GOP Convention fun in Branson

This year the nomination of John McCain was supposed to split the Republican Party and separate the libertarian and social conservative wings of the conservative movement. The Ron Paul campaign’s efforts to take a Missouri delegate slate to the national convention, promised a series of floor fights from seating challenged delegates to national delegate slates. The Missouri GOP convention was surprisingly dull. No demonstrations, no walkouts and at the end of the day, the “Old Right” Ron Paul contingent were eating, drinking, laughing and enjoying themselves along with the “traditional” Missouri GOP convention goers. Though they didn’t get everything they wanted, the “Old Right” were seated, had their say and I think learned along the way that the “traditional” GOP in Missouri is not a bunch of Bilderbergers. Ironically, in Missouri at least, there’s serious potential that the Ron Paul efforts may re-energize a tired party and prevent that schism everyone was worried about.

There were a few sore spots. Ron Paul spoke in Branson the day before the convention. A visiting Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate, even defeated, should have been invited to speak briefly to the Convention. He should be invited to speak at the National Convention as well. Other than Alan Keyes, who has left the GOP for the Constitution Party, all the Republican Presidential candidates should be given the courtesy of speaking to the Convention. The long term strength of the Republican Party is that we don’t all have to drink the Kool Aid of the President or Presidential nominee on every issue. We should remember how laughable it was (and continues to be) when James Carville and Lanny Davis bent over backwards making excuses for the stain on the blue dress.

I intended to have video of the Convention. After standing in line to be seated, I was confronted by a sign that video and audio recording devices were not allowed and would be confiscated. I do have almost all of Ron Paul’s speech Friday night, on the other hand. I’d have the whole thing, but he spoke so long my batteries ran out.

A few highlights:

  • 374 delegates were challenged, a much larger number than anytime in recent history. Of these the credentials committee recommended seating all but 54. Those not seated consisted of 10 Libertarian Party county central committee members (none of whom attempted to show that they’d resigned from the other party), 1 person who filed as a candidate in the August Libertarian Party primary, 29 people who were not registered to vote in the county they were elected to represent (none of whom attempted to correct the record) and a slate of 14 delegates from a county where the chairman failed to publish the call to convention in a paper of record. The other 320 challenged delegates, plus a couple of hundred unchallenged “Ron Paul delegates” (possibly including myself) were seated.

    This was of a total of about 1,500 delegates.

  • Before 2000, the GOP platforms at both state and national levels were filled with the rhetoric and philosophy of freedom. The strongest real advocates of civil liberties have often been Republicans. (The example that springs to mind is a much maligned Missourian, John Ashcroft, who refused to sign the unconstitutional papers pushed in front of him as he lay in a hospital sick bed by Alberto Gonzalez.) There’s a reason for that. The Republican Party like this great Nation was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the. proposition that all men are created equal.” The deviation in 2000 with compassion superceding liberty and in 2004 when we traded for a pound of liberty milligram of security, is being corrected. I suspect that the platform amendments put forth by the Ron Paul delegates at the county caucuses and District conventions had something to do with that. (The Platform Committee did work to incorporate a lot of them.) Hopefully, the “Old Right” folks can take a look at this platform compared to the last two and realize that they did make a positive difference and one that the “traditional” folks in the party were ready for.
  • The Ron Paul delegates, especially three or four from Jackson County, provided the little entertainment we had by attempting to shout “point of information,” “point of order” and “division” louder than anyone else in the hall. (The rules of the convention are that to be recognized you go to a microphone and wait. They just yelled, because they weren’t familiar with the rules.) They largely got their points of information and order and largely lost the votes on the points at issue by substantial margins – but they definitely had their say.

    The funniest moment of the day was when one of the leaders of the Jackson County delegation got up to speak for their slate of delegates and immediately as he began speaking he was cut off by other Ron Paul delegates across the room yelling “Point of information.” I was sitting across the aisle from him and when he tried to continue, I hollered his own words at the Jackson County delegation, “A point of information is always in order.” He did, of course, get his allotted time. The “Fiscal Responsibility Slate” was not elected; the “True and Faithful Republican Slate” was elected. I abstained.

  • One of the Ron Paul supporters put her name forward for one of the two Republican National Committee spots. She actually ended up getting more time allotted to people speaking on her behalf. She’s from Carthage, where I was born, and had not a prayer of winning, so I voted for her.
  • 1988 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mike Roberts was a delegate from the Kansas City area. He’s a good guy, with solid principles who has worked hard for a long time to advance them. It’s good to have him in the GOP to the extent of being a delegate to the convention, even if he’s still occasionally supporting Libertarian candidates (as even the most solid Republican would be a fool not to). I met Mike in 1988 when I was working a candidate’s day at the Northpark Mall in Joplin for Mel Hancock in his first primary campaign for Congress. Mike came by to see Mel Hancock, but I was the only one there as Joplin was to that first Hancock campaign what West Virginia was to Barack Obama. Anyone familiar with Mel Hancock knows that a more solid conservative Republican there has never been in Congress and simply the fact that Mike came by to say hello to him speaks volumes.
  • Nearly the entire Lawrence County delegation were part of the “Old Right” movement. These weren’t black flag waving anarchist hotheads by any means. There were homeschoolers, evangelicals and others typically called “social conservative”, gun rights advocates and at least one old cowboy. They were at every opportunity touting free markets, free minds, property rights, limited government and strong families.
  • There were far more points of agreement with the platform than disagreement. The Platform Committee Chairman and several others made a point I’ve made a few times myself about the whole “family values” issue – strong families are best served by letting families do the work of families and letting government do what’s left, which isn’t much.
  • Though it’s known only to a handful of people, the “Old Right” crowd ended up voting heavily in favor of some defeated platform resolutions put forward by one of the very people who challenged 35 or so of them for not being “Strong and Faithful Republicans” as required by the call to convention. Unfortunately, neither the “Old Right” folks or the confused curmudgeon who challenged them is likely to realize what happened, but it was still amusing to see what strange bedfellows politics makes. Don’t bother asking how I know. Missouri has no shield law, but that brain cell died in the Freedom of the Road Riders hospitality room. Speaking of…
  • The Freedom of the Road Riders, a motorcycle group, have been regulars at GOP conventions and Lincoln Days events for years. In Missouri, bikers are heavily Republican – including most of the Newton County prosecutors office until recently. I imagine this came as a shock to some of the Ron Paul folks, finding out that some of the “traditional” Republicans in Missouri weren’t Bilderbergers and North American Unionists after all – instead they wear leather, have long hair, beards and tattoos. And also the best food of the night.
  • Senator Kit Bond endorsed Congressman Kenny Hulshof for Governor over State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. When candidates were given time to speak, Steelman spoke about her first Missouri GOP convention, in 1976 when she was 18. At that convention, then Governor Bond made another endorsement – Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan. Ford and Bond both lost that year. In 1980 Bond endorsed Reagan and was elected again as the only split term Governor in Missouri history.
  • Only four platform resolutions were considered and all were defeated. Only one was really serious and it was in support of the Fair Tax. The defeat was narrow and the split had nothing to do with geography or with the Ron Paul/traditional split.
  • The Ron Paul folks were very well versed in parliamentary procedure and were sticklers about insisting on it. Aside from the interruption of the speaker I already mentioned they were hoist by this particular petard on one more, big, occasion. The first four platform resolutions, all of which were defeated, included three long, drawn out unpopular ones and a resolution in favor of the Fair Tax. There were quite a few resolutions left to be considered, including all the “Old Right” resolutions, but some bored and frustrated delegate made a privileged motion that carried by a simple majority – a motion to adjourn. Ironically, the Chair was as put out by the early adjournment as the “Old Right” crowd, but to the delight of everyone else, there was nothing they could do about it.
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