TAMPA, Fla. — One legacy of the just-completed Republican National Convention here is the prospect for rules changes over the next four years. But a much more lasting legacy could be that the rules to be rewritten before 2106 may mean the Tampa convention may be the last of its kind. Future conventions could be shorter, held every two years instead of four, or perhaps broken into gatherings of delegates in different regions of the country and connected nationwide by satellite.
For the first time, Republicans did not lock in their rules for the next convention at the previous one. Now, under the just-passed — and highly controversial — Rule 12 of the bylaws, a vote of three-fourths of the Republican National Committee can revise and amend their rules governing the presidential nomination (Rules 1-24) during the coming four years.
Republicans who support changing the format of the national convention are likely to make their first move next year. One Rules Committee member told Human Events that he expects a discussion on possible changes to begin at the next meeting of GOP state chairmen.
“Foul!” cried some on the RNC, with the charge against the rules change led by Virginia’s National Committeeman and longtime conservative activist Morton Blackwell. Noting that Democrats at their 1968 convention opened up nominating rules to change at any time in the four years between conventions, Blackwell and others charged that this would lead to a weakening of the powers of state parties in favor of national parties. In addition, opponents believe, the rules change will lead to special commissions and mid-year conventions such as the Democrats have had that will revise the rules to favor a particular presidential candidate.
Supporters say this is not so. Several who talked to Human Events pointed out that with the loss of federal money for putting on conventions and providing security, it would be extremely difficult to rely on money raised from local businesses. Conventions just don’t provide return on the investment from the participants, businessmen say.
“So you may see the next convention look very different from this,” said one supporter of the rules change, who noted that corporate boards of directors and businesses all hold meetings throughout the year and not just every four years. Among the suggestions for changes are a three-day convention — which Democrats will hold in Charlotte this week and which Republicans have been forced to hold in 2008 and 2012 because of bad weather — briefer meetings in the evening, and possibly regional meetings.
Because of complaints about convenience in convention cities, one suggestion has been to hold four meetings in different regions of the country and to connect through satellite on national roll call votes. Another idea was that of a national party/meeting convention every two years. Terri Lynn Land, Republican National Committeewoman from Michigan, told Human Events during the Tampa convention, “(Republicans nationally) could do what we do in Michigan with our Mackinac conferences every two years. They last a weekend and are held every two years. If this were done on a national level, candidates who are thinking of running for president could come two years in advance to address delegates at one convention and then a full convention would be held two years later to nominate a candidate.”
A convention every two years? Regional conventions connected by satellite hookup? Shorter conventions? Unusual as they sound, this may be the shape of things to come in 2016 and beyond.