Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Delegates Unbound

Curly Haugland, voting, Republican, democracy, Donald Trump, illustration

An article in Politico calls Curly Haugland a “rule-mongering crank,” a “gadfly,” “stubborn” (twice), a “pain in the ass,” and a “pedantic curmudgeon.”

And merely in the first paragraph!

Who is this Curly fellow, you ask? Haugland’s a successful small businessman in Bismarck, North Dakota, and a member of the Republican National Committee. He’s also a no-nonsense member of the party’s Rules Committee.

Long before Trump was an issue in the party (or even “in” the party), Mr. Haugland was urging Republican leaders to do something anathema to Washington-types: follow the rules.

“The rule says, specifically,” Curly told CNBC, “that it’s a vote of the delegates at the convention to determine if there’s a majority, not a primary vote. . . . The media has created a perception that the voters will decide the nomination. Political parties choose their nominee, not the general public.”

The entire electorate chooses the president, of course, but it seems fair enough that parties choose their own nominee. They might be wise to do it through primaries including the broader public or through state conventions reserved to party members or any number of ways. But however done, it should be by the rules.

And without taxpayer money.

Delegates have been free to vote their conscience throughout the history of the GOP, from just prior to the Civil War, when Lincoln gained the nomination at a contested 1860 convention, until today. It’s been a rule. The only exception was in 1976, when President Ford’s campaign worked to change the rule, binding delegates to block Ronald Reagan’s insurgent candidacy. Coincidentally, the leader of that ’76 effort was Paul Manafort, who today is running Trump’s convention effort.

Curly Haugland’s beef isn’t with Trump, but with the media and the RNC leadership, for not telling folks the truth.

No telling if GOP delegates will vote their conscience in Cleveland, but thank you, Mr. Haugland, for speaking truth to power. Republican delegates may be listening.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


P.S. If you missed the first two commentaries in this series, here they are:
Fat Lady Score – It’s a time for choosing.
Listen to Whom? – People in political parties have rights, too.

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Curly Haugland, voting, Republican, democracy, Donald Trump, illustration


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  1. JFB says:

    Yes Paul, but I also believe the state parties are in control of the delegates, some for the first ballot and some one later ballots. 
    It is a mess but it will be most surprising at this point if Trump is not the Republican nominee. The parties do not wish to emphasize the control they actually have as it goes against the fable that this republic is a democracy. 

  2. Rollin L. says:

    The RNC- and this is 20/20 hindsight for us all- made the mistake that led to their downfall last year when they allowed Donald Trump access to the Republican Party Ballot. Had he been taken seriously as a potential nominee back then, they might have been wiser to look at his utter lack of history as a Republican either as a registered voter, a donor, businessman or on most any issue. Sure, that might have inspired a third party run, but that might have been better than what we are apparently stuck with. Who would have thought that we would have to talk about a third party candidate just so we could have someone who actually represents the issues most (60%) of primary voters believe in? Not gonna happen, of course. But Trump would not have nearly the ability to get this far if he had been forced to work all 50 states to even get on the ballot for the primaries, in some independent form, as well as for the general. But they were afraid of him in that position, and now the rules they made up for the Gerald Fords and Mitt Romneys have given them Donald Trump. There is plenty of meat for discussion table about the idea of bound delegates, more proportional allocation of delegates rather than winner-take-all, and other important issues. But that does not help us this year. The party has already surrendered and, Haugland may be right in concept but the rules as then have been in place allowed for this. Much as I detest Trump, even I am not convinced that a rule change to save us from him will not make things that much worse.

  3. Paul Jacob says:

    Thanks for both very thoughtful comments. 

    Rollin — there actually is no need for a rule change. Under the current rules, delegates are free to vote their conscience on every ballot. No doubt, it is unlikely that the go-along-to-get-along political-industrial complex at the RNC and in Congress will risk anything to represent the 60%, but if some delegates stand-up, I’ve found that courage can be contagious.

  4. Brian Wright says:

    It seems to me you have state party rules and national party rules.

    While I agree that the actual states and national government do not have the authority to compel a given national delegate BY LAW to vote according to the state party rules that were understood and applied at national delegate selection time in the state conventions, I agree with JFB: the Trump delegates are bound by enough rules and ‘rules’ or even social conventions to vote–at least on the first ballot–to give him the nomination on the first ballot, overwhelmingly. Do you really think the high establishment Republicans are going to open a can of worms to try to deny the clearly most generally popular candidate the spot? Especially, when he will ‘beat Hillary like a baby seal.’ (

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