Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tent Keeps Getting Smaller

(Click on image to enlarge, then return.)

On Tuesday, I noted parenthetically that even though Romney appears to have the nomination well in hand, Ron Paul was still hanging around. David Horsey had plenty to say about that issue.

Through most of the primary season, Ron Paul was overlooked, underestimated and laughed off. There was no scenario by which this ideological renegade could become the nominee of the ideologically dogmatic Republican Party. Yet as the last candidate standing in the way of Mitt Romney's smooth slide to the nomination, he is proving himself capable of ingenious mischief.

Over the weekend, Paul supporters in Maine and Nevada used the Byzantine rules that govern the nominating process to pirate delegates from the inevitable nominee. The caucuses in both those states were won by Romney, but the state party conventions, where the real allocation of delegates takes place, produced a different result. In Maine, Paul walked away with 21 of the state's 24 delegates. In Nevada, Paul supporters will fill 22 of the 25 seats the state will have on the convention floor, although, because of the rules, 20 of those delegates are required to vote for Romney on the first ballot.

Remember when Rick Santorum won his first victory by squeaking by Romney in the Iowa caucuses way back in January? Well, again this weekend, Iowa Republicans continued that process by choosing 13 of the state's 28 delegates. Surprise! Ten of those 13 are Ron Paul backers.

In Idaho's May 15 primary, the Paulistas aim to win enough precinct races to have a majority of delegates to the subsequent state party convention. If they are able to pull that off, they can suspend the rules and take away some or all of the 32 delegates Romney thought he won in Idaho's March 6 caucuses.

If this sounds a bit crazy, it is. Many states employ combinations of caucuses, primaries and conventions to eventually come up with their lists of delegates. The rules are different in each state, and it takes a dedicated cadre of political geeks to keep track of them all. ...

Conventional politics is not what drives this crew. They are not inclined to fall in line behind Romney for the sake of the party. They actually do not care about the party; they care about Paul's ideas.

They know they cannot win the nomination, but even the Paul supporters from Nevada who will be forced to vote for Romney in the first round do not actually care about that little detail. They and quite a few of their compatriots will be on the convention floor where they can demand a voice in the party platform and a prominent speaking slot on the program for their candidate.
[Emphasis added.]

That's a pretty intriguing scenario, and I think it an accurate analysis. The Libertarian wing is feeling its oats right now and making some remarkably astute moves with respect to making sure its ideas make it into the platform and into the campaign.

What I mainly concentrated on Tuesday was the fact that Richard Lugar, 35-year veteran of the Senate was facing a stiff primary and might very well lose. Well, he didn't just lose, he got thrashed by the Tea Party candidate. Lugar was too moderate, he compromised too much, he consorted with the enemy. That was a pretty dramatic win by the Tea Partier, although it might mean that the conservative Democrat candidate might have a shot at winning. While that would add one to the Dem count, I don't imagine it will add much to the Democratic agenda, such as it is. What's now clear, however, is that a whole lot is shaking in the Grand Old Party.

Libby Spencer has a good take on that election.

Sadly, Mr. Lugar, your party no longer has any people of goodwill. What's left of the rank and file conservative Republicans are petty little proudly ignorant sociopaths who care more about punishing the objects of their scorn than they do about the good of our country. They're bumper sticker voters, who don't don't give a flying leap about the effects of policy. Their one burning desire is to oust that blackety black black usurper from their White House.

She also laments that in the general election "our" candidate is probably going to prove to be somewhat to the right of Richard Lugar and wonders when liberals are going to figure out how to get our kind of candidate elected, or even nominated. In my opinion, that will happen only when we develop the kind of strategies that both the Paulistas and the Libertarians have demonstrated over the past couple of years. Paul's supporters worked their magic by studying up on the arcane rules for delegate selection in each state. The Tea Partiers began more than two years ago to take over their party at the local, even the precinct level, by showing up at the meetings in numbers and getting appointed to positions at the party's state level.

As I said in February, 2010 this was a very astute move:

I'll tell you what, though: this is a good strategy on their part, one that we liberals should be paying attention to and emulating. Getting involved in the process at the precinct level is a pretty good way to start getting more liberals elected at the state and local level. And it's also a good way to push the party into a more honestly representative model. Ringing doorbells and making phone calls are important, but being in on the decision making process is just as important, perhaps even more so. It certainly would get our party's Old Guard's attention. That in itself would be an improvement.

We have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we really want to see our party moving to the left rather than to the right. It might be too late for this election cycle, but the next one is just around the corner. We would do well to take some lessons from the folks to the right of us on how to accomplish this.

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