A new black group calling itself the Freedom Republicans, provoked by the virtual absence of blacks in Republican Party decision-making, is demanding a complete overhaul of party rules that the group claims discriminate against minorities and large states.
The Republican National Committee has 153 members, drawn from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. RNC communications director Terry Wade said two members of that group, both from the Virgin Islands, are black.
The Freedom Republicans, who appeared on May 27 before a special RNC subcommittee, are seeking an expansion of the RNC so that each state's delegation would have a number equal to its Electoral College weight. The group wants neither minority quotas nor any special targeting of blacks. In fact, it has asked for the abolition of the nonvoting black Republican auxiliary.
The RNC closed the subcommittee hearing to the news media, but a source said Mark Braden, chief RNC counsel, questioned the Freedom Republicans' contention that there is a cause and effect relationship between the party structure and black participation levels.
"We understand we need to increase the role and participation of minorities in the Republican Party," Wade said, but he suggested that the subcommittee's report, to be released at the RNC meeting in St. Louis later this month, will reflect Braden's argument that party rules are not related to low black participation levels.
"It was like walking into a kangaroo court," said Lugenia Gordon of the Freedom Republicans. "Lincoln and Frederick Douglass must be spinning in their graves, the way we're treated. I think we're going to end up with a lawsuit."
The rules the Freedom Republicans are questioning grant a bonus of convention delegates to states that voted for the Republican presidential nominee in the preceding election. Additional bonuses are proportional to the Electoral College vote.
The background to the bonuses reflects the GOP's history of factional strife. The first bonus was adopted by the GOP in the early 1920s. It "tilted the Republican convention toward the smaller states . . . which were thought to contain a more genuinely American population," Josiah Lee Auspitz, program director of the Sabre Foundation, wrote in a scholarly analysis of party rules to be published by the conservative Claremont Institute of Political Philosophy in California. Auspitz appeared at hearings as an expert witness for the Freedom Republicans.
In 1972, intraparty factionalism led to more rules changes and more bonuses. These were pushed by conservatives from southern and western states, which serve as the right wing's base. These rules were crafted by Morton Blackwell, who directs a political training academy for conservatives. Ronald Reagan delivered a floor speech supporting the new rules.