“The sadist desires to command and control. The masochist desires to be freed from the burdens of liberty.” ―
The 1978 comedy Animal House depicts the charades of the rag-tag Delta Tau Chi fraternity of Faber College, clashing with Dean Wormer to maintain their university charter. Opposing Delta Tau Chi is the neighboring prestigious Omega Theta Pi fraternity. In one notable scene, frat pledge Chip Diller, portrayed by Actor Kevin Bacon, is hazed in ritual embarrassment by his senior Omega brothers. As he kneels on his hands and knees, his cloaked initiators paddle his bottom, at which time he winces and pleads politely, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?” This scene embodies conservatives’ repeated abuses for a perceived seat at the table of national politics. Will conservatives again bend the knee to their initiators, or will conservatives drive policy from the bottom up?
In 2012, when Congressman Ron Paul couldn’t get a fair shake in the corporate press or the Republican presidential primary debates, his campaign concocted a strategy utilizing the party’s own rules that would force the national party to take action. To be nominated at the Republican National Convention, get a floor speech, and have the leverage to change the Republican Party’s platform required a plurality of five state or territory delegations to the convention. Though Congressman Paul couldn’t win statewide primaries in a fixed media game, he could win delegates to the national convention by focusing on states where delegates were unbound to candidates. That is what he did. He visited states where delegates were unbound and dispatched an army of active college students from his Young Americans for Liberty organization to campaign in those states. His strategy was successful.
When the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida arrived, Congressman Paul had amassed a plurality of delegates from six or seven states and territories. Though he never held enough delegates to take the party’s nomination for president, he did hold enough to push his ideas into the mainstream. What would follow was a demonstration to the grassroots of conservatism that their votes are wanted, but not their voices.
Then–RNC chair Reince Priebus, House speaker John Boehner, RNC lawyer Ben Ginsberg, and candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan instituted a loyalty pledge requiring all delegates to the national convention to devote their delegate vote to Romney/Ryan, thus binding votes that state legislatures did not. When delegations like those of the Republican Party of Maine refused to sign the loyalty pledge, the RNC had many delegates forcefully removed from the convention and replaced with their hand-picked representatives. Contested voice votes that were taken while entire delegations weren’t present changed the national rules. The delegate threshold for the nomination was increased from five to eight. The insurgency was over.
Nearly twelve years later, the RNC power brokers are once again making their moves to stifle the voices of the working class and grassroots America. Having lost their stronghold over local and state parties during the Trump administration, power brokers are lining up to elevate Florida governor Ron DeSantis. We’re beginning to see much of the same playbook as in 2012. Not content with addressing clear electoral fraud that has bolstered leftist majorities, power brokers have adopted the mantra that Trump can’t win. The reality is that Trump not only gave the best administrative performance in at least forty years, but also had one of the best Republican presidential campaign performances since before the Civil Rights era.
In what ways do we see the same playbook unfolding? Having recently re-elected Mitt Romney’s niece to the chair of the National Republican Committee, the press is giving Donald Trump the Ron Paul treatment, which is to say pretending he doesn’t exist. Not the least of these media outlets is FOX News, now spearheaded by Rupert Murdoch’s liberal son and failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Similarly, in the mold of Uncle Mitt and Reince Priebus, Ronna Romney McDaniel is now promoting the National Republican Committee’s pursuit of a loyalty pledge, binding campaigns to support whomever the press elevates to the nomination as a prerequisite to participate in debates. Let’s hope this loyalty pledge goes farther than the loyalty of Florida governor Ron DeSantis. In 2018, DeSantis couldn’t slap on another piece of Trump flair fast enough. Now he treats MAGA like leprosy.
As many pundits have noted, the changes instituted in the 2012 RNC power-grab by team Romney hampered the RNC’s ability to wrestle back control of the party from MAGA and helped make Trump the president in 2016. When delegates opposed casting their nomination votes for Donald Trump, they were left without recourse because of the prior rule changes. Having been on the losing end of the rule changes, the RNC is prepared to take a new strategy and establish a loyalty pledge of candidates before the primary process, as opposed to during the nomination process.
The question arises: is the RNC prepared to demand the loyalty of power brokers to Donald Trump should he once again ascend the field of contenders? Trump is nothing if not a champion fighter.