This is the question puzzling Paul’s friends, as well as his enemies. A recent announcement by the campaign that the anti-interventionist Congressman andpresidential candidate is not spending money in the remaining primary states provoked a Drudge headline: “Paul Out.” That is the GOP Establishment’s fondest wish, but the reality is that Paul is far from “out”: his campaign is merely recalibrating its tactics, concentrating on getting delegates through the complicated and often arcane process of party caucuses and state conventions. In short, Paul is pursuing the very same strategy he’s been talking about since Day One of his remarkably successful campaign: harnessing the enthusiasm and discipline of his supporters to enter a basically hostile entity – the pro-war, pro-Big Government Republican party – and challenging the Powers That Be.
There has been all kinds of loose talk about a “deal” being struck with the Romneyites, an impression pushed by the “mainstream” media and other clueless individuals who know little or nothing of Ron and imagine he’s just another politician. They are wrong. There will be no endorsement of Mitt Romney, and, because of that, no quarter will be given – or is being given – to Paulians intent on embedding themselves within the Grand Old Party.
The “go local” strategy of the Paul camp has recently met with a string of high profile successes: they took over the party in Alaska, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, andColorado, and their delegate count is skyrocketing. Precinct by precinct, county by county, state by state, the Ron Paul Revolution is racking up victories – and the Romneyites are in a panic. Due to that panic, they are employing hard-line tactics, often simply closing down local conventions when it becomes clear the Paulians have a majority. They cut off the microphones, call the cops, and whine that the insurgents are “disrupting” a process the party bosses have controlled for as long as anyone can remember. At one point, attendees at a state Republican convention saw the walls literally closing in on them, as Rachel Maddow reported in a segment on MSNBC.
Using force, fraud, and their friends in the media, the Romneyites are determined to block Paul and his movement from having any visibility at the August national GOP convention, to be held in Tampa, Florida. What they want is a coronation: what they will get is a full-blown insurgency in their midst.
The key tactical question is this: will the Establishment even allow Paul’s name to be placed in nomination? GOP rules requires that, in order to do so, the Paul camp must have a plurality of the delegates in at least five states. Given the series of Paul victories at the local level, one would think this threshold has already been reached – but that’s not at all clear, given two factors. The first is that, in some states where the Paulians took control of the proceedings, many of those delegates legally bound to vote for Romney on the first ballot are actually Paul supporters. If they rebel in Tampa, however, there’s no telling what might happen. There seems to be no rule forbidding them from abstaining on the first ballot, and that, in itself, would be a very visible and powerful protest – precisely the sort of dissent the Romneyites justifiably fear.
The second factor is the attitude of the Romney camp. Relatively good personal relations between Romney and Paul to the contrary notwithstanding, top officials in the Romney campaign are reportedly taking a hard line against the Paulians – and are disinclined to allow Paul to even be nominated from the floor. Although by the time the party convenes in Tampa Romney will presumably attain the magic numberof delegates required for nomination, even the formality of allowing opposition to manifest itself during the proceedings could cause a stampede – like a bank run. Conservatives have been very reluctant to get on the Romney bandwagon and make their peace with the Flip-Flopper, and the sight of open resistance could be the spark that sets off a prairie fire. You can’t blame them for not wanting to take that chance – which is why I believe the anti-Paul hard-liners in the Romney camp will prevail over the more reasonable types who don’t want to unduly alienate the Paulistas. Forget the formal rules, forget parliamentary procedure – the Romneyites are ready to throw out the rule book and take organizational measures against the last gasp of dissent within the party.
If that happens – if the Romneyites lock out the Paul people, and refuse to permit Ron’s name to be entered in nomination – there is going to be trouble in Tampa. Given the security arrangements, and the volatile atmosphere, it won’t take much for the GOP Establishment to play their favorite trump card: brute force. They’ve done it at several Republican state conventions, when the Paulians turned out in such numbers as to constitute a majority, and they certainly won’t hesitate to do so on the national stage.
I don’t envy the Paul delegates. Given the highly militarized “security” being prepared for the convention, Tampa will be swarming with cops, Homeland Security thugs, and private agents provocateurs, all just itching for an incident – a defining moment, if you will – that will frame the Paulians as kooky disruptors and assert Romney’s hegemony over the party in a symbolic – and violent – way. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the act of wearing a Paul button is grounds for harassing delegates and their guests. Anyone who acts or looks out of place, who isn’t wearing a suit and tie and exhibits other tell-tale signs of not having the correct political leanings is bound to find themselves under intense scrutiny, and worse.
Ron Paul’s revolution has been so successful because the GOP Establishment it is fighting is intellectually bankrupt and politically hollow: the neoconservatives who dominate the party’s “idea shop” are basically hostile to the radical anti-government elements on the rise in the GOP, and Romney has zero grassroots support. This is why the Paulians have been able to easily overwhelm the party Establishment at the level of local and state conventions. What makes the Romneyites hopping mad is that the genuine passion generated by the Paul movement underscores the utter emptiness of their candidate and the party apparatus. That the Romney campaign has had to resort to fraud – ballot-box stuffing, distributing phony lists of delegate slates, abruptly adjourning when they’re outnumbered – has been amply documented by Paul’s supporters: this particularly riles the Romneyites because it shows the lack of character in their candidate and his campaign.
Eager to get on to the main business of seizing power from Barack Obama, the Romney people are impatient with this business of party democracy – and they can be expected to short circuit the rules in order to brush Paul and his supporters aside. As I said above: there’s going to be trouble in Tampa – not only outside the fortress-like compound in which the proceedings will take place, on the streets, where protesters ofevery stripe are expected in full force, but in the inner sanctum itself.