Lost on many of those present, but painfully obvious to those of us in the audience who are more of the Liberty persuasion, shall we say, was the fact that the official party line in Delaware seems to be that Mitt Romney has been anointed the Party's nominee. This despite the fact that the National Convention is not until August; Mitt Romney, though he won Delaware on Tuesday, has not yet locked up the required 1144 delegates to secure the nomination; and Ron Paul continues to contest the nomination in primaries throughout the country. Delaware Republicans, like those in the mainstream press, continue to treat Ron Paul as if he were invisible. Won't somebody show the man some love?
My son Will and I had been selected as alternate delegates to the convention, but were moved up to delegate positions when the roll call revealed that several delegates had not shown up. There were some formalities, but the first real item of business was to vote on a slate of three Republicans to represent Delaware in the Electoral College, should the Republican nominee win the presidential election. That vote proceeded without controversy, and the slate now includes one elector from each of Delaware's three counties.
The next item of business was to vote on the slate of delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The State Party Parliamentarian went to great lengths to explain the mechanics of those selections by the State Executive Committee, and he made quite a good case that those selections were fair and unbiased. Nevertheless, when the vote came, there were significant numbers of objections to the slate as presented. So many no votes were registered, that a vote by paper ballot was called for. Those of us in the Ron Paul camp largely voted no because it was obvious that none of the delegates selected were particularly friendly to Ron Paul. This had been expected of course, and we had intended to vote no as a symbolic gesture of our disapproval. But we were quite surprised at the number of no votes. There were clearly more no votes cast than the Ron Paul folks could take credit for. In retrospect, I believe that the other contingent of no voters were those objecting to the inclusion of Tom Ross and Mike Castle on the list of delegates. Those representatives of the "old Party establishment" are particularly unpopular with the 9-12 folks who see them as largely responsible for all the strife and division in the party in 2010. If anyone reading this has any further insight into the back story there, I'd love to hear it. At any rate, when the paper ballots were counted, the original slate was approved by a comfortable margin.
Next came the nominating speeches. Will and I had a small agenda of our own to advocate for at this convention, and this is the time to explain it to you, dear reader, and to those of you who were present at the convention, but didn't quite understand our point. We received quite a few questions afterward. The issue revolves around Article VI Section 18 of the Rules of the Republican Party of the State of Delaware. I've provided the link, but to save you a few mouse clicks, let me quote it here.
The primary function of the General Convention shall be the endorsement of candidates for national and statewide offices. Once an endorsement has been made, non-endorsed candidates shall not be entitled to the use of any party resources or materials, nor shall they be permitted to campaign at any party events or functions, including but not limited to posting signs, handing out literature or buttons, or otherwise engaging in activity which would be considered campaigning.
Will and I see this rule as particularly un-democratic (small d), and we wanted to raise this point at the convention, and start a conversation about the wisdom of its existence. Will had been asked to deliver the nominating speech for Rose Izzo who has officially filed as a Republican candidate for the US House of Representatives. Will wanted to address the inequity of this rule as part of his nominating speech for Rose. You can read the text of the speech here. All Republican and Democrat candidate filings includes the payment of a filing fee. For US House, the fee is almost $3500.00. This fee, by the way, does not go to the state. It goes to the party. It's kind of like "pay to play." And if Rose should lose the vote for the party's endorsement, but stays in the race anyway, she will be paying the party $3500.00 for exactly nothing in return. Quite to the contrary, the party can spend that money to support the campaign of her opponent. Rose, in effect, would be forced to contribute to her opponent's campaign for the "privilege" of running for office. Of course Rose's opponent, Tom Kovach, would suffer the same fate if he were to lose the vote for party endorsement. Now, you might argue that the party has to decide on a candidate at some point. What's wrong with this system? I would answer that deciding on a candidate is what the primary is for. That happens in September. Why should 341 party delegates at the convention get to unduly influence the prospects of any candidate? It makes more sense to us for the decision to rest solely with the voters in September. To quote from Will's speech:
"Your vote today is not just for an endorsement from the state party. Your vote today would press a thumb on the scale of the primary election scheduled for September 11th, which will actually select the nominee, and effectively excommunicate any of the approximately 177,000 Republicans who could not be here today and may support the non endorsed candidate"
Or as I have remarked in a paraphrase of George Orwell, "All candidates are equal, but some candidates are more equal than others."
Will's speech went on to pledge on Rose's behalf (last paragraph), that if she received the endorsement of the convention, that she would waive the mandatory disenfranchisement of all other candidates as prescribed by the rules. A vote for Rose would be a vote for "All of the Above."
Let me take a moment to digress on the subject of "All of the Above." In the Libertarian Party, it is a fundamental principle, call it an article of faith if you will, that all elections for party officers, candidates, etc. provide for a choice of "None of the Above." It's the party's way of declaring that they will never be compelled to elect the "lesser of two evils." If no candidate passes muster, the electorate reserves the right to vote for "None of the Above." And this prerogative is exercised on a regular basis. Now since a vote at today's convention for "None of the Above" would imply that no one could use the resources of the party, a minor tweak to "All of the Above" was necessary. Will's intention was to share with our fellow Republican delegates a time honored and highly revered tradition of the Libertarian Party. It's a tradition that could easily justify an entire article of its own.
Returning to the issue of "the rule", I want to take our argument one step further. I'm shifting now from an intellectual discussion on the merits, to an historical point of view. Many of you will clearly remember the 2010 election season when the convention's endorsement of the two "establishment" candidates, Mike Castle and Michelle Rollins, led to the political "excommunication" of Christine O'Donnell and Glen Urquhart. The party used Article VI Section 18 to cut off resources to the campaigns of O'Donnell and Urquhart, and at least in the case of Christine O'Donnell, actively campaigned against her. Anyone remember the "Dog Catcher" remark? The schism that occurred in the party in 2010 as a result of this ill considered rule has still not completely healed, as was evidenced by the delegate vote I referenced earlier. We argue that our objection to the rule is not simply an academic difference of opinion. It has had real and tragic consequences in the not very distant past.
Following Will's nominating speech and the speeches nominating Tom Kovach for the same office, the Chairman of the convention asked if there were any more nominations from the floor. I rose to play my part in this exchange.
"Mr. Chairman: In keeping with this convention's theme of unity, and recalling the rift that was created in 2010, when this convention endorsed candidates before the people of Delaware had had their chance to speak, I nominate All of the Above for US House of Representatives.
Long story short, my motion was ruled out of order, as I expected it would be. I appealed the ruling of the chair. William seconded my appeal. There was some discussion with the parliamentarian. I prevailed in my argument that I was entitled to a vote of the delegates on my appeal. A voice vote was taken. I lost my appeal by an overwhelming margin (got my ass kicked, truth be told). I thanked the chair and took my seat.
What did it all mean?
The Liberty Caucus of the Republican Party took its first steps today in exerting its influence in the internal workings of the Delaware Republican Party. If there wasn't any such thing as the Liberty Caucus of the Delaware Republican Party before, there is one now. We used the convention process to promote an ideological position, and we did it civilly, respectfully, and within the confines of the rules. We took advantage of an opportunity (even if it was accidental) to work with those of a different point of view (9-12 Delaware Patriots) on an issue where our goals aligned. That was the vote on the delegate slate. We raised an issue of process within the convention rules, and hopefully started a conversation about modifying those rules going forward. And finally, we served notice that the Liberty movement within the Republican Party may have started with Ron Paul, but it doesn't end with Ron Paul. Liberty is here to stay. I believe that Delaware Republicans will learn to accept that.
All in all, it was a pretty good day.