules at the convention so that they can sneak a globalist-CFR-9/11 planning-Bilderberger into the Whitehouse - and the pundits continue to encourage them with an endless parade of what ifs. In the immortal words of the GEICO lady, "That's not how any of this works." There are a limited number of options for the national GOP convention, and none of them involve the RNC or Establishment bogeymen installing a candidate. One interesting tidbit of irony is that supporters of a particular candidate are so concerned that the RNC will pull some trick to block their candidate that they are demanding that the RNC break the rules to block another candidate.

Rule 40b in the 2012 Rules Committee report has been the topic of much discussion. It simply says that a candidate must have earned 50% of the delegates in at least 8 states to be considered for nomination. Simple. Then people start talking about how this applies to Trump and Cruz. Also simple. It doesn't - yet. The rule 40b that is being discussed is the rule 40b from the 2012 convention rules. It does not apply to the 2016 convention unless and until the 2016 rules committee includes it in the 2016 convention rules. The 2012 rules simply provide a starting point for the 2016 rules committee.

So who are these rule committee people? Are they shadowy, star-chamber, RNC-pod-people that convene once every four years to ply their arcane arts to anoint the establishment candidate of their choosing and protect the process from the peasants? Actually no. It's not even very interesting. The rules committee is composed of one man and one woman from each state and US territory. But they're hand picked by the RNC, right? No. They're chosen by the other delegates from their state.

The delegates from each state elect two delegates from among themselves to serve on the rules committee for the convention. Adding up the states and territories indicates a total of 112 delegates on the rules committee. Most of the delegates at the 2016 national convention will be Trump and Cruz delegates chosen by grassroots Republicans in state conventions. They aren't going to knowingly choose delegates for the rules committee that want to sabotage their guy. Which brings us back to rule 40b.

Whether rule 40b stays or goes will ultimately be up to the delegates on the rules committee. My guess at the most likely scenario for rule 40b is that it will remain unchanged, and that there will be two names in the nomination hat at the national convention. Regardless, it won't be Reince Priebus writing the rules at the convention. Sure, somewhere in America there is probably some purple blooded RINO with a Machiavellian fantasy to conquer the world at the convention. Unfortunately for him, the convention will be filled with grassroots republican delegates that will never let that happen. The end.

P.S. Where do GOP delegates come from?

The delegate selection process varies from state to state. In Texas we hold a series of conventions where delegates for the next higher convention are selected:

Precinct Convention - sometime between 7pm on the day of the primary election, and the time of the County convention each GOP County Precinct Chair holds a convention for the purpose of collecting resolutions and naming delegates for the County (or state senatorial district) Convention. The resolutions and the delegates are selected through a democratic process.

County Convention - Between the Precinct Conventions and the Sate Convention, the GOP County chairs hold a convention for the purpose of naming delegates to the State Convention, electing county GOP officials, and identifying resolutions from the precinct conventions that will be forwarded to the state convention. Only delegates from the Precinct Convention participate in the County Convention.

State Convention - After the county conventions are completed the Republican Party of Texas(RPT) holds a convention for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention, electing RPT officials, and producing the platform of the RPT. Three delegates are elected in each congressional district caucus at the RPT convention. These delegates make up the bulk of the delegation that selects the man and woman that will represent Texas on the rules committee at the national convention.

The moral of the story is that if you care about what happens at the national convention, start caring at the precinct convention.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Donald Trump's abortion checkbox

The biggest problem with Donald Trump's awkward answer to Chris Matthews' abortion question is not that he took a particular position that people may agree or disagree with. The problem is that his answer makes it reasonably clear that he hadn't spent ten seconds in serious thought about abortion from a governmental perspective before Matthews asked the question. Republicans are supposed to be pro-life, so Donald Trump is pro-life. Box checked. 
"What do you mean there's more to it than that?"
In a rare display of a willingness to consider the broader ramifications of his actions, Trump issued two clarifications of his initial answer within hours - eventually getting to what has been the general pro-life position on the question for over a century. Unfortunately, the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube that easily. There are reasons that having statesmen that approach the office of the presidency with certain level of sobriety is a good thing.

There are profound differences between the world of "reality TV" and the world of "reality reality". In the real world, the statements of presidents and even presidential candidates have real influence beyond the scope of their individual agendas. My suspicion is that Mr. Trump's position evolved so quickly because credible people in the pro-life movement converged on the Trump campaign in a panic in response to Trump's off the cuff remarks about legally punishing women that seek abortions (in the hypothetical eventuality that abortion were to be outlawed). But that's just my guess.

What isn't a guess is that at the same time Trump was in the process of walking back his initial statements, his apologists were rushing to the defense of what they perceived to be a position statement consistent with his no-nonsense, politically-incorrect-charm; to the point that many are now expressing regret over his capitulation to political correctness in modifying his original comment. The messaging that Trump's initial comment was refreshingly honest commonsense truth has snowballed through talk radio and social media over the past couple of days. Unfortunately, what Dr. Jeffress and other Trump mouthpieces have missed, and Trump may have surprisingly picked up on, is that defense of this argument is damaging to the pro-life movement, is directly at odds with forty plus years of post-Roe messaging, disagrees with over a hundred years of history, disregards intentional legal precedent, and legitimizes the pro-abortion crowd's long running claims that pro-lifers should be distrusted because they don't care about women.

It really would be nice if we could stop for a nanosecond to wonder if there might be a reason that what Trump said is not the typical position of the pro-life industry before leaping into damage control mode on behalf of a politician. The rush to circle the wagons around Donald Trump comes with a price. Abortion issues extend beyond legal or political issues. These are issues of the human condition, and of culture. Today abortion is legal, and pro-life efforts have to continue to reduce the prevalence of abortion in that context. Everyday in America thousands of people get up and go to work at a job where one of the challenges they face is convincing women that someone cares about them and their unborn baby. Convincing desperate women that they are not facing their situation alone is a more difficult task today than it was before Donald Trump responded to a question for which he had no appreciation of the magnitude.

On Friday we were treated to two more abortion positions from the Trump campaign; bringing his total number of positions on this issue to five in one week. In an interview with CBS on Friday Trump clarified that his position is that abortion laws "...are set, and I think we have to leave it that way." A Trump campaign spokesman later "clarified" further by stating that Trump just meant the laws should be left that way until Trump is in office. So all of you folks that were expecting Trump to take executive action before he takes office should just keep that in mind.

So in one week Trump has breathed new life into the democrat's "war on women" charge, sown distrust for pro-life activists in the minds of women they want to help, and spurred a broad spectrum of Trump apologists to take to the airwaves with counter-productive messages undoing forty plus years of pro-life messaging. Then he makes it all some sort of demented April fools joke by settling on the position that "...the laws are set" and he'll just leave it that way. But hey, he's pro-life. Box checked!