There was a myriad of problems with this last weekend’s state convention for the North Dakota Republican Party (NDGOP). In fact, a number of long-time Republicans have told me that it’s the worst convention they’ve ever been a part of. A lot of first timers indicated they weren’t impressed either. But the biggest take away — and perhaps the saddest of all — was that the delegates really didn’t have much of a voice.
In the days leading up to the largest convention in party history, you might have heard or read about a “rogue group” that NDGOP Chairman Perrie Schafer is not too fond of. What was it that these apparent revolutionaries were guilty of? Well, they’re tired of the top-down organization that the North Dakota Republican Party has become, and they wanted to propose rules to change it. In a nutshell, they wanted to empower the delegates. But Schafer was having none of it.
Back in December, the NDGOP State Committee met and revamped the State Party Rules. That meeting made the news when eight of its attendees walked out in protest over Chairman Schafer exercising some newfound — and possibly even unconstitutional — authority granted him by the North Dakota Legislature to fill some district chair vacancies created by redistricting. The argument goes — and it’s a good one — that those vacancies should have been filled by the people in those districts, not Schafer.
Perhaps the most significant change that occurred in that meeting was imbedding convention rules in the State Party Rules. Whether Schafer and others who supported these changes admit to it or not, this was done with the intention of making it more difficult for the delegates of the state convention to have a say in them. In fact, the original draft proposing these changes removed the ability of the delegates to change the rules at all. Ultimately, some district chairs advocated for maintaining some mechanism for the delegates to propose rule changes. As a result, the State Committee settled on requirements mandating 15-day notice and a 2/3 vote for delegates to propose and make changes to anything the committee did.
What’s interesting is this seems to be the opposite of what we see with the national Republican Party (GOP) and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Perhaps this is best illustrated by this paragraph from the Preamble to the rules adopted by the 2020 Republican National Convention:
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the following be and hereby are adopted as The Rules of the Republican Party, composed of the rules for the election and government of the Republican National Committee until the next national convention, the rules under which delegates and alternate delegates shall be allotted to the respective states in the next national convention, and the rules under which such delegates and alternate delegates shall be elected and under which contests shall be considered, and the rules of business of this national convention.” (Emphasis Added)
Did you catch that? It is the delegates to the Republican National Convention that adopt the rules that govern the RNC, not the other way around. And this takes place from convention to convention. In addition, Rule No. 12 imposes strict requirements that the RNC must meet if it wants or needs to amend the rules between conventions.
In other words, the NDGOP has it backwards. North Dakota’s Republicans are being governed by the elites in the party. They’ve silenced the delegates. It’s really that simple. This was on full display Saturday in Bismarck when Perrie Schafer put the kibosh to any effort to have a meaningful discussion on rules.
The difference between the elitist view embodied in Perrie Schafer and the one held by “rogue” delegates is significant. Schafer and his cohorts view the party as being a product of the government. Those they despise believe in the grassroots, checks and balances, free speech, and the right of assembly as the basis for the party.
Whether Schafer and his cronies like it or not, this issue is likely not going to go away. If the makeup of the 2022 NDGOP State Convention taught us anything, it’s that the conservative movement is growing in North Dakota— much to the chagrin of those trying to silence them.
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- North Dakota GOP won’t consider change to endorsement process | Govt-and-politics | bismarcktribune.com
- ND GOP Rules | Ad Hoc Committee 2022
- Platform & Rules – North Dakota Republican Party (ndgop.org)
- Walkout Protest at State GOP Meeting | The Dakotan | Greg Demme (mydakotan.com)
- The NDGOP, Legislature, & Power Grab You Didn’t Know About – The Minuteman Blog
- Rules_Of_The_Republican_Party.pdf (gop.com)