I just returned home to Las Vegas from the Nevada Republican Party Convention in Reno, NV. The weekend was a whirlwind of drama, chaos and adrenaline. The following is my recap of what happened, based solely on my perception of things I witnessed and heard.
Our convention was scheduled for Saturday, April 26th. After a surprisingly short wait we were signed in as delegates and seated. We were called into order with 1,347 delegates shortly after 9am.
That’s about where it started going wrong. The first two and a half hours of our day were spent listening to teary speeches and patriotic poetry, while watching black and white movie clips that were quite frankly offensive to my friends, family members and neighbors who consider themselves Democrats. I wasn’t the only person in attendance to find them divisive, immature and unnecessary. I also wasn’t the only person ready to get down to business rather than waste our time socializing.
One highlight of the morning was one of the best speeches I've heard Ron Paul give, earning him a standing ovation by most of the room, including McCain supporters.
However much the majority didn’t complain about the morning’s “entertainment”, they sure did complain when actual business was being conducted and taking longer than presumed necessary. I can’t remember the number of times I heard the phrase “in the interest of time” being uttered by party leaders and other delegates. The fact that many of us had driven over 400 miles to come to a convention to work, and were instead made to suffer through pointless banter and being rushed through the actual business at hand was frustrating.
Our chairperson, Senator Bob Beers was another frustration. Many of us support Bob Beers but his smugness and apparent inability to conduct business or understand the rules of order was unacceptable. Many times a delegate more rehearsed in parliamentarian law, Mike Weber, had to go to the microphone to (thankfully) correct Senator Beers’ procedures. This was at one point not very appreciated by Senator Beers, as he attempted to have this gentleman unduly removed by the Sergeant at Arms, which the entire room objected to having done. (This gentleman, although not with the Ron Paul camp, has received much respect and support of his fairness.)
And the frustrations continued. Apparently the reason we wasted so much time in the morning was because the party assumed we were simply there to rubber stamp their agenda - their rules, their by-laws, their platforms and their delegates. That’s right, they had already selected the delegates they would allow us to vote on after hand-picking from the nominations that were required to be sent into the Nominations Committee prior to the convention. Luckily this was voted down by both McCain and Paul supporters.
To comply with state rules, we were required to vote for 3 delegates from each of the three congressional districts in Nevada, aside from an additional 22 delegates to bring the total to 31. Their second solution - after we voted down their rubber stamp idea - was to have each one of us only pick 5 delegates and the top 31 vote getters would be placed. This also was unacceptable to both sides and we managed to vote it down as well, enabling us to allow nominations from the floor and bringing fairness to those who had not received the nominations packet via mail and who therefore could not nominate themselves by the predetermined deadline.
Little did they tell us that these changes to the rules would throw us into overtime. Apparently long gone are the days when political conventions take more than their desired afternoon. Our convention hall was only booked until 5pm that evening, with no contingent plans for a run-over.
Shortly after we had taken our first vote to secure our 9 congressional district delegates (but before we had voted on the other 22 delegates-at-large), it started becoming apparent to vote counters and party leaders that the Ron Paul campaign had secured at least 6 and possibly 7 of the first 9 delegate spots up for grabs. This has been confirmed by vote counters of both sides - McCain’s and Paul’s.
However, in the middle of voting and before one district had finished, Beers swung the gavel, ending the convention without discussion or debate (against the rules of the convention) and notifying us that it was our fault because we had changed the previous rules that would have apparently safe-guarded us from running out of time (with no mention to the over 2 hours of wasted time that morning). He stated the party would inform us of when we would reconvene within the week. Senator Beers and other party officials quickly shut off the microphones, turned off most of the lights and left the building.
As you can imagine, mayhem ensued. Beers stated that our contract was up on the room, disallowing any discussion for alternatives, despite the fact the hotel managers came in shortly after and informed us we could extend the contract. Most delegates were even willing to help cover the added cost of the convention hall, in order to save themselves the expense of additional travel in the future and waved their cash in the air to prove it.
During this time, our fair and friendly McCain delegate, Mike Weber (mentioned above) called for a quorum, essentially allowing us to continue the convention and giving us the possibility to vote in a new chairperson should Senator Beers choose not to return. Unfortunately to have any of our conducted business count, a quorum requires one half the delegates from the original delegate count. 674 delegates must have remained which we narrowly missed with only 590 delegates willing to continue.
Although many McCain supporters were equally outraged and stayed in attempts to conduct a continuation via quorum, many others strategically waited in the hall to ensure we didn’t have the numbers to conduct business (but staying close by to reenter, just in case we did). Because of this and because of the many Ron Paul supporters who left too quickly (despite the fact that we’d been counseled time and time again to remain past the end of the convention for just this reason), we were not able to continue working.
I almost forgot to mention the angry protesters, the near fist-fights by outraged delegates on both sides, and the McCain supporters saying we had "bought out" the chair person, Congressman Beers in order to win the delegates. At least it’s not only Ron Paul’s supporters who are uttering the word “conspiracy”.
The following morning it was brought to our attention by hotel personnel that the Republican Party had booked the same room for half the morning. Because of this, many of us (quickly calling and text messaging as many as we could) waited in hopes of reconvening. Unfortunately our hopes were unfounded, as by 10am it became apparent that all our efforts and expenses in coming to the State Convention had been a near waste and we would instead have to foot another bill for another convention at a later date.
There were many rumors flying. One was that phone conversations were overheard that implied the National Convention leaders had been watching Nevada closely and would rather cut us off than allow us to get a majority of delegates for Ron Paul and had therefore ordered the meeting shut down until they could formulate a plan to lock us and our delegates out. This however was hearsay and although possible, not easily provable.
Another rumor was that the reconvening was to be held at another convention center in town, which turned out to be untrue. Yet another rumor was that “the McCain people” were hiding in the wings of the hotel waiting for us all to leave the Peppermill so they could reconvene without us. This was unlikely but even if it were true, they would require the same quorum of 674 delegates and would not be able to meet the requirement, just as we had not been able to the previous night.
What do I personally think of all this?
I believe most of this is a result of poorly orchestrated and incompetent plans. Had we not wasted several hours with out-of-order and meaningless activities, fundraising or divisive joking that morning, we could have done the job we came to do. Instead convention planners assumed this new wing of the party would simply play along as the old guard has for decades.
Also, had the party leaders been happy with the results they were seeing, I do not believe they would have been so quick to walk out and would instead have sought solutions, such as meeting at a local high school or passing a collection plate to pay for the extended contract on the hall. Where was the consideration to those who had traveled long distances at their own expense and have to now do so again?
Do I believe this is a top-down conspiracy? Not exactly. However I do believe the favoritism and goal to squelch our efforts was apparent in their actions. Not because of a "vast motive to take over the world", but simply because they’ve become accustomed to the relative ease and comfort of the herd mentality and have given away all independent thought that does not fall in line with party loyalty.
It is my opinion that for too many Republicans, it’s become about sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to admit the fault of losing their conservative way. Let’s have our banquets, wear our lapel pins, wave our flags on our lawns and trust someone else to sort out the decisions. At this convention it become apparent to me that many (no, not all) of them cared more about their frivolous socializing and the label of “conservative”, than the true meaning behind that label or the meaning of why we were there at all.
What did Caesar say when asked what to do about citizen dissent? “Give them bread and circuses.” We now have proof that Caesars formula works well for most Republicans. All but those pesky and highly organized Ron Paul Republicans, of course.
[For anyone worrying about the Clark County platform that supported more regulations on homeschooling, I can assure you the State platform was very acceptable. The exact platform read as follows: 8. We support a parent's right to choice in education including vouchers, charter school, and home schooling. We also support the elimination of the U.S. Dept. of Education. We further oppose requiring licensure for parents who choose to home school. We support the elimination of the No Child Left Behind law and require the State of Nevada to replace the No Child Left Behind concept.]
Update: Here are some preliminary videos from the State Convention.