The Paulestineans’ antics last weekend at the Nevada State GOP Convention have really left me thinking that they are more than just irritating oddballs, but are actually threat to conservatism in America, at least in the short term. Like the Jihadists who would rather blow themselves up than compromise with their neighbors or engage in a fair political process that respects the rights of their ideological rivals, the Ron Paul folks are willing to sabotage the GOP entirely rather than see a Republican candidate actually win the White House who isn’t “pure” enough.
In fact, I’m coming to believe that they revel in their newfound destructive power, more than they really care about their political principles.
I had a scheduling conflict that weekend, and a friend coming into town unexpectedly, and so I decided to forgo the convention for the other commitments. The county one was an interesting enough experience, but petty and useless debates over the wording of platform planks and Roberts Rules of Order had me falling asleep by the end. (Has the official party platform ever actually mattered to anyone in the real world?) And besides, John McCain has it locked up – the point seemed to be fairly moot.
Part of me regrets that I didn’t go, just for the street cred to complain about the outcome. But I don’t think it would have made a difference – the Paul camp was far too organized, and their coup attempt was a foregone conclusion. I think I’m still glad I missed it, just to save on the heartburn. But I digress…
Back in January at my precinct caucus, there were 133 people who voted. Paul got less than 10% of the people in that room, despite having a more visible campaign presence in this state than any other candidate with the possible exception of Mitt Romney. John McCain, who at the time couldn’t afford to campaign here at all, got 13.5% of my neighbors’ votes. But in spite of that, it was clear that Ron Paul supporters were vastly overrepresented amongst the delegates who volunteered to go to the county convention. One of the worries of the other people was that the delegates would vote in a way contrary to the will of our precinct. Each of them promised to respect the votes of the precinct, despite not being officially bound to do so. I wonder how many other precincts had similar expectations of their caucusers from people who didn’t have the time to get more deeply involved.
Since Romney won handily in Nevada but subsequently dropped out, the Paul people could have a claim that they’re released, and that our precinct members would want them to vote their hearts. But considering Romney was far closer to McCain in his policy views, and that Romney threw his support behind McCain and urged his supporters to do the same, that claim seems pretty weak to me.
Obviously, the Ron Paul people disagree with me on that, because they are bound and determined to send enough delegates to St. Paul to force a brokered convention and actually challenge McCain for the GOP nomination, the popular vote totals in primaries and caucuses be damned. And God help us, I think they have a realistic – if distant – chance of pulling it off.
Because they aren’t just doing this here in Nevada. They’re doing it everywhere. And even if they are unsuccessful, given their strong-armed methods, even the attempt would be an unmitigated disaster, not just in this election, but for conservative principles for years to come.
The Un-Conservative “Revolution”
Paulestineans love to call themselves the only “real” conservatives. How they define that, though, is somewhat unclear, although they invoke “a return to Constitutional principles” a lot. I don’t think most of them really understand what those principles actually are, though. They just know that they’re slaves to the IRS and under constant threat from the tyranny of the Council on Foreign Relations.
And to be fair, they have a lot of NON-kooky ideas, too – limiting the size of the government, respecting federalism, lowering taxes, etc. are all conservative ideas in that they forward the idea that the individual is sovereign and that liberty is a critical component of a free society.
But their little convention juntas are anything but conservative. A conservative society must respect the individual liberties of each citizen equally, and that includes respecting their votes after they’ve been cast. The Ron Paul people have decided to forgo that respect for anyone else’s preferences, and force through a candidate that most Republicans are, as the primary vote totals and national polls indicate, profoundly uninterested in.
Their justification for this is that those of us who do not support their candidate are either stupid, misinformed, manipulated, or are enemies of the Lost Constitution that only Ron Paul has any hope of restoring. In other words, they know better than I do what’s good for me. I don’t know about anyone else, but that sounds a lot more like Hillary Clinton than Ronald Reagan. Indeed, the entire idea of drastic “revolutions” inspired by “manifestos” ought to be very troubling to anyone interested in maintaining the stable and prosperous society we still live in.
It’s interesting, too, that the Paul people are taking this route to get what they want. Political party conventions are in the modern era really little more than pageantry, intended to rev up the base get a bunch of free TV time for their candidate. Before then, they were the place for the party activists to wheel and deal and to pick a candidate in ways that little resembled anything remotely democratic. After all, we couldn’t let the little people make a decision as important as this by actually VOTING, could we?
As it turns out, of course, we can, and we do, and we should, unless we’re Democrats and think we need Superdelegates to make decisions for us.
But the vestiges of the old system remain. The balloting and rules are still in place to make a decision where there is no clear winner, no clear national preference. The Ron Paul people cannot command more than a small fraction of the popular electorate, and so they are using those arcane rules to usurp the popular will of the voters.
It’s ironic that a campaign that claims to be the last, best hope of “We the People” is using the tools of bureaucracy to allow a minority to gain political control over the wishes of an overwhelming majority who disagrees with them. Is there a better definition of fascism than that? And whatever they claim their principles to ultimately be, once you engage in tyranny to secure power for yourself, it’s a hard road back to freedom.
The Effect of Their Plan
So what? It’s tempting to ask. There is a lot to be said for an injection of a more libertarian minded Republican base, especially with a GOP candidate who, as much as I like and respect him, has gotten some things profoundly wrong when looked at from a position of individual sovereignty. Isn’t it a good thing to send a signal that we expect him to come back to First Principles, and at the very least consider a more consistent and less politically pragmatic stance?
But the folks trying to throw the convention aren’t trying to convince John McCain or even other Republicans. They’re trying to punish them. They see them as heretics who have abandoned the One True Conservatism, and the only cure for their infidelity is to destroy them, leaving the Paul followers to pick up the pieces and rebuild the party in their image. And, of course, many really do think they can still get Ron Paul to be nominated. Some are even delusional enough to think he could win the general.
If somehow they were to be successful, Ron Paul would have become the nominee over the clear popular favorite, and would have done so despite only having actually earned a handful of delegates based on primary vote totals. (Not exactly a principled libertarian meritocracy there.) Despite that process being totally legal and not historically unprecedented, the rank and file who didn’t vote for Ron Paul (which includes me) would be furious. There would be no reconciliation, and many simply would not vote (or would write in McCain, which is what I might do). For those of us who believe national security is the single most important issue a President is responsible for, the Democrats would suddenly be the better option.
Hostorically, where a dark horse nominee has been successful coming out of a convention, it has been because there was no front runner, the convention was deadlocked between two or more candidates, and the delegates instead chose an unobjectionable third candidate who would be palatable to all. That’s how Warren Harding became the President in 1920. But essentially, McCain is already the chosen “middle ground” candidate, after the race was deadlocking around economic, social, and national security Republicans. Ron Paul would be seen (rightly) as nothing more than an undemocratic thief. Either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would win in an unprecedented landslide.
But more likely would be a massive disruption of the convention, seen by all of America on national television. McCain would still win, but not before the Paul minority got rowdy and accused the “party elites” of “stealing” the voice of “We the People,” even though that type of theft is exactly what the Paulestineans were themselves attempting. It would demonstrate a party in disarray, and the “They can’t even run a convention” ads would be on the air within hours. The mainstream media would cite the “popular uprising” of Ron Paul supporters amongst “Republicans,” and would gather quotes by the hundreds from Ron Paul supporters and from Paul himself on how the Trilateral Commission is the “real” threat facing America. Ron Paul’s racist, paranoid, and homophobic newsletters will be news again. The nutjobbery will be attributed to “many” Republicans as a whole.
Reverend Wright won’t look so bad.
McCain can still win in November in that scenario, but he only does it by appealing to moderates and non-Paul Republicans by denouncing in no uncertain terms Paul, his supporters, their tactics, and their ideas. And that will include all their ideas, even the good ones. In other words, the Paul “rEVOLution” will move the Republican party further to the left, and leave the libertarian movement rendered utterly irrelevant and indelibly labeled as racists and kooks. Whenever someone in the future speaks seriously about returning to our Constitutional roots (and that includes judicial nominees up for confirmation), they will be tarred as Ron Paul-esque Holocaust deniers and 9/11 Truthers.
People have said that it took a Carter to get a Reagan, and maybe that’s true. But just because I think some people won’t get serious about the jihadist threat until a nuke goes off in an American city doesn’t mean I actually want that to happen. Is it really worth 4 or 8 years of liberal activist judges, a Jimmy Carter economy, erosion of the 2nd Amendment, and higher taxes so Ron Paul people can say, “I told you so?” If someone really thinks that, then they are starting to understand the mentality of the suicide bomber. They are no more rational.
Here’s hoping that I’m just paranoid, and that the GOP Convention in St. Paul will be the smooth running, poll boosting pagentry it’s designed to be these days. I actually hope the party leadership does take steps to ensure that the Paul supporters can’t detonate their suicide vests, while doing their best to let them add their small government views to the mix in a constructive way.
If they don’t, they can’t say they haven’t been warned.