Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Republicans held conventions across Georgia Saturday as part of a process to select the delegates that cast the votes for the GOP nominee in Tampa this summer. The delegates selected from each county proceed to conventions held by Congressional Districts in April and a State Convention in May to finalize the list of Georgia’s delegates to the National Convention.
While those delegates will be pledged to vote for Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum based on last Tuesday’s Presidential Preference Primary results, delegates at the National Convention will also vote on items such as the party platform, committee members, and other items that govern the internal workings of the Republican Party.
In the event of a brokered convention, the delegates ultimately decide who will be the nominee as well. Should the balloting go more than two rounds, it is these delegates who will be Georgia’s voice on who should represent the Republicans in the November elections. They would not be bound to the instructions of the candidate to which they were originally pledged. The selection of these delegates, while somewhat of an inside baseball beauty/popularity contest, is therefore not inconsequential.
It is presumably for this reason that supporters backing the candidacy of forth place finisher Ron Paul engaged in a visible (and audible) presence at the weekend conventions. While Paul received no Georgia delegates, his small but quite dedicated band of followers were at many of the county gatherings across the state. According to reports filed at PeachPundit.com, they seemed to follow a very similar script.
For those unaccustomed to such fine pageantry as is a Republican County convention, let me first explain the day in a nutshell. You gather with other assorted party activists and others who are aware these meetings actually exist and have nothing better to do on a perfectly good Saturday. The location is most often a school cafeteria or another similar location offering institutional grade luxuries with uncomfortable seats and bad acoustics. You are then asked to sit and wait for credentials of everyone present to be accepted, rules to be explained and re-explained, and then a bizarre agenda of arcane parliamentary procedural items before finally voting on the items that were the only reason you were there.
While the entire event could, in theory, take about a half hour, those fighting for control of a convention will routinely gum up the works at every opportunity, hoping that those sympathetic to their cause are dedicated and will stay, while those with anything better to do will eventually grow frustrated and leave. Political conventions are the best way invented to pack 30 minutes of activity into a 6-8 hour day.
This behavior is not unusual during the conventions held in odd numbered years. These are the years when county, district, and state GOP officers are selected. It is a bit more unusual during the conventions held during Presidential nominating years, as the decisions made are much more limited.
But to Paul supporters enduring their quixotic journey, county conventions were an opportunity to possibly catch “the establishment” napping, and they gave it a good old college try on Saturday. The script seemed to involve showing up at the county convention without first having been nominated the month before at precinct meetings, and/or by feigning ignorance of the process. Then, as the meetings began, pulling out a copy of Robert’s Rules Of Order, and begin screaming “Point of Order” to claim control over the agenda with each item. If possible, waste 4 hours or so demanding that the Federal Reserve be abolished, or that we end unconstitutional undeclared foreign wars (none of which were actual agenda items, but how else do you kill 4 hours during a thirty minute meeting?). Then, after feeling the hostility of those who remained to reject such shenanigans, leave the meeting loudly projecting exasperation that you didn’t feel sufficiently welcomed by those for whom you just wasted a perfectly sunny afternoon with your well scripted stunt.
The first column I wrote as a contributor for PeachPundit.com was about this same topic four years ago, when Ron Paul supporters attempted to gain access to the State Convention by presenting pauper’s affidavits in lieu of paying required convention fees. They then complained loudly that they were excluded from an event which they wanted control of but refused to contribute financially to.
I kindly suggested they were a bit whiney and needed to realize that politics ain’t bean bag. If you show up to someone else’s power center and choose to try and take that power from them, do not expect them to smile and hand you the keys.
It seems some of that message was taken to heart. This year, they are at least working the delegate process systematically, if not still to a level of workable perfection. But the whiney-ness is still present. For some reason, those who make no secret that they plan to turn the establishment on their ear, and change the stated policy of the party 180 degress with respect to foreign policy and significantly with regards to tax and economic policy still feign shock when those who represent various levels of status quo do not greet them as liberators. This will never happen.
If your goal is to take power away from someone else, you cannot expect them to be friendly to you as you try. You should not expect a pleasant experience, especially as you make the environment of all involved unpleasant in the process. If you have established an agenda that requires 100% agreement with what you believe in or rejection, then you should also not be shocked when you and your ideas are rejected 100%. All or nothing often gets you nothing, and this is also true of the delegate/convention process.
Many Ron Paul supporters who have actually worked within their local parties have been included in the process. Those who showed up as outsiders with a chip on their shoulder were right to be excluded.