Monday, December 14, 2015

Doug Mataconis Statement On GOP Convention Rules Utterly Contradicted

UPDATE:Another article from Real Clear Politics refutes Doug Mataconis "Why Rule 40 Won't Affect the GOP Primary Outcome"

A senior member of 'The Green Papers', a site that specializes in analyzing the rules of conventions responded to my questioning  this statement from Doug Mataconis of Outside The Beltway'

"It’s also worth noting that, under the RNC Rules, no changes to this or any of the other convention rules can impact what  happens in 2016 since they would only take effect with the 2020 Convention."

I asked this in response;

"My understanding is that this is incorrect as once the convention commences the rules committee can make changes as they see fit. Is that not so?"

To which question I received this kind, courteous and comprehensive reply which in my opinion which I would imagine most if not all would concur with, which clearly repudiates Mataconis (who is a lawyer by the way)

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"While it is true that previously adopted procedural rules (through the 2012 GOP Convention) will be utilized at the 2016 gathering in Cleveland so long as they might prove practicable, there is still that very essence of Parliamentary Procedure 101 in which "a body may alter its own rules by its own vote at any time".

Indeed, the very nature of deliberative bodies is that they ever be able to best do that which the consensus within said body might wish them to do and, if the body's standing rules happen to get in the way... well----------

This is even more true of the quadrennial National Political Party (Nominating) Conventions than most:
for these National Coventions meeting but for the better part of a week are, in theory, the
only times the Parties themselves (as a visible entity) even really exist on the national level: while there are Party National Committees, such as the Republican National Committee itself, the Convention every four years is
the institutional face of the Party as a national political entity (the, albeit arguably, best analogy here is in the political [nay, "constitutional"] relations between the traditional Town Meeting in New England and the town[ship]'s Board of Selectmen, in which [unlike, say, a Council of a City, Village or Borough both within and without New England] the Selectmen exercise administrative functions only while only the annual [outside of any special such gatherings] Town Meeting is the legal policy-making body for the town[ship]: the Party National Committees are, in this analogy, the equivalent of the Board of Selectmen while the quadrennial National Conventions are the 'Town Meetings', if you will, of the Party as a nationwide institution)...

even though the days when such National Conventions every four years were, indeed, the only time State (and even more local) Party leaders and functionaries could ever meet together face to face and, among themselves and their Party's delegates to said Convention, well hammer out a national political program to present to the Nation come the ensuing General Election are now long gone (the Internet being only the latest modern communications tool to have put paid to just such a function of the Conventions), the National Convention is still- in the main and to this very day-
the National [insert Party name here] Party itself (the rest of the time [1457 out of 1461 days, normally], the Parties are- at most- federations [and even, at times, mere confederations] of State, county, municipal/township/district and precinct "parties" happening to but bear the same, or similar, name).

It is, rather obviously, quite wise for a well-established "permanent" deliberative body (such as, for example, either house of Congress or a State's legislature) to very closely adhere to (in most cases, long ago-adopted) standing rules of procedure and, thereby, heed the very warning in the Declaration of Independence itself that [p]rudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established shall not be changed for light and transient causes; but for such "prudence" to, somehow, straitjacket a deliberative body that meets for a few days (during which it always has at least the potential of being rocked and tossed on various and sundry political "winds") before passing forever into the mists of History by pointedly making it a slave, as it were, to its own standing rules is, in and of itself, simply ludicrous: likewise, the very notion that standing procedural rules adopted at the 2016 Convention will only bind the 2020 (and, perhaps, later) Conventions- while true per se- being seen as somehow as permanent as those for, say, the United States House of Representatives!

It's quite simple, really: if those in charge of the 2016 Republican National Convention (whoever these might turn out to be) while it is ongoing see it potentially devolving into what can fairly be described as a "complete mess" (not that I am, at this time, expecting such a thing to happen, mind you!), they can then at least attempt to get a majority of the delegates to adopt motions at said Convention to try and counteract this (with the obvious caveat that it is the delegates themselves who get to decide [and it will be said delegates' responses to such cajoling and/or "whip-cracking"- or lack thereof-  that will, in the end, carry the day]), regardless of what the standing rules themselves might- or might not- say...

in addition, the Chair of the Convention (along with those up on the dais assisting him [I would have to presume, based on long-standing tradition, that it
will be a "him"- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan]) ever retains- again to here apply my aforementioned analogy- no less a power as that of a New England Town Meeting Moderator to know when to apply such asRobert's Rules of Order and when to "throw Robert's out the window"!"

I agree that, even with a "constitutional" rule seemingly binding a given deliberative body to adhere to earlier-agreed upon procedure, the body itself can always find a way around this should it ever prove necessary- but it would (and, indeed,
should) generally only be under most extraordinary circumstances. Parliamentarians, however, can prove to be rather creative in this regard