To say Saturday’s Louisiana Republican Party convention in Shreveport was an embarrassment is probably an understatement. Basically, the Ron Paul delegates went into the conventi0n with a majority of the convention delegates and basically controlled the convention. After it was all said and done and the police were called, for all intents and purposes, Ron Paul was stripped of all his delegates he won at the Louisiana Caucus and he failed to win additional delegates as well. I will try to answer what really happened based on information I’ve gleaned from various sources, since I was not there myself.
Some background first. In the Louisiana primaries in March. Ron Paul only received 6% of the vote. Rick Santorum won with 47% and Mitt Romney came in second. But, only half of Louisiana’s delegates are awarded at the primaries. Fast forward to the Louisiana Caucuses one month later, where Ron Paul won 4 out of 6 Congressional districts or 13 delegates. The Louisiana Caucuses also pick the delegates to the Louisiana GOP convention in Shreveport and Ron Paul supporters dominated that portion as well. By now under Louisiana GOP rules, Ron Paul has 14 delegates (caucus wins plus one at large), Rick Santorum has 10 delegates, and Romney has 5 delegates. Then things started to unravel.
Ron Paul campaign started trying to take over the Romney and Santorum delegate slates
Basically, the Ron Paul campaign tried to hijack the Romney and Santorum delegate slates and replace them with Ron Paul supporters as a part of their convention strategy. The disgraceful practice is known as “delegate stealing”. The Louisiana GOP, along with the Romney and Santorum campaigns, responded by changing the rules to require that those delegate slates be picked by candidates approved by the campaigns. That’s a rule change that is entirely reasonable, given the fact that Louisiana’s Republican voters overwhelmingly voted for candidates other than Ron Paul. Now, if the Louisiana GOP was ran by quasi competent leadership and if the Ron Paul campaign in Louisiana was somewhat professional, they could’ve made a deal to resolve this impasse before the convention along these lines: Santorum, Romney, and Paul get their preferred delegates. Half of the “uncommitted” delegates will vote for Paul on the first ballot, unless released by the Paul campaign, and afterwards will vote according to the instructions of the Louisiana GOP executive committee. The other half will vote according to the instructions of the Louisiana GOP executive committee (which means, a vote for Romney on the first ballot). The platform will be a heavily Paul-influenced document as per the will of the activists at the GOP caucuses, but non Paul supporters will have a role in drafting it. Finally, while there would be a fight over the platform and other things, the convention would go relatively smoothly and have a result everyone could live with, with no hard feelings in any camp. Basically, majority rule with minority rights.
However, that wound up not being the case.
A Tale of Two Conventions
At the convention itself, by accounts of attendees I’ve read on Twitter and Facebook, the preliminary committee meetings were a debacle. Apparently, the Paul delegates continuously to various procedures, some legitimate and many not. The problem here was a combination of ignorance of Roberts Rules of Order and the fact that frankly some Paul delegates came to disrupt the convention unless an entirely pro-Paul slate was voted out. The stage was now set for an acrimonious convention floor the following day.
On the convention day itself, the Paul delegates attempted to oust Louisiana GOP chairman Roger Villere as the chairman of the convention. There is conflicting information on whether or not this was a legal motion. After the motion was “approved”, the Paul delegates apparently physically turned their backs on the rest of the convention and proceeded to have their own “unofficial” convention. Then, Villere then attempted to have removed a Paul delegate for disrupting the convention. Long story short, the police came in to remove the delegate and in the end, one delegate was injured and another was arrested. Again, the circumstances involved are unclear.
At the end of the day, the “official” convention awarded Romney and Santorum their preferred delegates, awarded all of the “uncommitted” delegates to Mitt Romney, and declined to fill Ron Paul’s delegate slots, pending talks with the Ron Paul campaign with the option of being filled by the LAGOP Executive Committee. Basically, Ron Paul was stripped of all his delegates. However, the LAGOP by not filling the Ron Paul slots with Romney supporters demonstrated goodwill towards the Paul campaign. The “official” convention still had a qu0rum because the Paul delegates remained on the convention floor, but they declined to vote or participate. If the Paul delegates had walked out on the convention, the convention would have been likely cancelled and rescheduled. The Paul campaign would have had a much stronger hand to make a deal than they do now that the grassroots snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
What Needs To Happen Now
First and foremost, there needs to be apologies all around. The LAGOP leadership needs to apologize for how the convention went down and the Ron Paul campaign needs to apologize for disrupting the convention with their unprofessional conduct. There should be regret and sympathies expressed towards those injured at the convention.
Secondly, the LAGOP should make good on its olive branch shown to the Paul campaign and fill the remaining slots with Paul campaign approved delegates. That’s all the Paul campaign can hope for at this point.
Thirdly, Roger Villere needs to resign as Louisiana GOP chairman. He lost control of the caucus/convention process which culminated in the separate conventions and the police being called. The issues over delegate allocation should have been negotiated and resolved way before the convention got under way. The Louisiana right blogosphere and Twitterverse is full of conservatives and libertarians attacking each other instead of the common enemy, Obama. Finally, this has poisoned the well, both here in Louisiana and nationally. Libertarians who already have a grudge against the GOP have had it reinforced. Libertarian-leaners who are interested in working with the GOP will not be trusted as much as they were before today.
Finally, liberty activists need to take a few things from this debacle. We need to be respectful towards our opponents, especially if we’re going to work in the same political party. If our opponents won, we need to make sure they get what’s due to them while at the same time, fight for our share. We should conduct ourselves honorably and professionally, which was not the case in Louisiana. We should always remember that good people can disagree on the issues and candidates and that we attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Most conservative Republicans speak the same language as us on liberty and freedom, they just disagree with us on specific issues. We should try and educate them on why they are wrong, without being confrontational and disagreeable. Finally, if libertarian activists choose to work within the GOP, they have to be loyal to the party. That means supporting its nominees while at the same time trying to change the party from within.
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