I’ve written about it a slew of times; I grew up in a Democrat household. I became a conservative in college (perhaps the only person in recent western civilization to have been converted to conservatism by an English professor). I left the GOP in 1995, disgusted by the GOP caving in on the 1994 Cxrime Bill and other Clinton-era fripperies. I became a big-L LIbertarian.
I stayed in the party for four years. I left because I realized that while the LIbertarian Party believed in an absolutely purest form of what I believed in, I also figured out that if what I believed in fell in a forest and an infinitesmal minority heard it, it’d never matter.
So I went back to the GOP. I figured I’d sully my pristine principles a little, and have a shot at getting the rest of my principles – as many as possible – at least a hypotehtical shot of getting passed into law. I would do my little bit to fight for the conservative, Reaganesque soul of the GOP. I was one of the little group of libertarian-conservatives, fiscalcons and other conservatives tthat were .
I didn’t get everything I wanted. But I – we – got a lot; a GOP that fumigated itself of the miasma of Arne Carlson, fought for limiting the size of government and, to an extent that Minnesota had not seen in decades, succeeded; we inviegled Tim Pawlenty to move to the right to stave off a spirited challenge from oour guy, Brian Sullivan; we exacted a No New Taxes pledge from Pawlenty, and largely got him to stick to it, even when he was outnumbered two chambers to zero.
Not a bad decade, all in all. Perfect? No – but way better than it would have been otherwise.
The Minnesota GOP is in the middle of…well,l not an “epic battle for its soul”, really. A tug of war, really – between the people who’ve been running the party since about 2002, whoever they are, and the “Ron Paul crowd”. It’s a tug of war with some fairly exposed emotions; in 2008, many “establishment” Republicans fought very hard to exclude the Paul contingent from the conventions, from BPOU level all the way up to the state convo. And on their site, not a few Paul supporters (sometimes called, with varying degrees of affection, “Paulbots” due to the personality cult-like attitude of some Paul supporters, including some pretty notable ones) advanced some ideas that traditional conservatives found anathemic; Libertarians are a lot more “live and let live” on social issues like abortion and gay marriage than traditional conservatives. There was bound to be some conflict – and there was.
The Paul crowd has bounced back this year and made a huge impact on the MNGOP, taking most of the delegate and many of the executive seats in the Congressional District conventions. And it’s causing all sorts of people to ask questions.
One of them is “Average Andy”, a guy I met on Twitter, a tweep and blogger with a background not too far different than mine, at least up until 1998ish or so. Andy, asks:
I have a serious question for my Republican friends… I have been given the riot act from countless Republicans about my views on Presidential candidates. I’ve been told that I MUST vote Republican for a whole host of reasons. I may not like the candidate, but the Democrat will always be worse. I’ve never been much of a pragmatist in elections, and these conversations drive me as crazy as my vote drives these Republicans crazy, if not more.
On the one hand – by all means vote your conscience.
On the other hand, that’s one of the problems that many of the Republilcan activists are genuinely, and legitimately, upset about; the idea the that party many of us worked very, very hard for is being taken over, for now, by people who will - as Andy admits he himself did – vote for a third party candidate if “his” Republican doesn’t get nominated, and who can say “there’s no difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama” with a straight face,
It’s just not true. Romney is a northeastern conservative, which means he’s pro-business, pro-law-and-order, and more comfortable with big governnment than a lot of us Western Conservatives. And the knock-down drag-primary has helped push him to the right, to surmount the challenges from more conservative candidates, and to try to win over people who really wanted Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Perry – even Ron Paul.
That’s all to the good.
Now – not a few Paul supporters (and yes, Santorum and Gingrich supporters, all of whom should know better) have claimed they’ll sit out the presidential election (or vote for some fringe-right third-party, which is the same thing), if not the whole race. They think – wrongly – that a Romney administration will be the same as an Obama one.
More on that later.
But Andy – who avers that he followed up his support for Paul in the 2008 race by voting Constitution Party – does in fact show the flip side of that coin.
Despite the way my fellow Ron Paul supporters were treated in 2008, I repeated the process in 2010 in order to be a part of selecting a candidate for Governor. I didn’t know the candidates well, as I tend not to follow state politics nearly as closely as I follow national politics. However, I had made a lot of connections two years prior in the process and befriended a lot of people who were out in 2008 to support Ron Paul…To a man, they were all behind Tom Emmer, and I threw my support behind Emmer. Despite the fact that he lost, I have no regrets.
And the fact is that for all of the concern about among traditional Republicans that Paul supporters were single-candidate one-trick ponies, many of the mainstays of the Emmer campaign, and many people who have and are invaluable to the GOP today, are people who came to party politics in 2008 via Paul, and 2009 via the Tea Party.
2012 rolled around and I got into the mix again. I was unhappy with my experience four years prior, and was tempted to forget the whole thing, but ultimately decided to give my fellow Republicans another shot. I had made many connections in 2008, and met a lot of people. Most of which were friendly toward me and seemed happy to have me in the process. However, when my support for Ron Paul would come up in conversation, defensive walls would immediately go up. There were, and are, strong stereotypes of Ron Paul supporters, many of which are unfair – based on a very small minority of fellow Paul supporters.
Andy’s right – see my previous graf – and also a bit dismissive of some of the concerns some of the “establishment” have.
An awful lot of Paul supporters don’t thnk there’s a significant difference between “establishment” Republicans and Democrats.
Not a few fairly significant Paul supporters in the MNGOP also advance some views that “regular” Republicans find noxious; I’ve run into Holocaust deniers and some fairly noxious anti-Semites. Of course they’re not the majority of the movement – but there are enough of them, and they are prominent enough, that it gets people a little standoffish.
A few significant Paul supporters – one in particular – have been carrying out witch hunts attacking Republicans they don’t consider acceptably and unquestioningly adoring enough of Ron Paul and every single point of his platform. OK, them I can handle myself – but you might wanna have a word with ‘em. Because there are a lot of you – but not enough to win any offices by yourself.
More commonly? Many who’ve been involved with the party have tallked with many in the current wave of Paul supporters at the BPOU level, and found many – by no means all – of them to be focused almost exclusively on the Presidential election. Which is fine – it’s important, and it’s one of the things you do when you’re involved in the party endorsement process. But we’ve noticed less interest and concern in the activities that are the blocking and tackling of Congressional District politics – getting Republicans elected to Congress - to say nothing of the BPOU level (doing the door-knocking and phone-calling and grunt work that gets State Legislators and Senators elected). It’s why I wrote my “Open Letter To Ron Paul supporters in CD4” a few weeks back; on the off chance that Ron Paul doesn’t get the nomination, it’d be great to see that wave of enthusiasm turn out to support whomever gets nominated to run for Senate, for Congress, and for the State Legislature – by doing what a political party does, even if one doesn’t have absolute control over it. By supporting people that you don’t agree with 1000%, based on the ideal that someone you agree with 70% of the time is not your 30% enemy, but your 70% ally.
The reaction to that post, by the way, was just about the most interesting of any post I’ve ever written. I got a lot of compliments – from traditional Republicans and not a few Paul supporters – and a little bit of hate mail as well.
Some Paul supporters objected to my use of the word “Paulbot”. Enh. I didn’t invent the term. There was no offense intended, but life’s tough, and politics ain’t beanbag, and wear a freaking helmet. The Dems will call you much, much worse (once they stop seeing you as wedges to undercut the GOP, like their revenge for that whole “Green Party” thing, anyway).
Others took offense that I’d presume they won’t turn out to help downticket races. Well, good. The whole article was a challenge. I’d be more than happy to have the entire inference disproved in spades. I’ll apologize, in public and on the air, at Tony Hernandez’ victory party. Or Carlos Conway’s. Hell, both.
To put it more bluntly; I’ll look forward to seeing the “establishment’s” conventional wisdom about the Paul contingent proven wrong. Indeed, I’ll do my level best to help them do it.
If you, GOPer, want me to go back to staying out of your way, and voting Constitution Party for President, I will be happy to do so. If you want me to stay involved in the process, and put in the work to make my voice heard in 2014 when we’re looking for a candidate to unseat Mark Dayton, I will be happy to do so. What I am not happy to do is to get involved, but echo your voice. If my role in the GOP is to be a yes-man, check in with you on which candidates to support and what work to do for your precious party, count me out!
Excellent! And given that Paul supporters have taken wide control of much of the BPOU and CD apparatus around the state, you’re probably in a good position to call some of those shots. But be that as it may, I’m more than willing to hash out the differences face to face, rather than through parliamentary skullduggery (which I opposed, then and now).
In return? Please stop pretending that any candidate that isn’t 100% yours is in no way different from the evil we’re all hypothetically fighting against – at least not without showing how that’s true, and being open to the idea that it’s to some degree or another false. There are a lot of us in the GOP are small-l libertarians who don’t care for Ron Paul, but have high hopes for his son. Have some respect for the good work that came before you – because plenty did, in fact, come before you.
And learn to get along with some cognitive dissonance. When I came back to the GOP as a libertarian conservative, I ran into not a few single-issue pro-life voters who coudln’t understand why I wanted to pass concealed carry reform or stop subsidizing stadiums. They took convincing. They, in turn, and to work to convince me on a few things. Everyone learned.
The GOP – especially in the 4th and 5th CDs – needs a ton of help; having the Paul contingent turn some of that energy toward winning that race would bury a lot of hatchets.