By Bob Bennett
The delegates choose the nominee
Back in March, long-term member of the RNC Standing Rules Committee and unbound delegate from North Dakota, Curly Haugland told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that:
“’The media has created the perception that the voters choose the nomin[ee]. That’s the conflict here,’” He said. “The political parties choose their nominees, not the general public, contrary to popular belief,” he added.
The bottom line is: contrary to the portrayal of Donald Trump and the Media, the party chooses the candidate; primary votes are simply preference polls, or “beauty contests,” as Haugland calls them. Delegates to be sent to the convention are elected in the states. But once they are seated, the delegates are wholly in charge. It’s very similar to our election of members in Congress; once they’re sworn in, we have to rely upon their judgment. That’s representative government.
When Mr. Haugland was asked what’s the point of holding primaries, if the party can disregard the will of the voters, he responded:
“That’s a very good question.”
CNBC reported, in an article: “The RNC is ignoring its own rules, Haugland claims, because it is in love with the money and power the primary/caucus system generates, ‘We are seeing this battle for the delegates because the RNC is in the primary punch bowl,’ said Haugland, ‘The free will of the delegates goes back to Garfield in 1880. The language of the law has essentially never been changed. There are two RNC convention rules that prohibit binding.’”
What Curly told me
In a telephone interview, Curly Haugland told this writer that the candidates who “suspended” their campaigns could resurrect themselves. He declared that he will indeed submit a proposed rule that any candidate with at least one delegate would be eligible for consideration, as he has promised on several occasions. That would make 8 candidates. The delegates must vote on all rules changes. It is, of course, by no means a certainty that such a proposal will pass, especially if many of the delegates are Trump supporters.
Haugland reiterated his oft-stated position that all delegates would be unbound on the first ballot, citing Rule 38 of the GOP Rules:
“No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule. A ‘unit rule’ prohibited by this section means a rule or law under which a delegation at the national convention casts its entire vote as a unit as determined by a majority vote of the delegation.”
He also cited Rule 37(b). CNBC explains:
“The first of the two RNC convention rules Haugland is citing is what’s called the “unit rule” (Rule 38), which guarantees the delegates are unbound and vote their conscience. The second rule is 37(b): Delegate votes are counted individually and their votes are not lumped together as one.”
When this writer asked Haugland if he thought the delegates would exercise that right, at the convention, he said that though they were definitely unbound, they would be guided by whatever moral obligation they personally feel toward the candidate they were bound to.
Note that Rule 16(a) appears to contradict Rule 38, but CNBC found: “The first two sections (rules 1-25) were about how the RNC would operate after the convention….’This means Rule 16 is not in play because it is not in the numerical rule block,’ said Haugland.”
State rules do not override delegates’ rights, he says
Delegates are not legally compelled to follow the rules of their state regarding binding, says Haugland. In fact, the Constitution, backed up by SCOTUS decisions, protects delegates’ right to vote their consciences, he declares.
“The United States Supreme Court has held several times that political parties enjoy protection from both the First and Fourteenth Amendments as they pursue their political objectives. The Republican Party is free to choose whether or not they want to be governed by state laws,” Haugland argued in a written statement. Here is one SCOTUS example, from The Wall Street Journal:
“Justice Scalia [said, writing for] a unanimous Court, … in New York State Board of Elections v. Lopez Torres that, “A political party has a First Amendment right to … choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform.” He added that “party conventions, with their attendant ‘smoke-filled rooms’ and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates.”
The RNC disagrees with Haugland, but CNBC found two other applicable SCOTUS cases:
“RNC rules or not, a political party has power over the states and could override their binding rules, according to two Supreme Court rulings: Cousins v. Wigoda in 1975 and Democratic Party v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 1981.”
When asked if the delegates were aware they are not bound on the first ballot, Mr. Haugland told this reporter that every delegate knows they have the right to vote their consciences on the first ballot, because he has sent each one a copy of a book he wrote on the subject. He added that the delegates are therefore open for lobbying before and during the convention.
Read more here: