Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Paulite Mess

The big puzzle from Day One of the Republican National Convention was: why did Mitt Romney's convention pick a fight with the Ron Paul delegates?

Dana Millbank has some of the details. Basically, the convention took a candidate with a few hundred very aggrieved delegates, and gave them...pretty much nothing. Well, they get a video presentation and a Rand Paul speech today I guess, but what they didn't get was procedural fairness: not only were they not allowed to put Paul's name in nomination, but they also weren't given opportunities to formally dissent on new RNC rules or on the platform.

Some of that, to be sure, was understandable. Actual roll-call votes on the rules and the platform would have been extremely time consuming. But surely the convention could have found ways to accommodate the Paul delegates' desire to be heard. Would a formal nomination, for example, really have hurt anyone? As it was, the Paul delegates still voted for him; the convention simply refused to tally their votes.

The result was a few ruckuses on the convention floor during the rules and platform adoptions, which sparked some second-tier news stories -- and, during the actual nomination vote, much louder cheers for Paul's occasional votes than for Romney's, leading (for the tiny audience watching, but presumably also for the large contingent of working press on the scene) to the conclusion that the convention wasn't very enthusiastic about their nominee.

Now, it's possible that the GOP was stuck with this problem (especially the lack of enthusiasm for Romney) whatever they did. But I doubt it; it sure seems to me that they could have avoided the rules fiasco, at least, without either substantive concessions or blowing up the schedule.

Millbank interprets this as a case of Mitt Romney being a control freak. Could be; on the other hand, I'm always reluctant to invoke personality explanations, especially in cases where we don't know for a fact that the nominee himself had anything to do with it. My guess is that it was a more straightforward miscalculation; whoever was handling these choices figured that they had the votes, so why should they worry about accommodating what is, after all a pretty small minority at the convention (especially since it represents an even smaller minority within the electorate). They knew that they couldn't push Ron Paul himself so far that he would walk out, but that was about it; they didn't consider what the delegates might do.

I don't want to make more of this than it is; the GOP convention wasn't derailed significantly from its function of giving people who were inclined to vote Mitt some reasons for doing so. Still, it's an unforced error; a party doesn't want to get in the habit of making those.

22 comments:

  1. Odd also because Paul seems to me to have some purchase among independent voters, and it would seem to be a good idea to remind people that he is a Republican.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think this is a sign of how a Romney Admin will conduct business. I know it's a jump; I'm assuming the folks who made these decisions about the Paul delegates are solid Romneyites. That said - this is how it works in business. The boss decides and the workers fall in behind. If Romney is elected this will be a contributing reason why his Admin will be ineffective - he's a businessman, not a pol. He won't know how to give and take.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is where I regret that Romney never discussed his time as governor and no one else seeems to have looked into it (unless I missed something). He does have a record as a government leader, but since we (I) don't know what it is, we really can't say if he followed a businessman's approach or was more flexible than that suggests. Can anyone out there who knows about his time in Massachusetts help us out here?

      Delete
    2. In Massachusetts, people were very willing to compromise and make reasonable deals. There isn't much of a problem with ideological purity, which is perhaps why we have GOP governors and senators now and then. (There's also graft--we aren't immune to all political problems.)

      The atmosphere in Washington is very different. There's a lot working against compromise. I don't think Romney will be able to lead his troops to reasonable accommodations. I actually think the House GOP will be calling the shots. Romney won't know what to do, so he'll just crumble and rubber stamp whatever they give him. That's the major reason I won't be voting for him.

      Delete
    3. MP -- I disagree that Romney will be a "rubber stamp" for the House GOP, but he does need to be more clear about what he wants to accomplish. As Governor, he wasn't afraid to go against conservatives (to the extent that they exist in MA) when they opposed his goals (Romneycare, assault weapons ban). The politics will obviously be very different in DC, but I don't think his goal-driven leadership style will change.

      Delete
    4. If you followed him in the news while overseas, Romney messed up BIG showing that he is NOT a political diplomat. If he is elected, this country WILL go down hill faster than it has been. Heck, he was a draft dodger and would be our Commander-In-Chief? He says he will cut taxes (for who?) while rebuild the military. Heck, if elected, he will probably TELL Congress that he wants his title changed to "CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the United States". While campaigning, he said different things to different groups about the same subject. All he wants is $$$ and title. We ALL will pay for it while his friends get what they want and get richer. Read "None Dare Call It Conspiracy" and learn the truth of what is going on.

      Delete
  3. If we can my wife through her huge stalled project, I'm going to have write a longer piece on the great contrast we saw this year, from the surging froth of Paulistas assaulting the interwebs so relentlessly in January and February, to a dis-enfranchised rump in hurricane-tangled rumble.

    How do you sell a philosophy of individualism and merit when your leaders are exposed as naked nepotists, seeking nothing more than to keep the next generation on a government payroll (no matter how few results he produces?) Worldwide there are some pretty bad examples of political dynasties without significant accomplishments to their name (besides "keeping order" by mass repression) ... has there ever been an American political dynasty with as little merit and accomplishment to its credit? The Landrieu's of Louisiana were pretty weak, but they did at least serve their campaign contributors at times ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ron Paul has a nepotistic dynasty? Do explain. And regarding "mass repression," Paul was the only primary candidate opposed to the NDAA and the Patriot Act. He's probably the most forceful opponent of the war on drugs and the American empire that our country's ever seen.

      Delete
    2. ...Yet never saw granting local and state law enforcement freedom from all federal limitations.

      He's against federal limitations, not for actual freedom. He'd do nothing to stop states from implementing even more draconian surveillance and drug laws. And he isn't principled: He voted for DOMA and co-authored marriage amendments.

      Delete
  4. Politics is winner-take-all, especially when the margin is as large as that in this R primary. So actually, the fact that Rand Paul is speaking in a prime slot is probably more than the Paulbots could have expected in their wildest imaginations.

    The RINO establishments wants to destroy Rand Paul, Jim Demint et al, so this speaking concession came over their dead bodies. Those RINOs are about as bad as you lefties, in wanting to beat down those limited government guys. ;-)

    So depending on how this all shakes out, the political landscape could tilt either towards the Rand Paul, Scott Walker faction, or to the Christie RINO faction, in coming years. Obviously the RINO establishment wants it to be Christie, but we'll see how they make out with their wants.

    You lefties may need to crank up the ol' smear machine, after Rand Paul finishes up. That's about the only thing I can think would be of interest from these stupid D/R conventions... Rand Paul's message.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't get it either. It seems like with a few compromises you could have placated the Paul people, and why not co-opt him to some degree, have an early convention speaker say something like "And our country is in desperate need of your tough moral vision of limited government and liberty Representative Paul!" Stuff like that. I don't think this will change that many votes, I see of it more as evidence of a problematic campaign style/structure and potentially a problematic presidency. But it might cost some votes, something that is never good in a close election. The Ron Paul guy who lives on my block put a Gary Johnson sticker on his car the other day, so it looks like Mitt lost at least one vote.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think this is one of those stories told best using factions.

    I'm not there, so I REALLY don't know, but this smells to me like a decision forced by conservative delegates (from tea party, Christian conservative, or just plain conservative wings). The Paul folks are, well, interlopers in THEIR party. Paulites came in to THEIR caucuses and tried to STEAL them from THEM! This is OUR party! So, in order to make sure this doesn't happen, they tighten up the rules to make it more difficult in 2016.

    That said, I agree with a lot of what was said above. As moves go, this is ham-fisted and short-sighted. Romney's folks tried to co-opt (and it looks like nepotism was enough to buy off Paul Sr.) That was elites. But neither side can deliver their followers on this, because the followers would have to act against their own self-interests, even if its in their chosen candidate's interest.

    It reminds me of some Cold War movie where we have to bomb New York ourselves to stop WWIII from happening. (Strangelove has some of this element, in that we attack our own base and give the Soviets data on our own bombers) I'm sure our host could suggest more than one movie with this motif (off the top of my head, the concept is related to plot devices in Strangelove, Avengers, and Watchmen)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fail-Safe (1964)

      Delete
    2. I've read that many of the tea party types sided with the Paulistas in the floor fights. A lot of party politics boils down to insiders vs. outsiders. I've seen some very strange libertarian/socon alliances here in Massachusetts, for example.

      Delete
    3. Oh, and regarding Ron Paul getting "bought off"... What are you talking about? Ron Paul has refused to endorse Romney.

      Delete
    4. I have a copy of that novel, but have never seen the movie. The novel says, 'soon to be a major motion picture!'

      Delete
  7. Isn't dealing with zealots always a bit problematic? The Paulites are presumably there with specific intent to disrupt the business as usual - giving them accommodations might simply cause them to demand a bit more, then be disruptive anyway.

    At least, I can see why the convention managers might see things that way, and not get into negotiations with people who pretty much reject negotiating on principle.

    (Yes, there is a larger irony here, but that's the biz!)

    ReplyDelete
  8. This has been going on for a while -- the national and state parties have been fighting to keep Paul from getting enough states to have his name put forth for the nomination. They’ve even gone so far as to reverse delegate elections in some states. They still lost, but then simply changed the rules on the Convention floor:

    http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/the-ron-paul-revolt/?smid=pl-share

    It seems Ron Paul knew this would happen, because he had clearly resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t speak. Keeping him from speaking and going “off message” was the primary concern of the Party. The other thing that’s going on is that current party leadership sees itself in a struggle with Paul supporters for the future of the party and they don’t want to give Paul the advantage of a big Convention speech.

    This conflict also explains why the party has changed its rules to require that all states apportion their delegates according to the popular vote. The delegate strategy will no longer be available to an insurgent candidate (such as Rand Paul) in 2016 or beyond.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Paul's direct influence will never show big at the national level, as the national types will find a way to crush him, as you point out. It's at the state and local levels that Paul has mattered. He's been a catalyst and generator for the limited government types, and it's these that brought on the shellacking of 2010, at the local, state and federal levels. I'd expect that movement to carry on.

      I think this is all what Ron Paul envisioned. I don't think he ever thought he'd win the presidential nomination, but he's always spoken about a movement, and his vision does appear to be taking root. GRASS root.

      Delete
  9. I just see it as the Republican ruling party being as how they were in Wisconsin, Michigan. They choose what they want and do it, procedure be damned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, they did what they wanted in Michigan during the primary, but then at the state convention shortly thereafter, the grass roots and Paulbots threw out 2 incumbent national committee members, one of whom had been mentioned for head of the RNC just a short while ago.

      Don't underestimate the revolution underway, however slow motion. The hard Left and the RINOs are as one in repressing the grass roots, but as we've been seeing, they're both slowly losing. This isn't some Occupy astroturf business... this is real.

      Delete
  10. What I am curious about is how this will affect the Paul delegates' perception of the Republican party and thus their desire to further participate in it.

    The kind of people who become delegates are the leaders of the future at least at the local level, and some will rise to further visibility. Will their experience make them want to work harder to take over the Republican party or will it alienate them and make them look either for other ways to advance their message like taking the liberal parts of the Libertarian message and infiltrating the Dems rather than the conservative part and going with the R's.; or trying to breathe actual life into the Libertarian party. Or will it make them hardend purists that are trapped in a maximalist dream of pure ultimate takeover and thus ultimately impotent (this is my prediction for most of them).

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?