The Lawyers Who Became Sheep at Party Conventions and Caucuses

Have you ever participated in a district caucus for one of the major parties as a delegate, guest or journalist? Have you attended the floor of a democratic or republican national convention(DNC or RNC)? If you are interested in politics, such event will be a profound experience for you.

The convention is glamorous, proceeding in a magical rhythm. The individuals conducting it have professional and knowledgeable appeal. Nevertheless, 10-20% of the floor consists of attorneys. In most cases, not everything at the convention is conducted according to the rules. Moreover, the replacement rules created to repress the original rules are not followed either. The most interesting part is; no one understands it.

Attorneys at Conventions

Clerks through the centuries have gained a reputation for their logic, mindset, and the ability to solve difficult matters concerning the law. Presently, you can recognize attorneys from a mile away. They are usually dressed in expensive suits and shoes. They keep their heads high and carry themselves as if they were the kings of the world. They read regularly and maintain their faces while giving their speeches in the courts as if they own the words. Ordinarily, they do own them in their areas of specialization.

However, when it comes to conventions and caucuses, attorneys are generally clueless. Moreover, the rest of the assembly is in a similar situation. Most individuals participating in an assembly are merely followers who simply obey the orders given to them. This is especially noticeable when it comes to following the agenda, often the one that is not even voted on the floor.

Occasionally, the floor follows the agenda that has not been voted for an entire session. In other cases, the convention chair can start the distribution of the agenda among the floor members different from the agenda that was voted. Moreover, the convention chair might skip one or more procedure required by Robert’s rule, such as elections required by law, and the convention adjourns without anyone noticing the missed elements. 

Following the Mob

During the convention, delegates do not suspect that the procedural order may be disrupted. Consequently, the idea of following the others plays an important role. As long as one attorney acts a certain way, other attorneys follow his lead. You can compare this type of convention with a magic show where a magician performs tricks, leaving the members of the audience stunned with his performance.

This phenomenon is especially visible when it comes to the DNC or RNC. Compare the national convention with one of twenty-first century religious movements whose followers act as they are hypnotized by the majority. In case of conventions, the more official the assembly session, the more chances that the mistakes will be ignored. In addition, individuals who notice the mistakes will be afraid to voice them not wanting to be judged by other delegates.

An excellent example of ignoring inaccuracies is RCN of 2016, where a delegate from Alaska managed to mislead the chair of the convention and take the floor for several minutes. The convention came close to repeating the vote. At the last moment, a backstage parliamentarian came forward and explained to the chair that Alaskan delegate had no right to speak on the issue. 

Following the Law

In order to avoid comical situations such as described above, whether you are a chair or a delegate, always follow the law and the rules. Have a note with the rules of the order in front of you and correct the mistakes when you notice them. The chairs will be grateful for such thoughtful reaction.

It is difficult for an individual delegate to be able to break through the opinion of the crowd, and it takes training to accomplish success. Law schools do not include this topic in their curriculum, and it is difficult to master on your own. Conversely, it is psychologically difficult to be able to break your fear of disagreeing with the crowd.

As an example, consider the Oscar 2017 ceremony where the award for best motion picture was awarded to a wrong crew. The individual announcing the winner was aware that something went wrong, but he did not take the responsibility of revealing the mistake himself in front of a large audience. He decided to avoid being blamed for the mistake if his suspicions would not turn out to be right.

If you are a young attorney, use these rare moments to bring attention and learn how to be street smart. Instead of being a mere follower by default, choose to become a leader. If you are not an attorney, it is even better, since you do not need to worry about being wrong. Follow what your instincts tell you.

Every time you are afraid to speak up in front of the assembly, remember this: there is a reason why the most prestigious group of judges, The Supreme Court of the United States, does not require its members to be attorneys or judges. The founders of this grand country had put thought in deciding the type of individuals to represent the population at the highest court – anybody who can be elected.