What follows here will probably be a little bit disjointed, but will cover some of the things that I’ve previously mentioned only briefly in the earlier pieces—or in some cases, maybe haven’t mentioned at all. If you’re just now stumbling onto this, I’d suggest giving a quick read to the following (in order):
Part 1 (Setting the stage—Pre-conventions)
Part 2 (Getting ready for County Conventions/county conventions)
Part 3 (Post County conventions-Night before State Convention—Dr. Paul’s Call)
Part 4 (State Convention Day)
The Rest of the Story
- We lost the delegate race. We lost fair and square—of that I have no doubt. I have taken slings and arrows from Paul supporters around the country who have criticized us for not demanding a hand counted vote. But the numbers just weren’t in our favor, and the Romney forces were as well organized and stable in their vote for their slate, as we were in ours. At least one commenter to one of the earlier pieces will claim vote fraud occurred (or at least that it likely occurred, or that it might have occurred, so we should have preemptively demanded the hand count). We were prepared to raise the issue if there was any hint that there were problems, but there just wasn’t, and since we had already started looking to the future of the movement within the Party (rather than one candidate alone), we decided not to start implying that they were cheating us when our observations and intuition suggested that they weren’t.
- Strategic, temporary alliances are sometimes necessary. By the time our conventions came around, there were no visible signs of any other campaigns operating here. Even the Romney campaign hadn’t done much of anything in Nebraska, until (maybe) the last few days—unless you count the Governor’s efforts. We knew our numbers (critical, in any political operation), and we knew that we didn’t have the majority. There was no “Santorum group” or “Gingrich group” or “Bachmann group” that we could reach out to in order to form something of a “unity slate”. It was us, and the Romney people.
- Ultimately, we made some deals with some folks who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get to the national convention, we don’t think, if they didn’t have our assistance. They were Romney committed, but at least non-hostile—perhaps even friendly--to our group. Their inclusion on our slate of people to vote for (in 2 out of 3 cases, for alternate delegates) represented our trying to look look ahead and build bridges to the larger party, rather than going it completely alone in the future.
- The temptation to blame everyone but yourself is commonplace.
- The “establishment”, if you will, here in Nebraska, has gotten lazy. Because we’re a late primary/convention state, we have slipped into irrelevance most of the time. State law for filing for the county conventions is often ignored, because there is such a culture of just seating everyone. Our folks filed, and yet when they got there—in some cases, in the majority in their counties—considerable hostility was directed their way in some places. The “new kids”/”Paul people”/”Liberty Caucus” got blamed for upsetting the normal structure of things, but really, all we did was follow the rules—it was those who couldn’t be bothered to follow the rules who howled the loudest.
- That said, “Paul people” outside of Nebraska, occasionally engaged in their own brand of histrionics. In the weeks before the state conventions, I was taking phone calls and e-mails, and Facebook messages from (sometimes) a dozen different people a day. “Invite Ron Paul”; “Call out supporters from around the country to form a barrier of intimidation”; “Threaten lawsuits”; “Find ways of wearing the old guard down and having them go home till you have the majority.” All of this assumed that we could have come up with a majority—or that we at least had enough votes to change agendas, fight rules, etc. That prospect was tenuous at best, since we only had 40% of the delegates to the state convention at best, and our rules didn’t require any 2/3 votes—in other words, a simple majority could have shut us down.
- I find myself, quite frankly, perplexed by some of the reaction from the Paul contingent around the country. Within minutes (literally), of our convention ending, I was getting Facebook messages and e-mails, calling me a traitor, suggesting that I had somehow been “bought” when I forged a joint statement with the state GOP Chair that would relieve some of the tension surrounding the event. Of course I’m still taking some heat in the local blogs (and in the comments section), as well—but those bother me far less than the attacks from the “Paul folks.” I have, after all, been playing in the Paul sandbox since 2007—first as a blogger, then as an organizer in Nebraska, then as Nebraska RLC Chair, and then as C4L State Coordinator. I’ll admit that I had sort of hoped that Ron wouldn’t run again this year—not because I thought any less of him, but because I feared that something could happen which would end up discrediting him and the movement. I took the “gambler” approach—I thought that it was important to “know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away…..” But once he was the only liberty Republican game in town (and the RLC national had endorsed him), I was all-in, and have spent countless hours over the last 7 months traveling, training, writing, etc., on his behalf.
- In the days leading up to the convention, as people were still messaging me, I started either ignoring them, or telling them “we’ve got a plan we’ve been working for the last 3 months, and it’s not going to work to change it now.” In a few instances, when I was particularly tired, and weary of taking these phone calls, I ended up saying something along the lines of: “Nebraska is the last state to choose national delegates, if we’re the magic 5th, then that means 45 other states have failed to do THEIR jobs, and if we mess up, we’ll be joining a large group.”
- While I’m all for exploiting the rules to the extent possible, it’s still unclear to me how people can truly think that Ron Paul would get the nomination (I know, our comments section is going to get blasted with that one). He didn’t win the popular vote in a single state. Without that, how can we credibly claim that it’s the will of the people that he get the nomination? (No, I don’t believe that the primaries were rigged in all 50 states.) Would I like to see all sorts of things happen at the RNC next month? Sure. Would I like to see a truly brokered convention? Of course—I’m a political scientist by training, and a political nerd by nature—those are things I’d love to watch happen—in either party. But do I really believe it’s going to happen? No. I can only imagine one scenario where it would even be conceivable for us to end up in a brokered convention—and that possibility is so remote, that it’s really not worth gaming.
- So why did we do all of this? Why—if Nebraska is at the end of the list, and irrelevant anyway, did a small group of 6 of us (initially)—joined by odds and ends of others later—decide to organize for Ron Paul way back in January? A couple of reasons:
- Some fights—even when you lose (or even suspect you’ll lose)—are worth the effort. The liberty movement in the Republican Party of Nebraska is now an element of the Party that needs to be considered. The Party tent has to get just a little bigger now, because while we see things similarly to the Tea Party in some areas, we are far less (I think) co-optable than the Tea Party. We (RLCNE-related folks who supported Ron Paul, primarily) now hold a number of State Central Committee seats. Our folks control a number of County Republican Parties. Whether the “old guard” likes it or not, the GOP in Nebraska is changing. I’m the “mom” of the group—the “kids” are the 20-30-somethings who have been inspired to get involved, and who have started forming the backbone of the Party organization that will just grow, and become a major voice in the Party for the next 30 years. I really do believe that—and have told some of our folks that it’s critical to remember what it was like today, when THEY were on the outside fighting for a seat at the table, when a new group tries to break through in 25 or 35 years, and THEY are the “establishment.”
- In other words, we lost the battle for delegates, but I think we won a lot over the last 6 months—and the Republican Party of Nebraska will be stronger (eventually) because of that—as soon as some of the “regulars” realize that we’re not the enemy; we’re the next wave…the reinforcements.
- Principle. Sometimes, you do things, even when you know it’s going to be painful, for what you believe to be the right reasons. Not everyone agrees with those principles, unfortunately. Our continued effort—even when the delegate race nationally looked hopeless—was done because we wanted to take a stand, and show that we weren’t just flashes in the pan. My personal refusal (supported, for the most part, by my fellow Nebraskans), to engage in preemptive demands upon the party (like hand counting of ballots, or repeated pointless parliamentary maneuvering), was based on principle, as well. Have some NEGOP regulars been hostile? Sure. But did I think they’d deliberately cheat? Well, I didn’t think most of them would, and I believed that we could do things the “Nebraska way”—with a sense of cordiality and agreeing to disagree and letting the chips fall where they may. I think my trust for my fellow Nebraskans—in spite of what happened in some places around the country—has been justified, on the whole. And the truth is, I don’t think the political culture in our state nurtures an atmosphere where people really know how to cheat well—yeah, I know that sounds funny. But it’s true. We’re not Chicago; we’re “Nebraska nice”—and even those few counties where there was some “funny business”—they didn’t do it well. It was obvious to anyone who knew anything about the rules. We just lost on the credentials battles on those (probably because the credentials committees seldom have anything controversial to deal with)—but even if we’d won those battles, the numbers wouldn’t have been enough to make up the difference.
- So, what’s next in Nebraska? I’m not sure, in total. But here are some thoughts.
- The RLCNE paid membership has quadrupled in the last 6 months. Those identifying themselves as “RLC” but not having paid dues yet, increase our reach even further. The RLCNE is healthy, and getting healthier. At some level, we’re becoming the “shadow party”—although we have a lot of work to do, yet.
- The big question for many of us is the role of the C4L. What’s become clear is that among the “core group” of organizers for this year’s effort, our primary interest is in playing party politics—issue advocacy is important, but none of us are really eager to jump back in to that. I expect that in the next few months, some of us will have some discussions about the C4L’s future in Nebraska. I’d hate to see it disappear altogether, but how to deal with it is the unknown. The answer would probably be more apparent if there was more than $200 in the bank, and if there was a donor base that would allow for the hiring of an executive director for the organization who could take on a lot of the issue advocacy goals. But there again, it’s been primarily a volunteer organization, thus far, and the leadership has been all volunteer.
- Our NEGOP State Central Committee members will start having a voice in the Party. They’ll elect a new Chair next January or February—perhaps someone who is friendlier to us (or perhaps not).
- In the counties where we control County Party organizations, I’ve seen Facebook pages popping up, and have been on the receiving end of e-mails organizing activities. These are usually counties where the party organizations have been pretty dormant, so it’s exciting to see some new life in some of these counties, and especially to know that they’re being led by younger men and women who are committed to the principles of conservatism that were widely known 40 and 50 years ago, rather than the “expedient conservatism” that seems to be so in vogue today. I’m sure that party regulars will follow—eventually—if our folks prove to be effective leaders and organizers.
- On whole, I have a great sense of hope about what’s going to happen in our state. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, I believe.
And finally, I feel the need to make some truly personal comments about the last 7 months….
I am, by nature, something of a loner. I’m not anti-social, but I’m not exactly a gregarious person, either. My Myers Briggs tests always show me as an INTJ—which basically suggests that I’m a planner/organizer/strategist who lives in my own head. I don’t think the last 7 months have changed that, but I do have to say that for an introvert, I’ve now got more people I count as friends who I would walk through the gates of hell with, than I’ve ever had in my life.
The men and women who I have worked with over the last 7 months—ranging in age from 17 year olds who were eligible for the process only because they’ll turn 18 before the General Election, to the 90-something Pearl Harbor survivor—are the finest men and women who I have ever had the privilege of knowing. They inspired me to write late night e-mails, and go through lists one more time, looking for people who might be “ours.” They inspire me to do more—even in my own Democratically controlled county (ironically, I live in one of the few counties in the state where Democrats outnumber Republicans). We didn’t always agree on strategy or tactics, but almost to a person, we could talk through our differences rationally—and when it came time for the convention, they were almost always “on board”, and worked the plan.
Ron Paul supporters and those in the “liberty movement” take a lot of heat from the “regulars.” We’re called “Paulistas” and “Paulbots”; it’s implied that we’re all a bunch of wild-eyed drug addicts because we believe that the war on drugs is an abysmal failure; we’re accused of being immoral, because we don’t want government legislating morality.
Yes, we have some on the “fringe”—as do all emerging movements—but the vast majority of the folks I’ve worked with are wise beyond their years, are well-informed on a broad array of topics, and are scared to death that the opportunities that their parents and grandparents had aren’t going to be available for them or their children, if we don’t return to sound constitutionally limited governance.
Sometimes, the Paul phenomenon is likened to a “cult” of sorts. I’ll acknowledge that there are some who do seem to be almost cult-like in their devotion. But I think that most of the comments—which oftentimes sound so hysterical—are really just signs of how truly desperate people are to be heard, and to have others understand (even if they don’t agree) how scared we are for the future of our country. My INTJ personality doesn’t let me show that level of emotion, as a rule—I tend to stay on an even-keel most of the time—but I think I’m coming to understand at least some of my fellow Paul supporters.
When I called Dr. Paul back the day before the convention (after ignoring his call), the first question that he asked me was “how are things going in Nebraska?” I kind of laughed, and he said something like “Just another normal day, right?”
I don’t think that things will ever be politically “normal” again around here—or at least not until the “new normal” is well established. There are too many new people who have taken on too many new roles in the liberty movement and the greater Republican Party in the the state, for things to ever go back to normal. But that’s o.k.—normal isn’t always fun—and boy, have we had some fun! Dreadlocks, body piercings, mohawks are all part of the new Republican landscape in Nebraska. Will they stay? Probably not—we all tend to grow out of those things eventually, and the look will morph into something more conventional. But it’s great to see new ideas—to see Young Republicans who aren’t just trying to be “mini-me’s” of the “big Republicans.”
I wouldn’t give up the friendships that I’ve made in the last 7 months for anything in the world. Even those amongst us who drive me a little crazy, I can’t imagine not having around. They’re good, solid people, who want to make a difference, and if I’m asked to predict, I think they will.
Nebraska’s in the center of it all (no, really, just look at your map ). If we’re any indication, the future is bright for the liberty movement.