Delegate: RNC Rule Change Would Have Silenced Reagan in ’76

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Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

In an interview Monday, Brian Dougherty, a Republican National Convention delegate from the Pennsylvania delegation told IVN that if the controversial RNC rule change advanced by the Romney camp at this week’s convention were in place in 1976, Ronald Reagan would have never risen to prominence in the GOP at the 1976 Republican convention, which set the stage for his successful presidential bid in 1980.

Dougherty said:

“Now these rules as they are, if they were in place in 1976, Ronald Reagan would have never risen to power in the Republican Party. When he challenged Ford in ’76, he would not have had a say. And then he would not have been in a position to win in 1980. So we would not have a President Reagan if those rules had existed back then.”

The proposed RNC rule change drafted by the RNC rules committee over the weekend would bind delegates in all fifty states to vote for the winner of their state’s Republican primary straw poll at future conventions.

Presently, each state party sets its own rules for delegates to the party’s national convention. Some state parties’ delegates are “bound” to vote for the winner of the state primary. Other state parties send “unbound” delegates, with state party rules that allow them to “vote their conscience” at the convention.

Another contentious rule change would allow the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee to choose which delegates are sent from each state party to the national convention instead of allowing each state party to determine its own rules and process for selecting delegates. If Mitt Romney were to win the general election in November, but face strong party opposition by 2016, as President Gerald Ford did in 1976, the new rules would allow his campaign to unilaterally silence intra-party opposition by stacking state delegations to the national convention with Romney supporters.

Commentators haven’t missed the implications of the rule change for grassroots, insurgent candidacies like that of Texas congressman, Ron Paul, whose presidential primary campaign strategy centered on active involvement by Paul supporters in state party processes and getting Ron Paul supporters elected as delegates from their state to the national convention. However, as Dougherty notes, Ronald Reagan’s presidency was made possible by his own insurgent candidacy at the Republican Party’s hotly-contested, brokered convention in 1976, where he nearly unseated President Gerald Ford for the GOP’s presidential nomination.

While Ron Paul supporters have been vocal in their opposition to the RNC rule change, they haven’t been the only ones. GOP stalwarts like Leadership Institute founder and president, Morton Blackwell, who has attended every Republican National Convention Rules Committee meeting since 1972, said in a letter to other delegates:

“These rule changes are the most awful I’ve ever seen come before any National Convention…

If the Rules Committee Report were to pass without adoption of the Minority Reports, it would amount to a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots…”

Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 candidate for vice president on John McCain’s ticket, also weighed in on the RNC rule change, writing in a Facebook post:

“We have to remember that this election is not just about replacing the party in power. It’s about who and what we replace it with. Grassroots conservatives know this. Without the energy and wisdom of the grassroots, the GOP would not have had the historic 2010 electoral victories. That’s why the controversial rule change being debated at the RNC convention right now is so very disappointing. It’s a direct attack on grassroots activists by the GOP establishment, and it must be rejected.”

During his interview with IVN, Dougherty reflected these sentiments, brushing aside fears of “the Ron Paul people” as a distraction from the fundamental shift in power from grassroots party members to national party insiders that would result from adoption of the new rules:

“The fear of the Ron Paul people, they have used to centralize their power for the future. They know the Ron Paul people are not in the position to do anything more than a couple minor things.

What they really want to do is centralize their power over all the committees so they get to decide from the top down in smoke-filled rooms. Going back to the days when everything– deals were made in smoke-filled rooms.”

Though Dougherty opposes the new rules, his state delegation voted overwhelmingly at a delegation breakfast Tuesday morning to support them on the convention floor later in the day. Over ten of Dougherty’s fellow Pennsylvania delegates who voted to support the new rules were approached for a brief interview by IVN’s Republican National Convention correspondent, Tom Brown, but each declined to comment on the controversy.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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  2. Brandon Fallon It not only hurts the Republican party, but the democratic system in general.
  3. madeforthemedia REAL STORY .. ELECTION FRAUD ! The RCN Before the roll call of the states that would nominate Romney, Republican officials RCN changed the rules so R Paul would not get on the ballot and also changed future rules so someone like Ron Paul will never trouble them again. The problem is if you listen to the yeahs and nays the nays win and the rules should not have been changed Election fraud is clearly seen with this changing of rules .. Then Boner asks are there any objections and about 1000 ppl start objecting loudly and he says .. ok no objections!
  4. William Boardman If only they'd had the good sense to do that back then, how much better off we'd be now... maybe.
  5. Chad Peace I don't know how much more the GOP can squeeze out members of their own party ... they are already losing voters by the second, and all the steps they take just seem to alienate those that might be interested in the "Republican" ideals more and more.
  6. Michael Higham It looks like a desperate power grab for party elites. Silencing intra-party conflict through rules changes would just make things worse. Not only does it make party elites look desperate, but it also suppresses a constructive dialogue that could help the party in the long run.
5 comments
Brandon Fallon
Brandon Fallon

It not only hurts the Republican party, but the democratic system in general.

madeforthemedia
madeforthemedia

REAL STORY .. ELECTION FRAUD ! The RCN Before the roll call of the states that would nominate Romney, Republican officials RCN changed the rules so R Paul would not get on the ballot and also changed future rules so someone like Ron Paul will never trouble them again. The problem is if you listen to the yeahs and nays the nays win and the rules should not have been changed Election fraud is clearly seen with this changing of rules .. Then Boner asks are there any objections and about 1000 ppl start objecting loudly and he says .. ok no objections!

William Boardman
William Boardman

If only they'd had the good sense to do that back then, how much better off we'd be now... maybe.

Chad Peace
Chad Peace

I don't know how much more the GOP can squeeze out members of their own party ... they are already losing voters by the second, and all the steps they take just seem to alienate those that might be interested in the "Republican" ideals more and more.

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

It looks like a desperate power grab for party elites. Silencing intra-party conflict through rules changes would just make things worse. Not only does it make party elites look desperate, but it also suppresses a constructive dialogue that could help the party in the long run.