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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Parliamentary Tricks and Platform Teeth

jre, regarding Nolan saying the Pure Principles draft "has no teeth": I have an email from him saying "What you have proposed is basically an expanded, more detailed version of the Statement of Principles."  I also have a recording of him saying the Pure Principles draft is
DN) very vague and avoids committing us to specific positions [on issues like] Iraq, the drug war, the police state, the economy [and] everything from the right to keep and bear arms to our opposition to reinstituting the draft to our opposition to wage and price controls etc. (DN
The problem with his seven claims is that six of them are just flat wrong, as I document at the seventh, Iraq, the Pure Principles Platform says exactly what is said by the 2004 Platform that Nolan wants to restore: nothing. The word "Iraq" wasn't even in the 2004 Platform.
There were no "parliamentary tricks" used in Vegas to pass our draft.  No PlatCom member voted against recommending that the Denver delegates delete all 15 planks from the 2006 Platform. With a quorum varying between 13 and 15 members, only 6 of 30 recommendations attracted more than one nay for adoption, and only 3 of them more than two.  We had two more members who couldn't attend but who would have voted for our draft.  If there was a "parliamentary trick" in Vegas, it was the use of unlimited debating that made us need all of 21 hours over two days to adopt a draft that had largely already been written by a subcommittee.  We spent a disproportionate fraction of our time on a series of barely-seconded proposals that ended up being defeated N-2 or even N-1. 
We were painfully aware that the rules governing our committee did not allow us to set time limits on debate or even call the question.  The rules allow any member to indefinitely defer a vote by offering any kind of non-dilatory debate, and allow any two members to offer arbitrary number of non-duplicative amendments.  I have no problem with a minority wanting to get the committee on record as having considered competing proposals, but there's really nothing other than social sanction that can let a supermajority write its report if a minority is determined to be obstructionist. Alicia was scrupulous (nearly to a fault) in always asking if there was more debate whenever the debate paused. We didn't like those rules, but we followed them, because they are the rules this Party has chosen for us.
The design of the Platform rules seems to intend that a minority should make its case through 4-person minority reports, rather than through dilatory trench warfare against the majority's efforts to write its own report.  I'm not saying that delay is what was intended, or that ignoring the rules in order to seat the two alternates would have exacerbated these delays, but (from the perspective of the majority's Platform repair efforts) it surely wouldn't have helped.  If the majority has misjudged what sort of Platform repair the Denver delegates will prefer, then the proper time and place to determine that is when the majority's recommendations go head-to-head against any minority report(s).