Not coincidentally, this is precisely the type of “principles optional” consequentialism that this liberty-minded GOP revival steadfastly rejects (whether in local party politics or national policy). Are we still under the rule of law when the leaders sworn to uphold the law are permitted to set it aside whenever it becomes too burdensome or they self-servingly decide that following the law wouldn’t have changed the outcome? Further, the obvious question raised by this breed of argument is: If following the rules wouldn’t have changed the outcome, then why not just follow the rules?
In that context, though, it becomes easier to sympathize (though not excuse) young party leaders like Oklahoma State GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell for doing whatever it takes to get the results he and his bosses desire. When the entire political system, from the president of the United States to the lowliest party staffer, prioritizes winning the game over playing it the correct way, tawdry antics like those in Oklahoma are the inevitable byproduct.
As a result of the pervasiveness of this “politics is a team sport, and there is no ‘principle’ in ‘team’” mentality, the consequences of this growing insurrection within the Republican Party may not be immediately apparent. But while the national attention remains focused on the imaginary differences between Gov. Romney and Pres. Obama, a new political spectrum, one that replaces the increasingly incoherent poles of “Republican” vs. “Democrat” with the “rule of law” vs. “rule of man,” is emerging.
Whether the RNC eventually seats the correct delegation from Oklahoma may mean nothing to you, but the skirmish that produced this controversy is only the beginning of a struggle that may well determine America’s political future. If nothing else, this new ideological battle is much more entertaining than this one.
UPDATE: Shortly after completing this piece, I was informed that the RNC Committee on Contests has ruled on the Oklahoma liberty contingent’s complaint. Unsurprisingly, the Committee ruled in favor of the state GOP that the Oklahoma convention was properly conducted. The ruling was made on two grounds:
1. Although Oklahoma State Party Rule 18(d) explicitly requires a written secret ballot vote, and the State Party Rules trump the rules adopted at the convention (via State Party Rule 16(f)), the voice vote was legitimate because it satisfied the rules adopted at the convention.
2. There is no evidence presented that conducting the vote as the rules require would have altered the outcome.
If you find the first argument incoherent (we’ve already covered the “logic” behind the second), you’re not alone. The Committee acknowledges that the State Party Rules require a written ballot, that no written ballot was taken, and that the State Party Rules take precedence over the convention rules … then proceeds to uphold the voice vote because it satisfied the convention rules. The logic would be mystifying if it weren’t so expected.
The complaint will be appealed (to the same committee) before a hearing. It will then move to the RNC Credentialing Committee and finally to the floor of the Republican National Convention itself, but it’s plain to see how seriously the RNC takes such charges.
So, there it is. Another example of the party making the premises fit the predetermined conclusion. Of course, the more brazenly the GOP power structure behaves in this ridiculous manner, the more legitimate the liberty-minded resistance grows. It seems as though the aging GOP is banking on this (surprisingly young) movement exhausting itself and giving up. But as anyone who has interacted with these people knows, giving up has never been the strong suit of the advocates of liberty. Their principles don’t allow it.
Adam Bates received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Miami (FL) in 2007, and a J.D. and M.A. in Middle Eastern & North African Studies from the University of Michigan in 2011.