Something Significant Happened in Spokane
Despite the siren call of the warm spring weather last Saturday, a record number of hopeful Republicans turned out for the 4/12/08 Spokane County Republican Convention held at Lewis & Clark High School. Though disappointed that I was unable to participate as a delegate due to a prolonged, out-of-state work commitment during our February Caucus, I knew it would be instructive to see first-hand how the process worked and so I volunteered at the Ron Paul information booth. I figured that even if I couldn’t sling a ballot, at least I could show up to discuss the issues with the curious and uninformed – and maybe even help sway a vote or two.
With people arriving at 7:30am and some staying past 9pm to finish counting the ballots and conclude the work, few could have predicted that this event would turn into the marathon that it did. Approximately 540 delegates showed up to vote for 111 delegates and a platform to take to the upcoming WA State convention. There were many young people in attendance and amazingly, over half of the delegates were first time participants which is a promising sign of renewed participation in our political process. It is a common story that many new people decided to get involved after years of apathetic inaction. They cite an escalating sense of alarm and frustration over the Iraqi War debacle, unprecedented deficit spending, porous borders and a general sense that we have lost control over our party and our country.
Listening to the morning speeches from WA State gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and others was both informative and reassuring that we’ve got some talented people running for various offices. One of the highlights of the morning was a rousing speech by Rob Chase that echoed the themes of Ron Paul’s candidacy. Yet as the day wore on and the platform was debated and voting ensued, it became increasingly apparent that what I was witnessing was something far more significant than what I expected. This was no ordinary, pre-ordained, rubber-stamp-the-party-line-and-get-out-before-lunch kind of an affair. What was unfolding through the arduous and combative convention process was nothing less than a stunning GRASSROOTS REVOLT!
It was obvious from the beginning that the McCain campaign came prepared to win by trying to dominate the event. In the basketball stadium where we met, one certainly couldn’t miss their HUGE 40’x10′ McCain For President sign that took up half of a wall and dwarfed all other signage from other campaigns (I wonder how much that must have cost?). Even though they brought in professional hired guns in the form of well-paid staff (that nobody seemed to recognize as being from our community), the day was carried by the passionate, well-organized and extremely dedicated Ron Paul campaign.
In the 6th District meeting that represented the largest delegate total, it was decided that each delegate publicly declare their preference for a Presidential candidate before the voting could actually began (not sure which camp asked for that). Throughout the day we witnessed the McCain team doing everything within their power to try to dominate the agenda and sway the voting (as expected). Their tactics were both subtle and overt as they tried to confuse the newbie Ron Paul conventioneers by quoting obscure rules and procedures. At other times, they used heavy-handed, authoritative sounding directives and gamesmanship in attempts to promote their chosen delegates and derail the Ron Paul delegates and positions. At one point, Yoko managed to prevent one of them from trying to steal an unattended Ron Paul delegate list.
Also notable in the 6th District meeting, the McCain people employed a multi-media projector that prominently displayed on the front wall exactly which (McCain) delegates they expected everyone to vote for. After another round of protests and debate, their projector was eventually turned off (almost by force) and their subsequent attempts to dominate the process were systematically beaten back as we fought steadily throughout a very long and exhausting day of arguing, motioning and voting. This meeting eventually concluded well into the evening after three time consuming rounds of voting and hand counting.
In the 3rd District meeting, a female delegate became disruptive which temporarily brought activities to a halt while a search ensued for the Sergeant-at-Arms to bring the meeting back to order.
In several of the instances mentioned above, the only thing that saved the day were some alert Ron Paul people who were willing to display some intestinal fortitude by literally standing up and questioning authority and/or challenging the status quo. Courage is what it takes to be successful in a political process where the war of ideas can inflame emotions and sometimes manifests as a verbal boxing match. Convention politics is a forum where big egos try to dominate the discussion and silence dissent. Small, organized groups promote their agendas and sway the votes through a Byzantine set of rules that few people know and understand. Those in powerful positions don’t hesitate to use those rules to their advantage, even squelching debate at times.
So the fact that the upstart Ron Paul camp was able to pull it all together in a relatively short period of time to upset the status quo and soundly defeat the McCain contingent was an astonishing achievement. We should all be extremely proud of this recent success, as it is the latest and most tangible example to date of how far we have come in taking back our party.
Still, we would do well to remember that much of the drama was primarily an expression of multiple passionate viewpoints. This cathartic process strengthens our local Republican Party and proves to the skeptics that we have a vibrant and evolving, non-monolithic group of thoughtful people that is capable of self-reflection and change.
Here are some of the most important accomplishments that came out of this Convention:
1) 107 out of 111 delegates were elected who favor Ron Paul and his positions. Only 4 delegates were elected who favor McCain. This was a HUGE and unexpected upset that surpassed the wildest expectations of everyone in our group.
2) Perhaps the most far-reaching and controversial platform position originated from the grass roots organization. It was a statement under the National Sovereignty And Defense heading, “Limiting the executive privilege of committing troops to police actions to a duration of 180 days, without a Congressional Declaration of War” (as the Constitution mandates). The McCain people fought this plank VERY hard and tried to add an amendment gutting the intent of this position by changing the language to a simple statement to “support our troops”. After approx. 30 minutes of back and forth arguments, motions and multiple votes, the McCain amendment was soundly defeated 280 to 170. As stated in the Spokane Spokesman Review, “The platform statement on the use of troops didn’t specifically name Iraq, but County Chairman Curt Fackler and representatives of the McCain campaign agreed it was essentially a repudiation of the current war policy and the course that McCain has said he would take if elected”.
3) The overwhelming nature of our victory suggests the strong possibility for future changes in our local area. Indeed the groundwork has been laid to influence future leadership and platform direction as we have successfully outmaneuvered and overturned the status quo in our County and helped shape the debate moving forward.
We have proven once again that a small group of dedicated, organized and tenacious people can make a huge difference, the end result of which was a dramatic tipping point that happened right here in our own backyard. If similar stories can successfully play out in other parts of America, it would mark the beginning of the end of the Neo-Con grip on the Republican Party and a chance to return to the traditional core values and principles that made our country great.
Got comments? Email me, dammit!
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