Will the GOP circle the wagons or expand?

John Tate President, Campaign for Liberty
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Party rules are often used to make disfavored people shut up and protect insiders’ power and money. Sadly, the Republican National Committee’s new rules, rammed through last August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., do exactly that.

Later this week, the RNC will hold its spring meeting. What happens there will reveal whether the party will welcome new voices, energy, and voters, or circle the wagons around the consultants and fat cats who wrecked last year’s election.

Anyone who was on the floor when the new rules were being “considered” at last August’s convention must know they witnessed an utter disaster for the GOP. While GOP insiders were smiling and calling for unity for the news cameras, insider-attorney and Romney National Counsel Ben Ginsberg took it upon himself to stab Ron Paul supporters, pro-lifers, and Tea Party activists in the back with his newly crafted rules, which took power away from the party’s grassroots and gave it to the establishment’s hand-picked candidates, high-priced consultants, and big donors.

The new rules changed the primary process to force more “winner take all” primaries, discourage states from using conventions where grassroots activists play a major role in selecting nominees, ensure more national delegates are beholden to campaign operatives, and increase the number of states needed to place a candidate’s name in nomination at the convention.

These changes will benefit establishment candidates like Mitt Romney, whose support for crony capitalism and bailouts guarantee their campaign coffers will overflow with special-interest money to pay for slick media campaigns and buy the loyalty of party operatives.

Meanwhile, these changes disenfranchise liberty candidates like Ron Paul in 2012, Ronald Reagan in 1976, and Barry Goldwater in 1964, who were powered by armies of small donors and activists inspired by principle rather than opportunism.

Increasing the number of states a candidate must win to be placed in nomination makes it far more difficult for the grassroots to mount a challenge to the establishment’s agenda at a GOP convention, precisely when the eyes of the nation are most focused on the party. The clear goal of these rules is to ensure that the GOP country club of Ben Ginsberg and Karl Rove is never again disturbed by “undesirables” such as the young Ron Paul supporters in 2012 or the Reagan supporters who challenged Gerald Ford in 1976 — and who actually expect the party to take its rhetoric about liberty seriously.

When the new GOP rules made it to the convention floor to be voted on — a process that’s ordinarily supposed to be little more than a formality — convention-goers were well aware something was amiss. The floor erupted with shouts of anger. Videos of the event show the “ayes” and “nays” were about equal. Yet, instead of bothering to count the votes and smooth over conservative activists’ concerns, House Speaker John Boehner — who was presiding — simply gaveled the new rules through, just like the teleprompter told him to.

The message to conservative rank-and-file activists could not have been clearer. The GOP establishment was making it known they didn’t want any more “rabble” messing up their exclusive club — hardly a winning strategy, as 2012 proved. Yet, it is the message the GOP establishment continues to rally around.

And if these rules remain unchallenged, the GOP establishment might feel empowered to go further by adopting recommendations in the so-called “Growth and Opportunity Project” to strip even more power away from the grassroots and ensure the GOP will continue to nominate milquetoast candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain. But at the upcoming spring Republican National Committee meeting, the grassroots have a chance to strike back against the Empire.

Morton Blackwell, longtime Republican National Committeeman from Virginia and respected GOP rules expert, is leading the charge to repeal these new proposals, recognizing how central these rules fights are to the GOP’s future. Committeeman Blackwell’s proposal will force every member of the RNC to choose between standing with the grassroots and siding with the establishment.

This will give Chairman Reince Priebus another chance to live up to his words about how the GOP must welcome the liberty movement into its ranks. As RNC chairman, he wields enormous power over the outcome of the RNC meeting. So his public support for Blackwell’s proposals could guarantee their success. Over the next several days, Campaign for Liberty’s grassroots activists will be contacting their RNC representatives and asking them to support Morton Blackwell’s resolution, while also reminding them that they, and Chairman Priebus, have a critical decision to make.

Their choice is not only between whether the Republican Party will be controlled by its grassroots activists or by Washington insiders and consultants. It’s between winning and losing. Our nation is nearly $17 trillion in debt. More and more Americans are realizing the very real problems with the big-government status quo in Washington. And many of them — especially young people — are gravitating to the liberty movement and away from President Obama’s sloganeering, empty promises, and growing government. If the GOP is serious about remaining a competitive national party, it needs to stop slamming the door in the faces of the grassroots and these younger members of the liberty movement.

The upcoming RNC meeting offers them their chance to start getting this right.

John Tate is the president of the Campaign for Liberty.