The Republican National Committee is set to debate a new set of rules governing the GOP convention that would make it harder for a “white knight” to be imposed on delegates while promising sow chaos on the convention floor.
The proposed rules would overturn decades of convention procedure based on the rules governing the House of Representatives and substitute Roberts Rules of Order, a far messier but more transparent way of conducting a meeting.
It amounts to not just a changing of the rules but of the rulebook itself, with far-reaching implications, potentially impacting whether party insiders will be able to draft a so-called “white knight” — someone currently not running who would play the role of savior at a deadlocked convention.
The proposal is the brainchild of Solomon Yue, an RNC officer and Rules Committee member from Oregon. It would replace the system used at Republican national conventions for decades, which mimic those used by the U.S. House of Representatives, with Robert’s Rules of Order, a design that’s often used to oversee civic and organizational meetings.
Some see the idea as a recipe for utter chaos, and one that could open the door to mischief-making. With thousands of delegates on hand, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where objections pile up, jamming up floor proceedings and turning the convention into a train wreck — all before the eyes of a national audience.
RNC officials say Yue’s plan is almost certain to be tabled until closer to the convention. But it will spark a months-long debate just as the scrutiny into the party’s internal workings is intensifying.
In recent days, Donald Trump has launched an intense PR campaign accusing the RNC of stacking the deck against him in a series of delegate contests that he’s decried as “rigged.” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has aggressively pushed back in tweets and nationally televised interviews.
It’s uncertain who might benefit most from implementing Robert’s Rules of Order, and there’s disagreement over whether it would make it easier or harder for party leaders to draft a new “white knight” nominee.
Roberts governs the proceedings at meetings from the PTA to the VFW. The rules are set up so that everyone who wants to make their voice heard can participate. But the biggest beneficiary of the switch would almost certainly be the Democratic Party. Rather than being a commercial for the GOP, the convention would morph into a circus, showing the chaos and ugliness of the party to the electorate. It wouldn’t matter who came out of the convention as the nominee; the election would be hopeless.
The RNC has become extremely sensitive to the charges made by Donald Trump of a rigged process. But throwing out the rulebook isn’t the answer. Adopting some procedures from Roberts may be a good idea and certainly making the proceedings more transparent wouldn’t harm anything.
But the convention is going to be chaotic enough without encouraging the breakdown of order.