The Inconvenience of Conscience

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: PBS NewsHour via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

And so it begins.

The next episode of the Civics Reality Show that is the Republican presidential nomination was previewed last Thursday when the Republican National Convention floated a draft rule that, if passed, would ignominiously squelch the nascent “Stop Trump” movement.

In an NBC News report, according to the draft rule:

…it would effectively lock-in Donald Trump as the GOP nominee and kill the “Stop Trump” movement once and for all…freezing the 2012 rules so that no alternatives go into effect this year.

The proposal states “any amendments” to the party rules will not “take effect” until after this year’s convention ends.

This is a wound that will bleed but for a short while but which promises to leave a nasty scar. While the immediate losers would be delegates who cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone they feel is neither suitable to represent their party nor to occupy the Oval Office, there will be a more devastating impact to the Republican Party.

How can a Party so invested in protecting conscience rights in virtually every area of its platform deny those rights to duly elected delegates to its own convention? The message this sends clearly is that the RNC does not, in fact, respect those rights when conscience is inconvenient for its goal of crushing dissent. This is not hard-knuckle politics; it is fear masquerading as functionality, and it bodes ill for the Republic beyond Donald Trump. Indeed, when combined with the horrific rash of SCOTUS rulings last week eviscerating conscience rights over abortion, everyone who has labored in the trenches to defend religious liberty should now be very afraid of a Republican Party willing to pile on.

With all the talk by Mr. Trump of “denying the will of the people who voted,” isn’t this rule effectively denying the will of the delegates who actually do vote on who the Party’s nominee will be? And there is rank hypocrisy for suggesting conscience delegates are unfairly changing the rules in the middle of the game when that is exactly what the RNC purports to do. And the RNC is going well out of its way to do so:

Historically the (rules) committee tends to revise rules from previous conventions, rather than applying them automatically, so the approach is a departure from precedent.

If the RNC is so confident of Mr. Trump’s suitability and popularity among Republican faithful, then what do they have to fear from delegates voting their conscience?

Clint Cline is the president of Design4, a national media and messaging firm based in Florida.