The grandiose banner hanging over Wisconsin Republican Chairman Reince Priebus sent a clear message to everyone gathered in the convention hall: This is John McCain territory. The party had made it's choice, the faithful would fall in line behind him, Stevens Point would become the first step their march to assured defeat in November, and dissent would not be tolerated.
The May 17th Republican Convention gathered delegates from many of Wisconsin's seventy-two counties for John McCain pep rallies, and to solidify proposed resolutions that would become part of the party's platform. And while Chairman Priebus opened with words of impending presidential victory, and beaming pride in a party as great as this, it was interesting to note that nearly half of the seats sat empty. Many had not bothered to make the trip to the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Stevens Point.
Discord arose almost immediately with a challenge to the legitimacy of the resolutions to be voted on. A lone dissenter, seemingly on the verge of tears accused the collection of State Party Leadership of drawing up the resolutions behind closed doors, and expressed his outrage that the channels by which proposed resolutions are decided upon (as laid out in the Party Constitution) were ignored.
And so too was the plea ignored by chairman Priebus, who allowed no challenge to the legality of the resolutions as they stood, and in effect, told the man to sit down and shut up. The lone dissenter, momentarily refusing to be stonewalled insisted that justice be done, even as Priebus' gavel beat upon the podium, along with verbal warnings that the man was out of order. Why would this man think that the Party would adhere to it's own constitution with it's track record to eviscerating the U.S. Constitution?
That is how it began, and from there one could guess how the rest of the day would go.
Challenges over the resolutions themselves began with a Pastor, Richard Church (acting Chair from Adams County), who refused to go along with praising the Bush/Cheney regime, pointing out a myriad of obvious failings by the administration to uphold traditional Republican principles: the aggressive interventionist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sweeping loss of civil liberties, mammoth government expansion, and a doubling of the national debt- which in the Pastor's own words “is no small feat”. Church would show himself be a powerful vocal opponent throughout the day.
Pastor Church's factual objections were answered with shallow, emotive, almost slobbering love for the president- a “great man”, our “protector”, and the obligatory speeches that begin with “since 9/11…”
Yet this resolution of commendation passed like all the others that would soon follow. With herd-like unity, the yea's resound throughout the convention hall with a crisp and almost mechanical efficiency, as though rolling their support for the Neo-Con agenda off an assembly line of ideology. The resolution could have been written so as to proclaim George W. Bush the second coming of Christ, and would have passed.
The nay's by comparison sounded lonely and distant, perhaps like that of Ron Paul among his peers in the House. One disgusted delegate quipped “All in favor, say BAAAAA!”, while the Pastor's partner in liberty, and Adams County Treasurer Chris Rye (Co-Creator of the incredible The High Tide' ad) would later sum it up well, by publically denouncing the convention attendees as “…all a bunch of sheep!”
Adams County would not be alone in refusing to tow the Party line. Other heros, hailing from Milwaukee, Dane, Vernon, and Rock counties brought challenges to every resolution dealing with War in Iraq, Patriot Act, and John McCain's legitimacy as a Republican Candidate, among others. Racine County would have brought objections as well, had not the County Chairman refused to recognize Congressional hopeful Joe Baker, prompting the eccentric candidate to tape a sign over his mouth to let everyone know he was “Gagged in Racine”.
Although hopelessly outnumbered by the Neo-Con faithful, the liberty-minded Constitutionalists made their presence felt, often carrying out debates for the entire allotted 15 minutes in an apparently futile attempt bring the party to it's senses. These attempts however, were scorned, laughed at, mocked, and ignored. The hardliners rolled out their typical talking points rhetoric, like puppets on the hand of the Great Leader' himself.
In this place, the horrors of the Bush Administration are accepted without challenge. It is all done for peace, democracy, and freedom- for America. In a sad attempt to rebut the voices of freedom, one Party insider declared that “We need to give up some freedom to have freedom”. There is a strange logic going on here, and within the first half hour of discussion it had become evident that most of those gathered here have no purview of reality beyond that of the sacred Party.
The “Commendation for Senator McCain” also met with intense opposition. A Milwaukee County delegate (and co-author of the infamous “NoWayMcCain Resolution”) was booed and jeered when he dared to remind the assembly of McCain's pro-abortion, fiscally irresponsible, and pro-amnesty voting record. Others came to his aid, citing McCain's most notable bills as those co-authored by Democrats, many of which are brazenly unconstitutional.
“All in favor say BAAAAAA!” And thus the bleating solidified McCain as their man. Facts would not get in the way of this crowd.
The resolutions in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the U.S.A. Patriot Act brought on some of the liveliest debate of the day. The wars were universally decried by the Paul people, who cogently argued the unconstitutionality of such aggressive interventionist wars, and rejected the notion that it makes us safer. And while party faithful paid the obligatory lip service to the sanctity of human life, only the dissidents condemned the wanton destruction of untold millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani lives.
When the resolution for the support of the Patriot Act arose, so did Dane County delegate Calvin Anderson, who objected to the resolution's presumption that the unconstitutional piece of legislation is to be given credit for our not having another terrorist attack. Richard Church pointed out that the bulk of prosecutions that have occurred under the diabolical act had been used on American citizens for crimes that have nothing to do with terrorism. Vernon County delegate Adam Bachman asked if any of them had ever read the bill, as neither did the Congress before they had passed it. Chris Rye and others pointed to it's systematic dismantling of the Constitution, but it was talking to the deaf.
Proponents of the wars and the Patriot Act offered more of the usual throughout the debate: “necessary tool to combat terrorism”, “George Bush is trying to protect us”, and of course “since 9/11…” But what they were really saying was: “the Constitution be damned”, a sentiment that appears to have permeated the congregation.
Even when friendly amendments were offered to existing resolutions, the Ron Paul revolutionaries were shot down with the rancorous tenacity of a suicide bomber. When Vernon Delegate Adam Bachman offered an industrial hemp amendment to the “Climate Change and Environment” resolution, the callow Priebus mocked, “I'm sorry, I thought you said industrial hemp?” prompting the typical childish snickering that was the standard reaction to radical' ideas that aren't Party Approved'.
Nonetheless, Bachman courageously went on to make a powerfully coherent and reasoned case for it's exploration as alternative fuel and clothing source, citing it's durability as a fabric, and noting Wisconsin's role as a key producer of hemp during World War II.
But ignorance won the day, as whisperings of “marijuana” and “smoking dope” suffused the majority. In the minds of the party hacks, Bachman was proposing the legalization of pot.
Bachman had earlier attempted to strike the government from the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” resolution, but he had forgotten that the Neo-Republican party is no longer the small government, pro-2nd amendment party of old.
To point out the hypocrisy of just having passed a virulently pro-Patriot Act resolution with worshipful adoration, Chris Rye moved for a simple inclusion of the words “granted by the U.S. Constitution” in the “Personal Liberty” resolution. “You guys ever heard of the Founding Fathers?” an irritated Rye chided them. It's doubtful if anyone but the Paul dissidents know what the U.S. Constitution is. Even this basic suggestion was eventually shot down.
At the end of the day, it took four hours to pass forty resolutions for the 2008 platform, thanks to the Paul supporters who wouldn't remain quiet. For them, it was a four hour education as to the psychology of a party steeped in arrogance, hypocrisy, ignorance, and mindless devotion. “At least we got them thinking”, obstructed Racine delegate Joe Baker commented afterwards.
“I doubt it,” was all I could reply. God help Ron Paul at the national convention.Tweet
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