The following is a piece written for my paper the Dublin Courier Herald, who was kind enough to sponsor me for credentials this week while in Tampa:
Catherine Bernard isn’t your typical delegate to the Republican National Convention. The Dublin public defender is relatively young, but the convention hall is peppered with youthful faces. She was one of Georgia’s 4 delegates who did not cast their vote for nominee Mitt Romney, opting instead for Ron Paul. And in 2008, she voted for President Barack Obama.
So, how does one who is a relative newcomer to politics end up landing one of the biggest honors a grassroots volunteer can be offered? Bernard got involved.
Before moving to Dublin, Bernard was no stranger to political activity. She grew up in a small Virginia town where virtually everyone was a Democrat. She did some advocacy work and marched in a few feminist rallys.
More recently, she had been attracted to the views of Texas Congressman Ron Paul and began doing her own research. Ultimately, she decided her views on how to solve the problems she sees every day with the criminal justice system lie not with the Democratic party, but with the “limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise” offered by Republicans. She’s quick to point out that Republicans are better at talking about these concepts than actualizing them, but that gets back to her own activism.
Above all, she doesn’t believe that Republicans should cede ground to Democrats on social issues. She believes Republican solutions to the problems of poverty and criminal justice are far better than big government broken promise solutions that have resulted in $3 trillion spent annually on poverty with poverty rates remaining unchanged for decades, or for a war on drugs that places a higher burden on those with minor marijuana infractions than for those who commit burglary or other property crimes.
Bernard began going to meetings of the Laurens County GOP chaired by Hugh Lentile III and became a regular. She was elected by the county to serve as a delegate to the 12th district convention. That district gave her one of three delegate positions to the national convention.
She was a delegate originally “bound” by rule to vote for Newt Gingrich. Gingrich formally released his delegates, and Ron Paul supporters thus chose to then cast their votes for Paul, arguing that they weren’t bound to anyone’s second choice.
Bernard and two others stood firm on the issue, despite pleas from the delegation and Chairman Sue Everhart for “unity”. She noted that as a public defender, she’s quite used to taking unpopular positions and holding firm.
After it was over, I asked Bernard if she had any regrets or if hard feelings would linger based on the intensity of the argument which ultimately resulted in a party rules change. She was extremely positive about Everhart and her management of the controversy, saying she strengthened the party by her actions Tuesday. Bernard maintains “much respect” for Sue.
Despite Paul failing to impact the convention as hoped, Bernard is undaunted and plans to continue as a Republican. She will vote for Romney over Obama and not defect to Libertarian Gary Johnson nor sit out the election.
With her votes done on Tuesday, the goal is to continue to work through the convention, getting to know other attendees from Georgia and around the country. She’s impressed by the mix of people she’s meeting, and notes the bent toward entrepreneurship as a common bond with most.
From there, she wants to continue her activism based on the concepts of liberty and free enterprise. She noted that there’s still a lot of folks suffering, but – pointing over the convention floor – “most of these people are going to be fine”. It’s the lower middle class that are currently trapped in failed government programs that need more solutions that involve less government.
These aren’t problems that will be fixed overnight, but Bernard appears ready to do battle for the long haul. And as fellow delegates have learned, once she digs in, she’s not accustomed to backing down.