Having been a participant in Red State for some time, and having become a bit more active as a result, I was again motivated to take part in the local precinct and county-wide process with the Republican Party this year.
I'm not a political professional by any stretch, but I figured I could make my own small contribution through my presence. Today's political convention was just part of my plan for the coming election campaign.
The convention started out with the usual opening remarks and recognition of local office holders, and we even heard from current state and local representatives -- all in all, well done, brief and to the point.
We moved into the administrative part of the meeting, working through the arcania of committee reports and such. I figured that most of these matters were not controversial or worthy of a lot of stress, having been managed capably from all appearances by the local volunteers -- bless them for their service!
We got to the main event -- approving the resolutions of the county and the slates of delegates for the next levels of the conventions. In our case, that meant separate slates for the conventions based on Congressional Districts and finally for the entire state. And that's when things became weirder by the moment.
At first it seemed pretty innocent, but eccentric. A number of young folks wanted to make their case for a variety of points on the resolutions, joined by a few older and more seasoned commenters. The increasing flurry of 'points of order,' 'points of inquiry' and offers of amendments to the resolutions became increasingly tense, in spite of the exemplary efforts of the meeting chair to keep the discussions civil and moving along.
When we dispatched the resolutions, which in the main were done well, the meeting took on a completely different 'vibe' as the earnest young folks approaching the microphones became more insistent and strident as they attempted to either replace or augment the slate of delegates that had been vetted through a series of interviews by a committee -- to insure that the delegates chosen met all the legal requirements and that they would actually serve as indicated (something that seems entirely reasonable to me). As the process unfolded, and the young crew repeatedly attempted to overwhelm the process and the chair with more questions and points of "division," I for one went from considering the whole thing to be a positive experience and an exercise in growth for these new arrivals to becoming convinced that they had a different and potentially harmful purpose in mind.
In short, my tolerance for their exercise of rights as members of the convention got thinner as the time went on.
At one point, they tried to insert an entire new slate of delegates without giving us the benefit of understanding why this slate should be chosen, or even who was on the slate. That being rebuffed, they then tried to supplement some of their number as alternate delegate members, which the chair and the convention members seemed willing to do --up to a point. As things became more strident and aggressive, the members of the convention finally had enough and on a counted vote suspended the supplementation of delegates and adjourned the convention. Again, from my relatively untrained viewpoint, the convention chair and parliamentarian did an exceptional job keeping things civil and extraordinarily fair and inclusive; but their efforts at civility seemed not to matter to the folks intent on pressing their case for a different slate of delegates.
As a political rookie, the whole thing left me a bit baffled. Had the individuals who were eager to seat new delegates been more 'transparent' (their word that they tossed at the chair when they didn't get their way at one point) and explained why they wanted to substitute the delegates, we might have been able to have a civil debate about the merits of that -- but as the day wore on, it was apparent that was not an object of their concern. In fact, as the whole thing transpired, it became more and more obvious that they were looking for confrontation, complete with taking videos with their iPhones.
As I reflected upon it on the way home, the whole thing seemed more akin to an "Occupy X County" than a "Young Eager Republicans Want to Make a Difference" deal. In fact, as I recalled the events, what at first appeared to be a number of new faces in the crowd getting to know the process, transformed before our eyes into a coordinated group of individuals sharing strategies to disrupt and delay the meeting. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was an exercise to disrupt the process and create division -- but I'm still not sure why.
So be wary -- it seems that the "total war" that's been discussed with relation to the upcoming election might have more truth than I first thought. It might even include friendly fire, if today is any indicator. Be civil, be prepared but don't be disarmed by dialog that disguises the true intent of the speaker.