Saturday, February 21, 2015

MNGOP Should Abandon Quixotic Quest For Waivers

News broke earlier this week that the chairs of the Minnesota Republican Party and the Minnesota DFL had jointly set precinct caucuses for the date of March 1, 2016.

Under the law, caucuses are held on the first Tuesday in February unless the chairs of the "two largest major political parties" jointly agree on another date.

Now that the caucus date is set, it's clear that the Republican Party of Minnesota will be required, under the rules of the Republican National Committee (RNC) to bind their delegates to the result of the straw ballot for president that will be conducted on caucus night.

Although MinnPost originally erroneously reported that caucuses would be non-binding, MNGOP is now admitting that they will indeed be binding.  But according to an anonymous source in another MinnPost article, MNGOP "expect[s] to get a waiver from the rule."

I wouldn't be so sure. I'll note that the source was so certain that a waiver would be granted that he or she wouldn't discuss it on the record for attribution.  Take from that what you will. 

Also, the granting of a waiver for Minnesota defies logic.  The RNC passed the rule to make delegates be bound because they want delegates to be bound.  There's no reason to think that they would grant a waiver to Minnesota, just because Minnesota wants it.

Regardless what you think of the prospects of waivers, MNGOP should abandon their quest of defiance and embrace the new process.  It's the only way for Minnesota to be remotely relevant in the process for selecting a presidential nominee.

The process in Minnesota in recent years has been that people show up on caucus night and cast a vote in the straw ballot.  The results of that straw ballot are then summarily ignored as a handful of party insiders make their way through a byzantine process of increasingly exclusive conventions in an attempt to win a spot as a delegate to the national convention with no regard for how the public voted.

As a result, Minnesota is largely ignored in presidential nominating contests, except by long-shot or no-shot candidates.

The move of caucus night to "Super Tuesday," when several other states will be voting, combined with the binding of delegates to the straw poll results will make the delegates in Minnesota a coveted prize.  By having some clear and fair rules for binding delegates, real presidential contenders will compete in Minnesota, rather than writing off our convoluted convention process.

Our neighbors in Iowa have perhaps the most famous caucus system in America due to their position as a "first in the nation" state, yet Iowa is not seeking waivers for their caucus.  They will be binding their delegates. 

“This is the party trying to line up the results to the wishes of the people,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker, who was one of the Paul backers swept into power at party headquarters last election cycle.
What Mr. Spiker is referring to when he talks about "the wishes of the people" is the fact that under the existing caucus system the votes of the people who show up on caucus night are meaningless.  In Iowa in 2012 Ron Paul received the support of 79% of the delegation, despite coming in with only 21% of the vote on caucus night.

Here in Minnesota even though Rick Santorum won the night on caucus night, nearly all of the delegates from Minnesota voted for Ron Paul at the convention.

The disconnect between the results of caucus night and the eventual make up of the delegation is just one of the terrible features of MNGOP's existing caucus process.  Holding a caucus instead of a primary will still disenfranchise many people, including active duty members of the military, but binding the delegates to the results of the straw poll is a reform that brings us a step in the right direction.

Instead of wasting time and energy on a likely futile effort to seek waivers, MNGOP should instead have a vigorous debate about how they will proportionally allocate their delegates as required by the RNC rules, and how they will adjust their delegate selection process to fit the new reality.

There are a number of important decisions that need to be made to transition Minnesota to a more modern and inclusive way of participating in the selection of presidential candidates. The party's focus should be on making these decisions in a responsible manner, not putting their heads in the sand and pretending change isn't coming.  MNGOP should not make the same mistake that their 2014 gubernatorial nominee did in thinking that "waivers" is a plan.