How the Rules of Party Conventions Matter

The 1948 Republican Convention in Philadelphia

When it comes down to the Republican Presidential nominee for 2016 it may come down to the rules of procedure. Parliamentary savvy can reveal modern U.S. politics to be a lot like its historical precedents (think: 1924 Democratic convention). But the existing (or even yet-to-be-enacted rules) reveal something about their party–as they shape the outcome in potentially surprising ways.

We don’t yet know how we’ll remember 2016, as a statistical outlier, a sideshow, or perhaps the year of the rise of the non-state (Establishment) actor.

Republican leadership is unhappy, and used to be able to call the shots. Here is how Trump could be removed (and mayhem orchestrated), assuming he enters the convention as the frontrunner but without the requisite threshold of votes:

  • Delegates become “unbound” and vote as they wish
  • Rules can change, aka, the “nuclear option” (see below)

“When you’re trying to bust up a convention, you can’t just take the risk on the nomination vote,” says Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the book Primary Politics. “Because if you lose, then he’s the nominee. There’s always a test vote beforehand. And it would probably be about the rules.”Now, fights over rules may seem arcane, but they actually present great opportunities for mischief. That’s because the delegates get to make their own rules and can change them however they like.

So supporters of one candidate are perfectly free to propose a last-minute rules change meant to hurt another candidate — and if a majority of delegates approves it, there’s no higher body that can overrule the decision

Source: Contested conventions, explained – Vox

As Chris Baylor writes, Trump may be a one-trick pony; future Republican contenders may not be able to replicate his success, and he may fail to even have the so-called “transformative” impact that some are suggesting. In that case, it will be all left up to the rules.


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