What little commentary we’ve seen from the media on Ron Paul’s silent coup presently underway in the Republican Party has focused mostly on its implications for the 2012 Republican Primary and whether Paul can hold back Romney’s delegate count just long enough to ensure a brokered convention, which is the only feasible scenario in which Paul could emerge as the party’s nominee.
But perhaps more important and far-reaching in its implications for the future of national politics in the US, is not Ron Paul’s delegate count, but the fact that his supporters are successfully taking over the Republican Party district by district, county by county, state by state. That the fiercely independent Republican congressman from Texas might still have a tiny chance at winning his party’s nomination, while interesting, is less important than what he will most certainly have succeeded at doing: Ron Paul has built a political machine.
Judging by recent events in state and local GOP conventions across the country, it may not be at all presumptuous for Ron Paul’s supporters to call their burgeoning movement a revolution.
In Iowa, it is no exaggeration to say that Ron Paul’s people have taken over the GOP. After a stunning coup on April 21st, the new Iowa GOP state central committee now has six members who have publicly expressed support for Ron Paul’s candidacy– and that includes the new state chair of the Iowa Republican Party, A. J. Spiker, the former vice chairman for Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign! Think about that. This is major news. It signals a sea change in the Republican Party. We are now living in a world where the head of the Republican Party of Iowa is a Ron Paul supporter.
And it’s not just Iowa, though Iowa is especially significant because of its prominent role in the national primary process. Ron Paul’s supporters are taking over the Republican Party everywhere. This weekend during the April 28th district conventions, Ron Paul supporters also took over the GOP in Louisiana, with not a bare majority, but a whopping 74% of the delegates to Louisiana’s state convention in June. You can bet they’ll show up and you can bet they’ll elect their own to positions of leadership in the state GOP.
It’s the same story in Alaska, where the Ron Paul movement took over the Republican Party’s state convention on Saturday, and elected two Ron Paul supporters to the positions of state chair and co-chair, Russ Millete and Debbie Holland-Brown, respectively. Even in Mitt Romney’s own home state of Massachusetts, Ron Paul’s movement swept the state’s district conventions Saturday, and stacked the slate of delegates bound to vote for Romney on the first ballot in Tampa with activists who will vote for Ron Paul on the second ballot if there’s a brokered convention.
Looking back further to mid-April, Paul’s supporters also dominated conventions in Minnesota and made a strong showing in Colorado. Looking ahead, Paul’s supporters are poised to continue repeating their successful takeover strategy at the Nevada State GOP’s convention this weekend, and careful observers should look out for more possible surprises in the upcoming Texas and California processes, especially with the likelihood of Newt Gingrich’s withdrawal from the race, leaving Ron Paul as the only alternative to an electorate that is hardly enamored with Mitt Romney.
Again, the bigger story here is not Ron Paul’s chances at winning his party’s nomination, but his supporters’ marked success at winning control over the party apparatus itself.
Another important angle here is that what we’re seeing happen in states all over the country completely disproves the pervasive narrative that Ron Paul’s supporters are computer-bound, “armchair activists” that can win online polls but just never show up to vote in person. In fact, we can infer from their apparent tenacity that Ron Paul supporters are actually more energetic than typical Republicans, more likely to show up and vote, and more likely to get more deeply involved in the political process by becoming delegates and attending party conventions at every geographic level.
It now looks more like Paul has suffered in state-wide primaries and straw poll votes not because his supporters lack the energy and follow-through to vote, but because they are merely still outnumbered by voters more inclined to choose one of Paul’s opponents. But while Paul’s camp is outnumbered by people more likely to vote for a Romney or a Santorum on election day, the number of such voters with the energy to get as deeply involved as possible in the party process now appears lower than the number of Ron Paul supporters willing to do the same in states everywhere.
Whether media commentators consider this change a good or bad thing for the Republican Party and for the future of American politics, they have an obligation to report it to their audiences and acknowledge just how significant this change is. We are witnessing no less than a political revolution in the country and a major shift in the GOP’s internal composition. For two election cycles now, Paul’s supporters were an outside minority that had to make their case to the party establishment. It looks like in 2014 and 2016, Republican candidates will have to make their case to Ron Paul supporters in many places.
Start looking for more of Ron Paul’s platform of limited government, individual liberty, and constitutional rule-of-law in the rhetoric and on the agendas of candidates, policy-makers, and party leaders at every level of American government in the years to come.
The Grand Old Party is becoming a Grand New Party.