Observations after the Arizona Republican Convention
What is behind the Ron Paul convention strategy?
I was an elected delegate to the Arizona Republican Convention. It was a first for me and obviously it was interesting, but it was also disappointing. Disappointing because Non Paul conservatives in the party couldn’t make the effort to actually participate in party activities and mount some competition for the Ron Paul activists. That isn’t in any way a slam at the Ron Paul delegates; they were simply exercising their rights pretty effectively. The result, however, was a convention that was marked by something more than just spirited debate over reasonable differences. Although it may not have been true for all or even most of the Paul-supporting delegates, the objective for the Paul activists was clearly to elect a slate of delegates to the national convention who would vote for Ron Paul for President at the first possible opportunity. Many of the rest of us weren’t aware at the time of what was happening. (FYI: Arizona’s Presidential Preference primary went for Romney by 47%. Paul received 8%. This will be a useful fact to remember in a few minutes.)
There was an account of the election in the Arizona Republic, headlined Paul supporters boo Romney’s son off stage. Except that wasn’t true. It didn’t happen that way, and it puzzles me that the “paper of record” in Arizona couldn’t get it right–there was some booing, yes, but not “off the stage.”
The good news is that fist fights didn’t break out on the floor or in the parking lot. The bad news is the convention lasted hours longer than planned and ended without taking a final vote for our National Committeewoman (not because of disruptions by anybody but because of serious problems with the voting machines and balloting). No final vote was taken because a quorum wasn’t present at the end.
A friend wrote in his blog that “Ron Paul supporters were clearly loathed and not welcome to the event.” I disagreed with that, and responded to him. But it caused me to give some thought as to why there does seem to be a division between Paul supporters and the rest of the party, one that keeps them from being able to commit to supporting our nominee, especially if it’s Mitt Romney. My answer follows, including some commentary on the convention events, with some emphasis added:
I wouldn’t say that “Ron Paul supporters were clearly loathed.” That’s somewhat overstated. AFAIK, MOST of us delegates were of a mind to say “we’re all in this together.” The fellow walking around outside (and perhaps inside, I don’t know) shouting that “Only Ron Paul can win” was unique–that is, there weren’t any others on either side. I personally found that to be a bit grating, but not intolerable. I guess I was surprised that there weren’t more like him, though.
The Paul contingents have done a good job of exercising their rights. More power to them. The fact still remains that they don’t constitute a majority of anything, so they might be a little bit less sensitive about having their feelings hurt. Just because you THINK you have a monopoly on the conservative way doesn’t mean that you actually have it.
The fact is, you lost the primary election, and it appears to some people that you’re trying to get by fiat what you didn’t earn at the ballot box. I don’t think that’s the case for most of you. There isn’t a thing wrong with flexing the muscles you have to get concessions during the national convention. I think it’s exactly what you should do. But it’s asinine to spend the day, as SOME did, having tantrums about who you will vote for if Ron Paul loses the nomination.
The calls for unity were calls to get behind the nominee, WHOMEVER it is. (And yes, some might have said ‘Romney,’ but that wasn’t the point for me.) If roles were reversed, I’d cast my own vote and proceed to do whatever I could to help Candidate Paul win the Presidency. Some of us have a bit of a problem that that spirit isn’t reciprocated.
Those who are sane realize that there are reasons why Ron Paul hasn’t done better. There are reasons why his support didn’t skyrocket when Rick Santorum and then Newt Gingrich dropped out of the race, but rather most of their supporters switched to Romney. Those reasons do not significantly include his treatment by the press (generally fair, but not very much in quantity) or unfamiliarity of the public with his ideas and principles. He’s a known quantity. Whether they are VALID reasons or not (although many of them are) doesn’t matter. Most people just don’t want to vote for him.
IF, by some miracle, Ron Paul were able to win the nomination by getting enough delegates to control the convention, it would guarantee an Obama win. NOT because Paul wouldn’t make a better president than Obama, but because millions of Republicans across the nation would perceive the truth, that the convention process had been overturned by deft maneuvering by one group of dedicated supporters (does that remind anybody of the way Obamacare was passed?) to result in the nomination of a man who got a small minority of all the votes cast in the primaries; fewer votes, in fact, than some other candidates who dropped out before the race was over.
IOW, they would perceive that they had been done dirty by the very man who has campaigned on a platform of essentially “I will do the RIGHT thing!” His credibility would vanish, he would not win, and it would probably be the end of the Republican Party, once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If that’s the objective, it can be achieved that way.
So you can see how booing, interruption, and vows to “never vote for Romney” would not be exactly welcome in a gathering of people who don’t agree completely with your objective, IF they think your objective is to thwart the will of the vast majority of the Republican voting public. But not loathed. And you were welcome to be there in the spirit of the event, a coming-together of Republicans to elect delegates to nominate an opponent to defeat Obama.
Personally, I didn’t find the booing and interruptions to be beyond the pale. Rude, yes, and probably counter-productive, but they were not excessive and not profane. In fact, I didn’t find any of it unacceptable. But that’s just me, and it’s because I believe that most of us really are united against Obama.
Maybe I’m too optimistic. Maybe I’m too pessimistic. But that’s my assessment of the situation after the convention. One response to me was, “Half the states have not voted yet so you’re jumping the gun.” I guess that was before Ron Paul announced he would cease campaigning, other than to try to get delegates for the convention.
My friend asked me if I thought that Republicans wouldn’t vote for Paul if he were nominated. My answer was that if the circumstances were as I wrote above, many wouldn’t. That might be rationalized to justify some Paulites non-support for Romney, but I don’t see the two as parallel situations. Some of them feel much that way, however–their candidate has been unfairly disadvantaged by everything from the MSM to “rich bankers.” Some were convinced that the problems at the convention, including intolerably long waits for ballots to be tallied, followed by incorrect results that had to be contested and corrected, were generated intentionally by the “establishment GOP” to the detriment of Ron Paul.
I do believe that Mitt Romney would be wise to incorporate as much of the Ron Paul agenda into his own as is possible. Conceptually, much of it is worthwhile, and not counter to anything Romney has already said he supports. Not that it would get all the Paul supporters in his corner–there are many who are invested in the idea that Ron Paul is the victim of a conspiracy of sorts, so to them concessions by Romney would just be another lie. But where the ideas are good, use them.
So the Ron Paul convention strategy seems to be: Get enough national delegates to have a significant effect on the party platform and Romney’s agenda if he’s the nominee, but also to take the nomination from him if he isn’t elected on the first ballot. Their tactics seem to have been to elect enough state convention delegates to control the conventions or at least to elect slates of Paul delegates for the national. Consideration of how Republicans voted in the primaries isn’t in the equation. As long as Non Paul conservatives are complacently watching without participating, it could work.