I attended the MNGOP State Convention yesterday as a delegate. I’m not as smart as Steve to bring a recorder and camera so that best I can do is give you some impressions and some short hand notes.
In some respects, the convention was pretty standard fare, lots of boring administration interrupted by a few speeches and the occasional entertaining give and take.
Ron Carey, MNGOP State Chair was up first with a message for UNITY. Unity seemed to be a recurring theme. Former Governor Al Quie, Senator Norm Coleman and others pleaded for unity within the Republican party. I find the plea ironic because as I surveyed the folks attending as delegates or alternates, I would bet that 95% of us agree on about 90% or more of the issues. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have adopted platforms that come back to the same issues of fiscal accountability, individual rights and keeping government focused on what it should be focused on. My take is that if there is a concern for unity, it doesn’t have to do with the bottom end of the Republican party. The “disunity” is being caused by the top of the Republican party.
A good example of the disunity caused by the top was a proposed amendment to the MNGOP constitution. The amendment would allow the State GOP to toss out a BPOU chair if that chair didn’t do everything the State GOP thought they should do. That proposal (which was soundly shot down) and the emotional supportive comments from Ron Carey did nothing to convince at least this delegate, that the State leadership understands the reason for disunity. I think the leadership believes the disunity has been caused by the fight amongst candidates i.e. Thompson, Paul, Romney, etc., where in reality, the disunity (to the extent it exists) is due to the fact that leadership does not want to abide by the will of the people who voted them into office. A good example of this came in Senator Coleman’s acceptance speech.
Senator Coleman was unanimously endorsed by the convention. However, I’ll tell you that his reception was not enthusiastic. As Coleman was announced, a polite but tepid applause greeted him (I contrast this to Second Congressional District Representative John Kline’s later greeting which was raucous). Coleman’s speech talked about eight key points that he thought should be focused on. For the most part it was “motherhood and apple pie” items for Republicans until he started talking about increasing ethanol and focusing on fuel cells. Coleman has been a visible opponent of ANWR drilling. He also thinks coal is only good if it is in someones Christmas stocking. As Coleman was talking about his “let’s live without energy” approach to energy, there was a very audible chant of “ANWR, ANWR” amongst the delegates. Coleman never slowed down or missed a word. His ANWR position and his belief in man made global warming are two significant issues that separate him from most of the Republican base and is a reason that we don’t have unity.
Another issue that showed leadership causing disunity was in how they handled the Ron Paul delegation. As in other district and even State conventions, the Paul folks showed up ready to do battle. I’ll hand it to them that they came with a high degree in enthusiasm. Unfortunately, while they were loaded with enthusiasm they did not come loaded with parliamentarians. The lack of a parliamentarian strategy left the Paul folks playing catch up all day. As the Paul folks attempted on multiple occasions to suspend the rules to try to get their delegates seated for the national election, they were unable to garner the votes necessary to do so. The Chairs were also successful in pointing to the adopted rules of the convention to thwart Paul efforts.
Late in the day, after delegates had been elected, the Paul folks pointed out that the nomination committee did not follow the rules of the convention in determining their slate of candidates. The specific point was that the rules required people intent on running for those slots to interview, in person, in Rochester with the nominating committee. The Paul folks found that at least Tim Pawlenty, perhaps others, did not personally meet with the committee. Now a reasonable person would likely say “no big deal.” However, the Chair and state leadership had been pointing the Paul folks noses back at the rules all day as a way to thwart their efforts. I can’t say I’m a fan of Ron Paul but I fully support their position of “either the rules are the rules or there are no rules.” Unfortunately the state leadership handled this situation by simply ignoring it. They never provided a satisfactory answer or solution for the predicament they had created….That’s CRAP!
I came away from the convention feeling less enthused for the bulk of the Republicans than I did going into it. It’s clear to me that some of the candidates and much of the leadership does not yet understand what has happened in the base. My impression is that they largely think that they know better and if you disagree you ought to shut up.
Last thought…The youth and enthusiasm of most of the Paul folks was refreshing, invigorating and much appreciated. For the few folks who thought the way to voice your displeasure was to make repeated references to Nazi Germany….learn your history and then grow up!