Why does the Michigan Republican Party leadership insist on doubling down on stupid?
Unless you sit on the MIGOP Policy Committee, the only clue most of us had that this was happening was a four-sentence news brief at WKZO (590 AM, Kalamazoo) – reported nowhere else according to Frontloading HQ – published a week ago on Monday night:
March 15th, 2016 appears to be the likely date of the Michigan Republican presidential primary in the next election. The Michigan Republican Party’s Policy Committee approved the date, which is the earliest a primary can be held without losing delegates to the Republican National Convention.
If a candidate wins over 50-percent of the statewide vote, he or she will be awarded all of Michigan’s delegates. If the winner has less than that threshold, the delegates will be split up based on the vote.
Which, initially, left me a bit at a loss for words. Apparently, someone was praying that this wasn’t going to get noticed. Of course, that raised the question of “why” . . . and a cursory review of the details provides us with a quite predictable answer.
Back during the summer of 2011, the Michigan Faith & Freedom Coalition did a town hall style tour of the state, seeking grassroots input as to how the Michigan Republican Party should conduct its 2012 presidential primary. The idea was to provide the State Central Committee with at least one workable idea as to how to avoid the fiasco of 2008. The consensus coming out of the town hall circuit was that Michigan Republicans should adopt some sort of caucus method (preferably a “firehouse caucus”), so as to avoid the likelihood of crossover contamination from the Michigan Democrats. Given that BHO was running unopposed for the jackass renomination, this was probably a valid concern.
Yet the state committee meeting subsequently decided to ignore both common sense and grassroots concerns, deciding on an early and open primary, and setting the stage for the Michigan Dele-Gate Fiasco and its Showdown In Motown aftermath. This fiasco occurring because the MIGOP Credentials Committee opted for an ex post facto change to their agreed-upon rules so as to award “native son” Willard Romney both of the post-penalty at-large pledged delegates, and thus maintain the façade of a Romney “win” in Michigan. The irony of this is that the excuse Saul and Bobby cited for their decision was Reagan Democrats in Detroit crossing over to carry the 13th District for Rick Santorum, thus splitting the number of congressional districts evenly – seven each – and putting the statewide popular vote split close enough to also split the at-large delegates – one each – according to any honest reckoning. The establishment kleptocrats were warned about the potential for crossover contamination, opted to leave themselves open to it anyway (probably believing that it would benefit them rather than the constitutionalist insurgency), and then, when they found themselves hoist on their own petard, simply rewrote the rules . . . because Saul and Bobby had the votes to get away with it.
Wow . . . “… had the votes to get away with it …” . . . keep that one in mind, y’all, because we’ll be referring back to it.
Before I continue, let me briefly sidebar here to discuss exactly how many national convention delegates are in play in Michigan’s 2016 Presidential Primary. According to The Rules of the Republican Party (as adopted 2012), specifically Rule 14(a) – Delegates, the unpenalized Michigan delegation is constituted as follows:
- 10 At-Large delegates from each state (effectively, 5 at-large delegates for each U.S. Senator) [Rule 14(a)(1)]
- 3 party leaders: the national committeeman, the national committeewoman, and the chairman of the state’s Republican Party. [Rule 14(a)(2)]
- 3 District delegates for each U.S. Representative as established by the 2010 census [Rule 14(a)(3)]
- States electing a Republican Governor between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015 receive 1 bonus delegate. Limit: 1. [Rule 14(a)(6)(i)]
- States electing Republicans to 50% or more of their U.S. House delegation between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015 receive 1 bonus delegate. Limit 1. [Rule 14(a)(6)(ii)]
- States electing a Republican majority to one chamber of the state legislature (and the chamber is presided over by a Republican) between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015 receive 1 bonus delegate. Limit 1. [Rule 14(a)(6)(iii)]
- States with membership in the Republican Party of a majority of all chambers of the state legislature (and all chambers are presided over by a Republican) between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015 receive 1 bonus delegate. Limit 1. [Rule 14(a)(6)(iv)]
- Award 1 bonus delegate for each Republican Senator elected in the 6 year period between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2015. Limit 2. [Rule 14(a)(7)]
. . . which provides the Michigan Republican Party with 3 bonus at-large delegates currently (U. S. House Delegation majority, One State Legislature Chamber, and Both State Legislature Chambers) – though that’s subject to change in the next six weeks or so – plus the 3 party leaders (unpledged delegates), plus 42 district delegates, plus the 10 baseline at-large delegates . . . for a current total of 58 delegates, 55 of which are pledged based on the outcome of the Presidential Primary election. (Those 3 bonus delegates could, depending upon the November 4th outcomes, shift between -3 to +2, providing us with between 52 to 57 pledged delegates to the 2016 national convention.) That total, of course, assumes that we don’t do something insanely foolish, such as hold our primary too early (without a waiver on file), or include a winner-take-all option before we’re allowed to.
So, since the RNC Rules require us to conduct our primary after February 29th, but before June 12th, or else face penalty, Michigan Election Law (specifically Section 168.641) provides us with exactly one option: “the May regular election date, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.” According to the Calendar for Year 2016, that’d be Tuesday, May 3rd. No penalty, winner-take-all, and plenty of time to squeeze in county conventions and a state convention before the credentialing deadline for the national convention. It’s perfect, except . . . for some screwball reason we’re stuck on this notion that if we don’t go early enough, then we won’t be relevant. That mindset, apparently, seems born from the belief that the primary schedule is frontloaded as much as possible to lock down a nominee as soon as possible (so as to allegedly avoid producing a weakened nominee as a result of a protracted campaign).
So this is what the Policy Committee submitted to the State Central Committee for ratification:
- Date to be set for Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 (pending legislative approval and appropriation)
- Allegedly a “modified” closed primary (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, because it looks very much like an open primary to me)
- The 42 congressional district pledged delegates to be awarded to the winner of the popular vote in the district in question (three per district)
- The 10 base at-large and all bonus at-large pledged delegates to be awarded “winner take all” to the winner of the statewide popular vote
- If the winner of the statewide popular vote gets at least 50% of the votes cast, then that candidate is awarded all 55 pledged delegates
- If the legislature selects a date earlier than March 15th, then the at-large delegates will be awarded proportionately to any candidate who wins at least 15% of the statewide popular vote
. . . which was ratified Saturday, 64-to-39 in a stand-and-be-counted vote. To their credit, a couple of West Michigan members of the Policy Committee successfully fought to get the congressional district delegates awarded based upon the district-specific vote, because the Policy Committee originally wanted to go winner-take-all, period (because that’s what Chairman Bobby Schostak wanted). And fully one-third of the “nay” votes came from the 2nd & 3rd districts, probably because over here in Central-West Michigan we still remember Dele-GATE.
The banana republicans on the Policy Committee would have us believe that March 15th is the earliest that we can hold our primary without suffering the Rule 17(a) Super Penalty of losing around 80% of our national convention delegation, thus we must hold it on this Tuesday if we want to stay relevant. That’s straight-up bullshit, as a review of the revised national rules reveals that March 15th is the earliest that any state can hold its primary if it wants to include any type of winner-take-all provision in its delegate allocation process, a fact routinely omitted by the SchoSTACK apologists. Both Tuesday, March 1st, and Tuesday, March 8th, would work just fine as primary days, except that doing so would require stripping out both of the winner-take-all provisions from the proposed rules, awarding the thirteen or so at-large delegates according to strict proportionality. So a “tea party republican” or a “libertarian republican” or an honest “conservative republican” might come away with something significant under a hybrid-proportional scenario, but a “moderate republican” or “liberal republican” would be at a disadvantage (without some form of winner-take-all to save their ass). Would you like to take a wild guess as to which way the establishment bluebloods are leaning?
There is some incentive for the legislature to select an earlier date than the one proposed, because there appears to be some movement toward a Great Lakes Regional Primary, likely on March 8th or 15th, that would have Illinois (68 delegates), Indiana (57 delegates), Michigan (58 delegates), Ohio (65 delegates), and Wisconsin (41 delegates) all casting their primary preference ballots on the same day. Now that would be cool. See, states like Michigan that are frontloaded in the process are big prizes not because of their size, but rather because any serious campaign can finish off with at least some pledged delegates, which is what makes the state worth the investment. (And that’s why Michigan’s been using some form of proportional allocation method for the past four decades.) If five states, totaling (68 + 57 + 58 + 65 + 41 =) 289 delegates, in the same geographic region, are all being decided on the same day, and none of the states are winner-take-all . . . well, common sense alone would suggest that such a scenario would provide both a sizeable cash infusion to a struggling regional economy (as well as the several state, district, and county parties), and an irresistible incentive for the grassroots base to get engaged in the process.
This assumes that the party brass actually gives a rip about the grassroots in the first place. Between relentless creeping progressivism, heavy-handed minority-of-majority bifarceisanship, pillorying and blacklisting our national committeeman, multiple “because we have the votes to get away with it” rules changes (specifically including Dele-GATE), and using party resources to protect the lieutenant governor from a convention challenges, I have absolutely no idea why this state party’s grassroots base would get the impression that they’re not welcome. This weekend’s action, timed specifically to apply pressure to the legislature to take action before year’s end (read, “during the lame duck session”), isn’t exactly incentivizing the grassroots to jump onboard the party bandwagon either. On the contrary, this stunt effectively conveys the message that the party brass is concerned – that they might lose the governor’s office, probably fail to flip the federal senate seat, likely lose one legislature chamber, and effectively paint the state blue – but is clueless as to why they should be.
Worse, the old guard bluebloods may know exactly why it’ll happen, and just don’t care, because they’d rather lose a “gimme” election than allow the platformists and constitutionalists a fair voice. Which means that it should surprise no one that a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that about 40% of Americans believe that it makes no difference which major party is controlling the levers of power. And when the typical, low-information voter doesn’t see any difference in how they vote, that normally produces a 15% to 25% disadvantage for the republicans . . . every time. And until the insurgency starts reliably placing a steep enough cost on business as usual, nothing is going to change.
Of course, the Republican National Committee could have just as easily avoided this mess in the first place, but apparently couldn’t apply the necessary amount of common sense. Michael Steele had the right idea, that pushing winner-take-all back until after April 30th is the most reliable way to engage the party’s grassroots base. While the implementation wasn’t perfect, the tweaking should have stayed focused on resolving the timing issues, rather than the cutoff for “winner-take-all.” I honestly think that a better solution would have been something like this:
- Since we shouldn’t be penalizing states for following the law “as is” (Arizona, Michigan, and New York, for example), let states which already have a “first quarter election day” set in state law, as a specific day of the week in either February or March, use the day provided by law if they so choose. The catch is that there shall be no “winner-take-all” provision, except if the statewide popular vote winner should capture 75% of the ballots cast (because that’s the point at which the debate becomes mathematically irrelevant anyway). Thus, such states have to use either “strict proportionality” or “hybrid-proportional” as their binding allocation method.
- Because we’re allowing states to adhere to their existing election laws regarding February primaries, we ought to allow the four “carve-out states” (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) to conduct their primaries in January if they so choose without penalty, provided that their current election law so allows. Honestly, I have no idea what makes those four states so damn special, but whatever; help yourselves to January, y’all, if you want it that badly. The caveat of “no winner-take-all except for the 75% threshold” still applies.
- Let states which already have a “second quarter election day” set in state law, as a specific day of the week in April, use the day provided by law if they so choose. The catch is that such states must use either “hybrid-proportional” or “hybrid-winner-take-all” as their delegate binding allocation method, and the “75% threshold exception” will still apply.
- Let states which already have a “second quarter election day” set in state law, as a specific day of the week in May or June, use the day provided by law if they so choose. In this case, because the presidential preference election is now after April 30th, such states may use “statewide winner-take-all” if they so choose, without exception or penalty.
- Any states that wish to temporarily deviate from existing state law (perhaps for the purpose of establishing a regional super-primary) may do so, but: (a) must schedule the presidential preference election for no earlier than March 1st nor later than May 31st; (b) may not include any “winner-take-all” provision other than the “75% exception threshold”; and (c) must include a “sunset provision” in the enabling legislation, expiring the change on December 31st of the presidential election year in question. The same applies to states that don’t already have an existing “first quarter” or “second quarter” Election Day provided in state law.
- The penalty for violating any of these rules shall be the “nuclear option” of stripping the offending state’s delegation of all representation except their 3 RNC members . . . period.
. . . and that seems like a much more sensible way to do things for a major national party that publicly purports to value both rule of law and grassroots engagement.
According to Norm Hughes, who ought to know because he was there:
In 1975 President Ford and the State Central Committee avoided “winner take all” in the hopes of getting conservatives to support him in the general election. Ford’s campaign came to conservatives and offered fair proportional representation at the national convention. Ford knew that “winner-take-all” is barbaric, strong-armed, hostile, and disrespects minority factions and groups in the Party. Reagan ended up getting 29 delegates (about 40% at the time) and the Party did work together to win the state for Ford despite a vigorous primary and convention battle. … Proportional selection, as it has been done in Michigan for decades, will assure at least some national delegates from all elements and groups in the Party. No one faction or candidate strong-arms the Party or steals the votes, and thus the Party comes out of its primaries and conventions in a way that will allow it to unify for the general election.
As I’ve observed before, the polling trends show a gubernatorial general contest that’s a statistical dead heat, a federal senate general contest that’s been leaning democrat since late April, at least three congressional house seats that are iffy at best, and the definite likelihood that we’re going to lose control of the state house. Right now the Michigan Republican Party needs all hands on deck if they want to avoid a November “bluebloodbath,”© and yet party leadership cannot seem to resist taking advantage of every opportunity to tick off their grassroots volunteers, when they should be doing the exact opposite. Rather than a repeat of 2010, it seems like party leadership is hellbent on a repeat of 2006, although what they hope to accomplish by it is anyone’s guess.