Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An open convention? Ted Kennedy; 1980 DNC convention

I have written previously about the possibilities for preventing John McCain from getting the GOP nomination so that we might avoid the hopeless choice of McCain v. Obama/Hillary. Those prospects have been dim since last week and become dimmer by the day.

Another thought occurred to me that is also unlikely to succeed, but worth considering. I recently remembered the 1980 Democrat convention, in which Ted Kennedy tried a parliamentary manuever to undo Jimmy Carter's delegate victories during the primaries:
Kennedy came into the Democratic convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City with 1,225 delegates to Carter's 1,981 and 122 uncommitted. Kennedy's only chance to wrest the nomination from Carter, who had enough delegates to win, was to pass an "open rule" motion.

Joe Trippi was on the convention floor the evening of Aug. 11, 1980, marshalling the Kennedy delegations from Texas and Utah. He remembers the deciding vote as "the robot rule vote," which came after an hour-long debate that played out in front of a prime time television audience. The debate was over whether delegates should have to vote for the candidate they'd been pledged for, or have an "open" vote during which they could pick Kennedy or Carter, Trippi recalled in an interview. The back story being that the economic and international political situation had deteriorated between the time most people voted and the time of the convention, opening the door to Kennedy, who was billed as a change candidate. "It went all the way down to the wire," said Trippi, who was an adviser to Edwards' 2008 campaign.

Kennedy had no real basis to undo the delegate commitments except for the fact that the domestic and foreign situation had grown worse since each of the primaries. That was a flimsy pretext not founded in law or party rules. I can recall the controversy leading up to that convention, in which numerous Democrat elected officials spoke out one way or the other. I recall Robert Byrd speaking in favor of the "open convention" motion, even though he professed to support Jimmy Carter on the ultimate nomination battle. I also recall Jimmy Carter repeatedly denouncing the idea of a convention decided in "smoke filled rooms" instead of on the basis of the primary votes.

Ted Kennedy addresses the convention - August 12, 1980

I suggest that we try the same manuever here. I am not familiar with RNC rules. But this motion would not depend on RNC rules. It would depend on the idea that the RNC cannot nominate someone who does not represent Republican policies or positions, especially where such nomination results from victories in which the nominee received no more than 35% of the vote. That is no more flimsy than Ted Kennedy's argument in 1980, and Kennedy was treated seriously at the time.

This move would provide the ultimate irony against the man who, behind the scenes, used the gang of 14 to derail the Bush administration's judicial nominees and who, with the help of Ted Kennedy behind the scenes, kept trying to resurrect amnesty despite overwhelming public opposition.

This is a desparation move and probably destined to go down in flames, but the Republic is at stake. As I wrote last week:
Because the stakes are so high, I am not yet ready to declare the Republic dead yet. Most of us are suffocating inside that coffin that is now being nailed shut. Once the Republic is dead, it is not coming back. More than 1800 years elapsed between the death of Rome's republic (@ 48 B.C.) and the birth of the American Republic (1776). I can not wait that long for the rebirth of freedom somewhere in the world.

We cannot give up the fight now or even after the convention or the election itself. We won't know that we have lost for sure until the day (in the now not too distant future) that we receive official notice of which government medical facility we must now use and where to redeem our now worthless dollars for the new "revalued" currency and which government agency will now have custody of our children, etc.

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