Claim: The caucus system will break the hold “establishment” Republicans have on the party.
The basic logic here is a nominating convention will remove authority from a select few powerbrokers to “annoint” their chosen candidate. The powers that be that brought us John McCain, Mitt Romney, Saxby Chambliss, etc. etc. If we want “true” conservatives, we’ll use a nominating convention to select those candidates.
Retort 1: Guess what…if you’re voting on a convention floor, you’re part of the establishment.
That might not sit well with many of the proponents of a caucus system, but it’s absolutely true. You’re not on the convention floor without a delegate badge. You’re not going to vote without a delegate badge. You don’t have a right to speak to the motions being considered without a delegate badge. You don’t get a delegate badge without jumping through a number of hoops, and even if not every seat available under the rules of the Georgia Republican Party is taken, there are certainly far fewer delegates than primary Republican voters in the state.
That said, let’s do some math here. Suppose that 2,000 credentialed delegates attend the state convention (a generous assumption). For the 2010 Republican Primary, they would have represented a mere 2.9-tenths of a percent (0.29%) of the voters. In 2012, it would be a paltry 2.3 tenths of a percent (0.23%). To represent just 1% of the Republican voting population, the convention could expand to an unruly 8,000 or so delegates. That raises a number of other questions – will they show up – but that’s beside the point. 1% of the Republicans in this state is still not sufficient enough to make a decision for non-delegate Republicans that have no recourse.
That, of course, represents why you’re part of the establishment. If you’re a delegate, there’s also no recall process. No way to hold you accountable to the decision that you’re going to make or, more importantly, the decision that the other voters would like you to make as their representative voice on the convention floor. Yes, you’re part of the establishment if you’re a delegate to the state convention. Just to put this in perspective, take this account of the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention:
RPV’s State Central Commitee – the “establishment” of the Republican Party of Virginia – voted on Friday 51-21 to nominate our statewide Senate candidate next year by convention. Those of us who want primaries are not the establishment in Virginia, we’re the folks on the outside complaining about the outdated, discriminatory and elitist nominating process where only people who have nothing better to do on a spring Saturday than sit in an arena covered in stickers for fifteen hours get to choose our nominees.
To claim you’re not part of the “establishment” is intellectually dishonest. To be truly honest, it’s time that term is thrown out altogether when referencing colleagues on the State Committee or convention delegates.
Retort 2: Activists are not entitled to their choice of candidates anymore than non-activists are.
There seems to be this common mentality among activists that we are the “smart” ones about politics. Obviously…otherwise, we wouldn’t be activists if we weren’t so smart. Regardless of how smart we are (not), sometimes there are things that you cannot get around. One of those sticky details is the fact that voters are one person, and outside of extreme cases – like being a convicted felon – your right to vote is as absolute as anyone else’s. So, essentially being an activist doesn’t entitle you to any more authority than a business owner, soccer mom, college student, etc. etc. That may not be an easy idea to accept, but it’s true.
There’s a reason for that, too. Politics is really no different than owning a small business, taking your kids to soccer practice, or attending pesky summer classes. It’s a passion that many people have, and we as activists have a drive to succeed in the political arena the same as others do in their own. Furthermore, many activists are only so because it is a means to obtain new business prospects or obtain college credit. The point being is we all have our reasons for being involved, and no reason is more important than the other. “Pure” philosophical justifications are not an appropriate litmus test to determine whether or not someone should have a right to participate in selecting Republicans.
Let’s look back at the RPV convention again and Schoeneman’s observations:
We have all heard the arguments over the years about disenfranchisement of military members, parents with small children who can’t afford the cost of childcare, small business owners who can’t afford to give up a spring Saturday to the convention, the elderly who can’t go for 16 hours at a time, and the rest. That was clearly in evidence yesterday, given that by the time the fourth ballot rolled around, over a third of the conventioneers who had showed up had left. The final ballot saw fewer that 5,000 votes cast.
The rules for candidate nomination make participation easy now. Early voting gives you a couple of weeks before election day to cast your ballot, and generally the primary polling places are easy to get in and out of. Changing the rules to reduce the number of electors is nothing more than limiting the influence of others that activists have little control over (or so they think). I’ll tell you what, though. Get out and campaign, and you’re likely to find that influence the “establishment” has falls apart.