Stacking the Deck: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad circumvents the process and the People

What would a revolution be without the establishment wielding their power against their own people, to guarantee they won’t be deposed? Hang the selection process…they’ve got an aristocracy to maintain.

In the face of the base’s boiling furor toward the GOP establishment, the powers-that-be continue to demonstrate that they will fight, not for the will of the People, but to silence their voice. Now that the conservatives have (re)discovered the power of the primary, the desperate GOP establishment has chosen to circumvent their own beloved process and start stacking the deck.

A classic example comes from the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, the epitome of “Establishment Republican,” is attempting to evade the normal nomination process by hand-picking delegates for the largest county in the state.

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The leaked list, crafted by (and largely comprised of) Branstad loyalists, was a whopping 99-member slate of “at-large” delegates, which would account for 38% of the total number of delegates for the whole county. For perspective, if the at-large slate was a county, it would be the fourth-largest county in the state.

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The plan was to attach this slate of pre-determined delegates to the convention rules, so it would be approved without scrutiny or dissent.

Aside from virtually ensuring the governor’s re-election, this inflated slate would likely dictate who will become the GOP nominees for U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate in some highly fractured races; the at-large slate would command one-fifth of the total delegates for the battled 3rd Congressional District.

After public backlash, the list was halved to 50 specially-selected delegates (20% of the county’s total delegates).

This strategy (straight from the smoke-filled rooms) has garnered criticism from even the most long-suffering GOP loyalists, like moderate Republican activist, Kim Schmett.

“Some unknown person is coming up with an ultimate list,” Schmett said in a telephone interview with The Des Moines Register. “Why have a county convention at all if 40 percent of your delegates are hand-picked ahead of time?”

David Fischer, former co-chair of the Republican Party of Iowa, and veteran of the Polk County rules committee, openly condemns the tactic as “disturbing:”

“It’s outrageous that conversations are taking place between the Governor and county chairs to determine who’s going to be delegates. I don’t know another way to say it. The delegates to those conventions should be deciding who goes on. The fact is, some of those names being brought up in the slate wouldn’t make it through the county (selection process); they would lose.”

Former state representative, and current state party co-chair, Danny Carroll expressed concern that these tactics deepen the doubt in the party’s grassroots:

“The trust that Republicans have in their party is that it’s driven by the average person who turns out on Caucus night. Hand-picked lists of privileged individuals for delegates casts a shadow over that trust. I’m glad the Branstad campaign has reconsidered their action.”

The Establishment’s actions in Iowa reflect what’s truly at the heart of the Republican civil war. As the Steve Deace Show often says, the differences in this party are not primarily ideological. The primary conflict is a ruling-class cronyism that seeks to impose its will on everyone it sees as beneath them. We’ve seen this mindset among even some conservatives. Myopic arrogance knows no ideology.

If folks dealt with each other honestly, you can form a governing coalition on vast areas of agreement. But when you have a party run by people who don’t treat you honestly, forming a coalition is impossible. The big battle in the Republican Party in my home state (and everywhere else) isn’t about ideas…unfortunately, it’s about control.

*Rebekah Maxwell contributed to this article.

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