Faced with the specter of Donald Trump nomination alleviated by the possibility that he might not have an outright majority, people, Republican and otherwise, are coming up with increasingly creative and dangerously undemocratic ways to rig the Republican convention, seemingly with a glee. This is a perilous development.
Party insiders are powerful because they control the rules and are able to bend and contort them to suit their agenda. However, this is also precisely why they are distrusted in the first place. If taken too far, such antics will invariably destroy their ability to manipulate the agenda through means legal and semilegal as well. People will abide by the rules lawyering only so far as they trust the rules in principle in the first place. If they do not give credence to the rules, then all the rules in the universe will have been reduced to nothing but scraps of paper. Not only will the rules lawyering be disallowed, but all guarantees, rights, and prerogatives that were originally spelled out in the rules will also have become moot as the very foundations of the rules will have lost all credibility. Once they played fast and loose with the rules too often, or are even suspected of having done so, they will not be able to credibly commit to keep their hands off because there is nothing that will credibly guarantee their words once their audience believe that they will concoct some legal rabbit out of hole with which to play a stupid lawyer trick.
“Audit the Fed” is a popular cry among many those who distrust the government. That the Fed is in fact audited routinely does not matter to them. They probably don’t know how exactly the Fed is organized or the details of what it really does–this is not a knock on them, as central banking is really quite complicated and the Federal Reserve was deliberately designed in a less than straightforward manner in complex political bargain that denied complete government control over the central banking system. They do know, however, that the Fed is very powerful and has a great deal of influence on their livelihood. They also know that they cannot trust the people who run the Fed and that they are justifying their actions in a complete legalistic-financial lingo that make absolutely no sense to them–i.e. the Fed insiders are engaged in rules lawyering to justify the actions that harm them. The ignorance of those who distrust the Fed only furthers their distrust: they don’t really want the Fed audited: they want the Fed effectively dismantled because they cannot trust Fed as it currently operates. The great irony is that if the Fed is completely reconstituted exactly as it is, but with a cast of characters and some supernumerary rules changes (that do not affect its central banking functions) that enhance its credibility, there is no reason to expect that this distrust continue.
Institutional manipulation can only be a short term solution. Too much rules lawyering is precisely what got the party insiders so distrusted in the first place, which in turn fueled the rise of people like Trump. If the insiders try to rules lawyer their way out of it, there will be no more GOP, and deservingly so too.