I belong to a family that was always politically active–so I know the rules and know how the game is played. But that puts me in a very small minority. So, I am writing this to explain conventions.
Why People Try To Get Chosen For The Convention, and Why It IS A “Prize”.
There’s a reason that the public has the perception that only “elites” go to the National Convention–Because it’s generally true. While any republican in good standing can be chosen to go to the state convention, and in theory any Joe six Pack can end up at the National Convention , neither of those things is common.
Typically, the state convention people are GOPers who volunteer regularly, donate sometimes, and GO TO MEETINGS. In other words, they do more than VOTE. They know when their delegates are going to be picked, they know the PRECINCT people who are usually the ones who vote for the delegates also. So when new people arrive, there are often already enough GOPers to fill the seats.
This is why becoming a voting member at precinct level is crucial.
Once you get to the state convention, the people who are best known will get “picked” first, from every district. As every state GOP party gives extra “points” for donating and volunteering, if you’re “green”, the odds are slim. But everyone needs to try to get to a state convention as a delegate, in the states coming up.
Now, to the “Prize” Part….
The National Convention Delegate is a prize Because, before now, that delegate wasn’t even “bound” to vote as the people voted at all. Most states would ask for an informal PLEDGE that the delegate would vote for the guy who won the state, but the only way to be “mostly sure” was to make sure that when the delegate vote happened at local level FOR STATE, the person voted in was a supporter of your candidate.
In other words, you went to meetings enough to know whose political views in your district matched yours, and you made sure that person got chosen for the state convention. And as that person was typically your PRECINCT CHAIR, they had the volunteering and donation record to get picked for the National Convention, and voted for your guy.
And the vote pledging happened at your local level, before the convention, when a rep for your guy and one for the other candidates would be going to every local delegate selection meeting and pitching your guy. Those campaign people would be taking the likely delegates to dinner, or for coffee, getting to know them, the works.
At the National level, the real rewards begin. Even during non-close years, a LOT of “business” gets done at the convention. The delegates meet other power players from their state, and other states. Business deals are discussed, contracts offered for services, etc. and yes, the delegate “teams” for all the candidates are wining and dining the delegates, feeling them out, seeing if anyone is willing to change their vote on the 2nd/subsequent ballots if there are ballots beyond the 1st one, or trying to find out how much support a proposed rule change up for vote is, or whipping up support for a rule they want to enact.
The Reagan/Ford convention was a watershed convention, precisely because it was so close. And the delegates were outraged when they found a new rule offered for consideration–that they would be “bound” for the 1st ballot to the way their districts had voted.
My Aunt was there, from NH. She told many stories about the madness–delegates putting their votes up for auction, dozens of Reagan and Ford people going from group to group handing out freebies and taking entire state delegations to dinner or shopping. Ford’s people were promising delegates meetings with the President, rides on Air Force One, and in a few key states, ad hoc cabinet positions and an ambassadorship (or two) were promised, and later given (and no, I won’t tell you which ambassadors, do your own homework LOL)
She supported Reagan, and by the time the vote came around, had she been willing to switch to Ford she would have had:
- Lifetime maintenance, tires, and fluid changes for her car
- A mink shrug
- A 1 month vacation in Hawaii, all expenses paid, private bungalow with a sailboat at her disposal and horses, and $1,000.00 for shopping.
She stuck with Reagan, BTW. And while there, she made some nice deals with other small dairy farmers in NH, and with a small restaurant chain. The extra business she and my uncle got from her convention contacts paid off handsomely for years, until they finally sold the dairy.
Yes, she did her part and voted as her voters had asked her to–but that didn’t mean she didn’t take advantage of the other opportunities the Convention accords.
The point is simple–the perks for pledging a potential 2nd/subsequent vote if the presidential race is close, and the presidential candidates using every trick they can to get delegates to the state convention that will vote for them at the National–REGARDLESS OF HOW THE PEOPLE VOTED–is a part of the process. This is how the game is played, and always has been. Just as delegates will also pledge support for other votes at the National convention, if there are other items up for discussion, for perks.
And this is why we MUST regain control of the party at the precinct level. Because if we don’t, this will REMAIN the case, because Joe Six Pack’s route to the convention will remain very narrow.