The conclusion of another state-wide Republican convention, one that nominated the candidate that nearly all of the anti-convention activists hoped would win, hasn’t much abated the whining from them that we shouldn’t ever have a state-wide convention again. They got what they wanted as an outcome, but it isn’t enough. They’ll be satisfied with nothing less than state-run, state-financed and state-regulated primaries forevermore, remaining defiantly ignorant of the value of a convention and the insidious danger posed by the statist notion that government has any legitimate role to play in how a political party chooses it’s own candidates.
When government has control over how political parties select their nominees, we get to colloquially refer to election laws with names like “The Incumbent Protection Act,” have internal party matters litigated in federal court, and watch people not part of a political party make decisions about how that party can go about its business. Political parties then become organs of the state, and it’s not the members within that party who get to determine what the party does, but whoever at that time can exercise the greatest degree of financial or political leverage behind closed doors. Your constitutional rights, which are supposed to be protected by the process a political party is supposed to engage in, risk being stolen by precisely that political party using all the fearsome and terrifying power that the state can bring to bear.
It is one of the last vestiges of the “Progressive Era” that hasn’t been thankfully swept away, alongside Eugenics, Prohibition and government Censorship.
Conventions provide a tremendous opportunity for candidates to get a head start for their campaigns while spending very little money. The barriers to entry for people to participate as candidates are tremendously low and the gathering of committed activists that can form the grassroots core of a tremendous general election effort is an opportunity we are only beginning to leverage to it’s fullest extent. Whoever can command the support of the majority of the delegates at a convention potentially leaves that event with a roster of door-knockers, phone-bankers and volunteer campaign staff that no other method of selecting a nominee could ever hope to provide.
Yes, if only RPV would ever “get it” that the whole point of a convention, beyond the immediate business at hand, is to enroll hundreds, if not thousands of highly engaged activists in a general election campaign and focus on that effort. We’re not quite there yet, but that’s just a question of the people in charge seizing a vision that looks forward instead of navel-gazing about the ethnic composition of the speaker’s roster and making sure every minor player in state politics gets adequate recognition. There are egos to overcome. It’ll take some time.
If you have a state-run primary you pretty much enroll no one to help with the November election effort. If you have a state-wide, party-run firehouse primary you can’t possibly afford to spread out enough resources to do that. Only at a state convention do you concentrate activists and the staff that could actually get them committed to working for the next few months together in one place and have enough time to actually pull it off. Having the party turn a profit at a convention is a great thing, but having a few thousand activists marching out of the convention hall with a mission and an organizational structure to support them in accomplishing it would be far more valuable.
Campaigns, at least ones that are well run, already accomplish this to some degree right now. The months-long effort to register delegates gives them a great list of volunteers, the convention’s credentials report gives them great data about who on that list is the most motivated to work, and the campaigns do reach out to those on that list to volunteer for the campaign. That doesn’t serve the party as well as it serves individual campaigns, especially if there are multiple offices being considered at the convention, but at least there’s a high quality list some enterprising campaign operatives can use to go fishing for volunteers if they think of it.
Anyone who wants to ensure that candidates blow through their campaign funds way too early during an election cycle and are persistently short of volunteers, or maybe think that it’s a good thing that money constitutes the most significant barrier to entry towards becoming a Republican nominee can feel free to turn over party operations to the state. I’m sure our Republic will do just fine if we hand all authority over to the people who have the strongest incentive to make nominating mechanics as barricaded with regulation and as monstrously expensive as possible as we develop a permanent political class of Clintons, Bushes, Warners and Byrds. Our elections will become about as meaningful as those in Detroit and our state just as economically vibrant and beautiful.
Or you can understand that by jealously guarding the principles of liberty and freedom we end up with better government.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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