CLEVELAND, OH – Over the course of the past three days, I have talked with eight or nine delegates from various states who were involved in the process of attempting to get a roll call vote from the floor on the rules package submitted by the RNC’s rules committee. To be clear: this vote would not have unbound the delegates or even actually enacted any different rules than those that were proposed by the Rules Committee at all. It was just intended to be a mechanism for delegates to voice their discontent with the way the new rules – which centralized power in the hands of the RNC and removed it from the delegates – went down.
We have carried interviews with some of these delegates over the last couple days here at RedState. I also spoke with several others who did not want to go on the record but who nonetheless were willing to share their observations about what happened.
Many of the delegates I talked to expressed disappointment in the whip operation of the conservatives who were seeking a roll call vote. They expressed frustration that after the Lee/Cuccinelli faction made their pitch over the weekend, the state delegations were mostly left to themselves.
Meanwhile, for whatever lack of organization the Trump campaign had in terms of their delegate game, they came prepared to this convention – either on their own initiative or (more likely) with the help of the RNC. The delegates talked about how the RNC/Trump faction has an active whip game here on the floor, and that they skillfully selected whips who would be known to the delegates as familiar and trusted faces. If you look at the floor here in Cleveland, you can see them wearing neon green hats everywhere. They are omnipresent and very involved.
When the indications first started that a rules vote was potentially in the offing, the whip team sprang into motion. They knew exactly every person who had signed a petition to force a roll call vote. They approached all of these people personally and asked, “Okay, what is the problem? What don’t you approve of in terms of the rules? How can we help answer your objection?” If this didn’t work, cajoling and threats to state funding were employed. If the initial whip was not able to persuade the renegade delegate, then a higher level whip would be employed with increasing levels of pressure. The whips knew they did not have to flip many people and they were ruthlessly effective in their objective.
Meanwhile, the Lee/Cuccinelli contingent, who staked everything on forcing this vote, was disappointingly disorganized throughout the day on Monday. I talked with delegates who were pressured by the RNC/Trump whip team on Monday, and they stated that while they were relentless pressured throughout the day by the RNC/Trump forces, they heard from no one in the Lee/Cuccinelli camp who might have reinforced the importance of the vote or explained why it was so vitally important for them to leave their signatures affixed to the petitions. At the end of the day, many of the rules objectors felt that they were left twisting in the wind and that this allowed some of the weaker delegates to be picked off and the effort failed.
Probably much of this has to do with the difference in disposition between conservative disruptors and the central organizers who run the RNC. It’s not really in the nature of revolutionaries to be as organized as the forces they are trying to overthrow, and it never has been.
But this is what the Republican convention has really come to: the delegates and their will really means nothing and the RNC will stop at nothing to ruthlessly suppress any dissent, especially dissent that occurs in public. It’s a process that began in 2012 when conservatives allowed it to happen to the Ron Paul delegates and it was solidified yesterday. The delegates are now just expensive window dressing, and “delegates” in mere name only. The party would do well to save itself a lot of money and just go with the popular vote total – except that this would make it more difficult to crown candidates like Trump who achieve a mere plurality in the future.