Republican National Convention - View from the Guest Section

Randy Sutter attended the RNC as a guest, and sent back these reports. We've added a post-script linking to an analysis of Donald Trump's acceptance speech published by the Star Tribune on July 24.

Tuesday, July 19

The Republican National Convention has convened. As expected, my perspective is from the top of the Quicken Arena, at the same elevation as the Jumbotron. Having kicked things off, the members of the Rules and Platform Committees were called to meet during the day on Monday, and the rest of us listened to speeches by Cleveland leaders and RNC officials, interspersed with some live rock music. All the real work went on in the Committee meetings. 


National conventions, unlike our district and state conventions, are not opportunities for grassroots activism. It is just a few representatives from each state that are selected before the national convention that have a chance to influence the party platform and the convention rules. These representatives met several days ahead of the convention to do their work. The vast majority of the delegates have only a chance to vote up or down on the work of those committees. If you have the chance to attend a national convention, it is like having a ticket for the Super Bowl -- you come for the pageant and the energy and the excitement around you.

One lesson that I'm taking away is if we want to influence how our national party is run, we really need to pay attention to who we elect as our MN party chair, our national committee woman and man, and the delegates we elect to the national convention at our CD and state conventions. 

At the end of this year's state convention, the elected delegates voted on the two among them who would represent MN on the convention rules committee and the two who would be on the platform committee. These are the ones that are our "grassroots" contributors that can impact what happens at the national convention and what is issued as our party platform. Our contributors are people that were elected, not appointed. They have worked hard for our party over many years. They worked long hours on their committees. So while the majority of the elected delegates from MN ultimately may have had a chance only to vote in a couple of voice votes, we were passionately represented in the preparations leading up to those votes.


The security for this convention has been amazing. The police and security forces are present in significant numbers both within the convention grounds and in the surrounding area. The MN delegation is staying at a hotel several miles outside the city of Cleveland. We have an officer from Homeland Security Investigations riding on our bus. We have police that are stationed in and near our hotel. The highway patrol monitors the highway approaches in and out of Cleveland. There are snow plows parked to block city roads. There is one access road to the convention center that is largely rimmed by security fences and guarded at each intersection by Secret Service agents. Police from as far away as California are here. We take every chance we have to thank them for what they are doing.

 Thursday, July 21

 More random thoughts from the convention.

 Being a part of a state delegation to the Republican National Convention appears to vary from state to state.  Minnesota has one of the more open processes, where you can actually be elected to a delegate or alternate position essentially by standing for the position.  You may be asked to submit a resume and go through an interview to ensure that you support the Republican platform and will support the Republican candidates.  You are either elected to be a delegate or alternate at your Congressional District convention or the State Convention.  You don't need to be a long-time party activist, although name recognition probably helps.  A number of the alternates here are first-time participants.  Some states award delegate slots only to long and/or strong activists.


 Another interesting aspect is the financial cost of attending the convention.  Minnesota charged $350 (beyond the cost of airfare and hotel).  Connecticut charges their participants each $1000.  What do you get for that extra charge?  Minnesota's charge covered organizational support, breakfast meetings, bus transportation, etc.  Our breakfast meetings offered speakers such as a conservative correspondent for the Washington Times, Deputy U.S. House Whip McHenry, and Sheriff Mark Wasylyshy of the National Sheriffs' Association.  Some state delegations offered their participants river cruises and receptions featuring governors, U.S. representatives, leaders of national organizations, and known current and former politicians.  It appears to be a function of influence that your state delegation has and what the members are willing to pay. 

 If you were a delegate, alternate, or guest, how would you spend your time?  After Monday, the formal convention activities were all in the evening, starting anywhere from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm and going to after 11:00 pm.  Our hotel was not within walking distance of the convention arena; we are a 20-30 minute bus ride.  After the Welcome Reception on Sunday evening put on by the Host Committee of the Republican National Convention, held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the daytime activities for the Minnesota delegation have been lower key mixers with food and drink.  For us, the real networking activities have occurred each night after the busses return to our hotel from the convention.  The hotel bar has remained open until 2:30 am, giving us a chance to become better acquainted with the other participants in the Minnesota delegation.  We have met some wonderful people at these late night sessions, but the breakfast meetings at 8:30 are a challenge.

 Post-Script:  July 25

 Positioned quietly on page 4 of the printed Opinion section of Sunday’s July 24 Star Tribune was this mostly-positive “Fact Check” article by Politifact, analyzing Donald Trump’s RNC acceptance speech.  Note that of the 15 points analyzed, 13 were rated in the “True” range and 1 that was rated in the “False” range was not explained but may have been due to a technicality (no actual Constitutional 2nd amendment removal has been proposed, just many gun-control regulations).  CLICK HERE to read the article.