Montana State Republican Convention 2012 & The Fracturing Of The MTGOP

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve yet again found myself in the GOP fight for Ron Paul to be our next President in 2012.  As such, I just completed my efforts at the Montana GOP State Convention, the place where we elect delegates who will represent us (and our choice for President) at the Republican National Convention.  I was fortunate to be one of the core strategists/facilitators in the grassroots campaign, as I had done in Washington in 2008.  Unfortunately, the “beauty contest” votes most of you cast actually has nothing to do with who becomes President…it’s these conventions that entirely determine the outcome.

It’s fairly clear that even the GOP has become soft on Ron Paul this time around.  They are no longer in unified opposition to Ron Paul’s foreign policy, a big issue in 2008.  They’ve lost even more of their sons and daughters, recognize we don’t have a mission, they see Obama executing even more reckless wars and even they themselves are waning on our decade-long military commitments.  This time around, they just kept reiterating the nonsense “He can’t win” mentality, when he’s the only guy out there pulling 5000+ crowds in every city he speaks in, has pure grassroots support and he is the only candidate CAPABLE of beating Obama.  Like sheep, many of the people who don’t realize they’re perpetuating mistruths and media dictated outcomes, the majority within the GOP have gone right along with it.

In Montana, it was clear that the Ron Paul folks fought hard, despite having no direct campaign support.  It was pure grass-roots, but we were organized, energized, on-target and we made an incredible run at the convention.  All this, even in the wake of Rand Paul throwing his support to the very candidate we were working against.  We pulled in roughly 47% of the delegation – not enough to be the majority, but a rather significant faction and one that couldn’t be ignored.  We had previously negotiated with the MTGOP for a fair representation of delegates in advance and offered a smooth, unified convention in return.  All we wanted was a fair convention and we like to believe we’re still a State where a handshake is as good as a written contract.

There were certainly shenanigans going on with the “establishment” side.  The rules committee failed to meet the night before the convention, so there was no opportunity to review or discuss the rules for the convention. The morning of our convention, our state committee-woman (Thelma Baker) ripped the credentials off one of our delegates after she’d all ready been accepted, paid-up and approved by the credentials committee.  On the convention floor, there were only supposed to be seats for the actual number of delegates attending, yet across multiple counties, there were many “extra” empty chairs and all delegates were accounted for at the convention.  There were significant reports of people who were not actually elected who may have attended the convention.  In my own county, we had “alternates” (which violates state law) and these alternates were appointed to be delegates by one person.  (Our state rules dictate all delegates must be elected by the governing bodies, which is us…the committee members from each county.)  We set up a post-convention Paul rally and after seeing extremely heightened police presence at the precise time it was supposed to begin, it was clear they called the cops on us.  (We were running late to our own rally…but we continued anyway, without a hitch or arrest.)

I found it very interesting that we had a significant press presence.  NBC was there practically full time and some show that I don’t care about was recorded there.  We had paid for two booths at the convention, more than any other sponsor, and serendipitously I learned that our booth was moved at the last minute to a location well away from the cameras.  The press was very careful to not reveal our efforts and strengths and I again realized first-hand how much the TV can control your field of view.  To be honest, I have no idea what was said by the media, but I don’t have to imagine to know that it was either nothing or not good.  We did make the local paper, but as expected, it didn’t really say anything significant about our major presence across the convention.  The thing that surprised me the most, though, is that there wasn’t a SINGLE Mitt Romney sign at the convention.  I thought that was gracious of the GOP because such a thing probably would have caused an uprising.

We hit the delegate convention floor with a few forked strategies in mind, but we didn’t aim to be disruptive.  We fought for a balanced, fair chairman in advance and got it.  The Rmoney campaign flew in a parliamentarian suit, but it was balanced with a trusted Montana parliamentarian…so it wasn’t worth the political capital to oust the outsider.  Things were shaping up to be mostly fair.  And then the convention started.

When we saw the nomination committee’s slate, most of us strategists were shocked to not find a SINGLE Ron Paul Republican delegate on the state party slate.  All 4-5 of the “promised” delegates were relegated to alternate positions, essentially worthless when it’s the MTGOP chairman that gets to select which alternates advance.  (It would take a plane crash to get our alternates to be delegates.)  Upon a point of information, the chairman told us he was well aware of the ballot problems from 2008 and that he would not repeat the same mistake.  It was again a surprise when we found they had a single checkbox for the state nomination committee’s slate on one side and the rest of us were relegated to an “ala carte” list on the back.  Apparently our chairman wasn’t that well aware of the 2008 problems at all.  One woman was fortunate to have her name printed on our ballot THREE times, lucky her.

Angered, but prepared in advance, we then executed floor nominations for an entire slate of Ron Paul people.  We sacrificed three of those alternates to fill the slate completely.  We made a motion to try and invalidate marking the first page completely, eliminating the “one checkbox” option.  We were successful, surprisingly.  We then tried to get them to mix up the floor nominations and committee nominations people alphabetically (as you would see on ANY normal ballot, instead of “preferred” and “not preferred” candidates) and unfortunately, our motion failed.  Someone from the other side then made a motion to return to the original ballot instructions and was successful.  (Essentially, we had two opposing rules active at the exact same time, but we were losing political traction by fighting it and we stopped.)  In all this, we clearly learned that Romney has NO real support in the GOP, grassroots or otherwise, and has to lean on state committees to rig the game for them.  No one wants to help Romney win.  This is evident by the fact that there were over 100 Ron Paul bumper stickers and ONE Romney bumper sticker on the cars at the convention.  They even whined to the chairman that it’s not fair that we were organized and they weren’t, yet we all had equal opportunity and time to prepare.  All the Mitt Romney team did was compromise our state chairman and the nominations committee to rig the game.  Our elected state chairman failed to be a representative of the body and instead, allowed his politics to compromise his position.  As such, he is unfit to be our State Chairman.

The votes were counted and we had observers in the room.  All counting was conducted fairly and justly and as far as we could tell, there were no shenanigans with the vote tabulations.  It was neck and neck for the most part and the establishment could clearly see we concentrated our voting strength extremely well.  They were sweating bullets until the end, I’m sure.  It came down to a very narrow margin, but the Robamneys squeaked out an uncomfortably close win.  We lost all our delegates for Paul, but we didn’t have any to begin with…so nothing was lost.

The problem with all this, though, is that 47% of the most committed GOP activists across Montana are now going back to their respective counties and are being vocal about the disparities we witnessed.  The GOP turned it’s back on one of every five of it’s voters thinking they don’t need to be represented.  They showed their colors and are telling 17% of their Primary voters to pound sand.  The tactical and strategic error that this presents is unbelievable!  They put their party’s power and greed over the people who comprise the party.  This is unacceptable, especially in Montana.

With behavior like this, the ONLY thing these people will listen to are lost elections.  Many of our GOP races are predicted to be in that 2-6% margin and our party just killed any chance of us helping them out, both with activism and our votes.  Their supposed calls for “unity” are really just statements of “it’s our way or the highway.”  These antics are going to cost them in November.  We’re telling our people, “Vote our GOP liberty candidates up and the rest of the GOP down.”  Many, I’m sure, will just sit out the November election completely, disillusioned by such a deceitful party.  We may never get them back, which is unfortunate because we’ve built an extremely effective and committed coalition of like minded political activists.

There were many lessons learned and doing these conventions is how we become more effective political activists.  This is how we become the future of not just the party, but also leaders of our states and eventually the country.  We learned that we probably should have negotiated directly with the Montana Mitt Romney camp (all both of them), as nauseating as that seems.  We learned that it might not be enough to participate in the party to gain the respect we deserve, but rather to run the party at all levels.  We learned that we need to work for a nominating method where all interested parties are placed on a list with equal weight, insuring Montana presents delegates that have the most momentum from the people of Montana.

I’m still wrestling with how to resolve all this, but I’m going to voice our opinion to our central committee, our state chairman and every single one of the GOP candidates that are running a tight, important race.  They need to understand that when they turn their back on us, we’re going to turn our back on them.  They need to understand that our 17% is going to make and break local elections.  They need to understand that “Don’t Tread On Me” means we bite viciously when trampled upon.  They will understand that these acts, in the long run, weaken the strength of the party.  They need to understand that the “Ron Paul problem” is not just going to go away.  They will come to understand that the more they work against us, the more we galvanize and resolve to work against them.  They need to understand that we hold the power in our hands to rise up and shut out every last one of them who didn’t vote with us.

We’re hardly sore losers; we advocate for the principles of justice, fairness and opportunity for all.  We can take losing.  But we’re not going to be quiet about a deceitful GOP.  Nor will we fail to communicate how truly weak Mitt Romney is as a Presidential candidate.  Even the GOP is worried that he can’t be trusted.

8 comments… add one
  • Chris Jun 18, 2012 Link

    Thanks for the report and analysis. You’re right, it would be unfortunate. If you are inclined to be confrontational with the old guard or pack up and go home, keep in mind how close we have come. 47% of the delegates? In another four years, what will the balance of power be? Why does RP keep encouraging us to be “respectful”? After decades in congress I think he knows how political power is generated. I fail to see how announcing a policy of defeating GOP candidates is going to help. We should be encouraging the discouraged to stick it out and emphasizing what has been accomplished. If someone has the time and energy to work to elect good GOP candidates, that will translate directly into credibility and political capital in the party. I don’t see much influence for people that are perceived as vicious and liable to bite. THANKS to everyone that was able to attend as a delegate and fight the good fight. It would be a tragedy if we allow this setback be the end of it. This illustrates two things: why we have to keep fighting to replace the old guard and how close we are to achieving it. Keep positive!!

  • Mom Jun 18, 2012 Link

    Contact – PLEASE!

  • oxbobend Jun 18, 2012 Link

    Another example of the “Old Guard” shooting themselves in the foot. It all really scares me, because people who cheat, will rig ballot boxes, and if an election is not fair, it ain’t no election. And if you rig the game so you can win, you are scum in my eyes.

  • Glenn Jun 18, 2012 Link

    Jeff…. great rant! Just like that famous man said… “… first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you , then you win….”

  • john Jun 18, 2012 Link

    Good report Jeff!
    I was there and saw it all. If I hadn’t been I might think you were exaggerating to make a better story … but you did not.
    RP signs with flags, blimps, bumper stickers, booths, coins, etc. displayed an energy that was thrilling. I saw but one Romney bumper sticker on the far end of the parking lot.
    And, being my first state convention, I was spirited after having been convinced this one was absolutely guaranteed to treat conservatives fairly. So much for that guarantee.
    Somehow, all accounts of this convention have totally avoided profanity. I am surprised since that entered my mind repeatedly on the 600+ mile drive home.

  • Jeff Jun 19, 2012 Link

    John: FUCK. There. I said it.

    I would also like to bring to everyone’s attention Gary Marbut’s fantastic writeup and post-convention followup. I particularly enjoyed his 12-point convention facts, all of which are 100% true and appreciate that he’s posted his exchange with Will, our State Chairman.

  • Jerry O'Neil Jun 19, 2012 Link

    I appreciate the Ron Paul “freedom faction” comprising 47% of those who show up for GOP functions. I am not sure if the 47% includes those GOP members whom are not for Ron Paul, but still are willing to fight for honest, freedom loving, conservative candidates.

    I haven’t looked at our state or county platforms recently, but believe there will be a state convention next year for the election of party leadership. Who do we want to put forth and support to be the next chair of the Montana Republican Party?

    Four years from now there will be another election for president and Ron Paul probably will not be a candidate. We should start grooming our preferred candidate now, or soon after the November election.

    Whom will we choose to be our next state chairman and our next U.S. president? Or will we let the establishment choose for us again?

  • Jeff Jun 19, 2012 Link

    Jerry, first, it was an honor to work with State Representatives such as yourself at the convention. I will work to insure we have more people like you serving our State Legislature.

    I believe the majority in our GOP favor fair elections, but I also believe that the folks who hold the majority don’t necessarily know what it’s like to see zero representation and a “preferred candidates” checkbox that doesn’t include their person(s). As a Ron Paul person, I wouldn’t for one second consider excluding Romney, Santorum or Gingrich folks….either through the process or by ballots.

    We are working on building a coalition that we can use to vet and present potential state committee positions and I think it’s of utmost importance that these people represent all of us Republicans fairly and equally. I also want to see the nominations process open to ALL Montana’s candidates, regardless of whom they support. We can be the state that bucks the political trend to rig our own elections.

    As for our next candidate, I’m not sure but there are some names that certainly come to mind. People like Justin Amash, Jessie Ventura, Judge Napolitano and perhaps even Rand Paul. I believe Rand could get in it and win it, but we have a major challenge in the liberty movement to change our people’s mind about him.

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