The GOP Kicked Grassroots Conservatives In The Teeth Today (This Isn’t Just About Ron Paul)
Around the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 the tea party movement was in full force. Rallies had been held around the nation, but the stalwarts of the movement wanted to do more. Coming together and protesting is all well and good, but that alone wasn’t going to change the world. So these activists asked, “What’s next?”
I remember getting phone calls to my radio show, and emails from you readers, asking where the movement should go next. My advice (and I certainly wasn’t alone in this) was to poor that passion and activism into the Republican party. Help the party pick better leadership. Help the party pick better candidates, and then help those candidates get elected.
This was advice Republicans liked. They wanted the passionate, active tea party movement in their ranks. It was advice I believed in too, and the tea party did pretty good with it. Nationally candidates like Senator Rand Paul won their primaries and won their elections (though there were set backs like Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle). Even here in North Dakota the tea party movement began to be represented in local district leadership.
But then the 2012 cycle hit, and suddenly the GOP wasn’t so sure liked all these new activists. Here in North Dakota things boiled over at our statewide convention, where state party chairman Stan Stein got into a shouting match with activists on the floor. And now, nationally, we’ve seen the ugly spectacle of the GOP establishment changing the rules and crushing dissent from grassroots activists.
The Ron Paul movement, specifically, worked hard to get their candidate five states so that he could be eligible as a candidate at the convention. That, as Brian Doherty points out at Reason, was the GOP’s Rule 40. And not only did Ron Paul get five states (Nevada, Iowa, Oregon, Minnesota, Alaska), he got the support of the Virgin Islands as well. That should have been enough, except that the RNC changed the rules at the last-minute. Instead of needing six states the news rules, passed just before the convention, said you needed eight and all of a sudden Ron Paul was out of it.
Speaker John Boehner took a voice vote from the stage on the question of the rules change. The “nay” votes from the floor were every bit as loud, if not louder, than the “yea” votes but Boehner passed them anyway claiming there was “no objection.”
Even as state after state read out delegate votes for Ron Paul (and he got votes in a lot more than just those five states and one territory listed above) the RNC secretary on stage only tabulated the Romney votes.
Now, I know how many you feel about Ron Paul, but this isn’t about Ron Paul. This is about whether grassroots activism in the party matters. This is about whether the time you spend going to local district conventions, volunteering for the party and attending your state convention is worth it.
If you agree with the GOP establishment, and if you like the candidates they back, maybe it is worth it. But if you’re a dissenter, if you’re intent on change within the party, then they don’t want your opinions and influence. They’ll take your money. They’ll accept your volunteerism. But you can keep your opinions to yourself. And if you engage in the process, if you play by the rules, they’ll just change those rules when it becomes convenient.
How’s that for a message to those looking to get involved in Republican politics?
What is perhaps most ugly about what happened today is that, let’s face it, Ron Paul never really had a chance of winning. If there had been a floor fight between Romney and Paul, Romney would have won. Overwhelmingly. But the thing is that the Republican leadership was afraid to even let that competition happen, even as assured as they were of the outcome.
That’s a sad commentary for a party that prides itself on free markets, competition and the “marketplace of ideas.”Tags: election 2012, john boehner, mitt romney, republican national convention, ron paul