Are Ron Paul supporters sabotaging the GOP?

by Davis Dyer

Are followers of Ron Paul sabotaging the Republican Party?

Those who are disinclined to support Ron Paul tend to attach a variety of more or less derisive appellations — “Paulbots”, “Paul-ers”, “Paulinistas”, or “Paulistinians” to cite a few — to those who do support him and/or his Campaign for Liberty (C4L). The Oregon C4L chapter has been a component of the Tea Party movement from its inception in 2009 (although the web site appears to be devoid of activity since 2010) and a flood of Paul supporters have expanded the ranks of Oregon Republican PCPs, including here in Marion County.

Although Ron Paul, himself, had less of an impact on this year’s Republican presidential sweepstakes than he did in 2008 and he has all but abandoned his quest for the nomination, his loyal following shows no sign of backing off. Instead, they have turned their attention to the state conventions where the Republican Party selects delegates to the national convention. To describe their campaign to elevate Ron Paul to be the nominee of the Republican Party for president as anything less than insanity is to be too charitable. The campaign rests on so many false premises and readings of the rules that to avoid pointing them out does a disservice to them and the party.

Most of the misunderstanding centers around the RNC’s Rule 38 and the nature of binding delegates. The rule states, at least in relevant part (in other words, I don’t know if this is the entire rule): “No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule.” To confound matters even further, in 2008, one identified as legal counsel to the convention stated, “[The] RNC does not recognize a state’s binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a free agent who can vote for whoever [sic] they choose.”

Will Ron Paul supporters violate their pledge to Mitt Romney?

While this may come as a shock to those who are trying to read into the rule something that isn’t there, a plain reading of the rule reveals that it says nothing about requiring delegates to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. Yes, the rule could have used a less-ambiguous or loaded (at least in the current context) term than “bound”, but, hey, this rule has been on the books since 1964! The rule quite obviously is speaking to “the unit rule”, stating that the RNC will not permit any state delegation to force all of its members to cast their votes under the pretense of such a rule. “What is the unit rule?” you may ask. Who cares? No state is imposing anything that could be interpreted as a “unit rule” on its delegation. Therefore, even if Paul fanatics were successful in compelling the RNC to enforce Rule 38, they still would not be legally released from the pledges they made at the state or Congressional district conventions.

What then to make of the statement by the RNC legal counsel? The statement was made in the context of a dispute at the 2008 convention in Minneapolis when a delegate from Utah, who was pledged to McCain, cast his vote instead for Romney. To put it a bit more bluntly, the counsel essentially said, “The RNC couldn’t care less about the incident; the delegate is under the authority of the URP, not the RNC. Whatever sanctions he faces will come from them.” By the way, were that to happen in the Oregon delegation, such a violation of one’s pledge would result in a $10,000 fine levied by the State of Oregon for the crime of false swearing.

Delegates to the national convention attend for us

Aside from the above grave flaws in their case against the RNC, the Paul supporters flagrantly misrepresent what it means to have the privilege to attend the national convention as a voting delegate. To be a delegate is to act on behalf of someone other than oneself. To characterize any delegate, as did the so-called RNC legal counsel above, as a “free agent” is absolutely wrong. The 28 Oregon delegates convening in Tampa at the end of August are there as agents of the more than 280,000 Republican voters who cast ballots this last May. More than 70% of those voters (204,176) chose Mitt Romney. While in all other business to come before the convention the delegates are more or less on their own, only upon dispatch of their vote for the candidate to whom they themselves made their pledge are they finally free to “vote their conscience”.

A couple of notes about the lawsuit filed recently by the group “Lawyers for Ron Paul”. The suit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California. The lawyers chose this court simply because they are qualified to practice law in California. Yet none of the plaintiffs who have any standing to bring suit are residents of California. Oops! In addition, they are bringing suit under federal election and voting rights laws, particularly Title 42 §§ 1971 and 1984. Yet, because the RNC is a private organization, its rules for selecting officers and delegates for the purpose of conducting its business are not subject to federal laws. Title 42 can only be brought to bear against the elections that were conducted under the auspices of the states in which they were held; but in that case, neither the RNC nor the state Republican parties are legitimate defendants, but rather the state elections divisions. Oops and oops!

What shall we make of all this? I’m sure that some of these people sincerely believe that Ron Paul is the best candidate. Fortunately — or unfortunately — the vast majority of Republican voters across the nation beg to differ. Nationally, Mr. Paul garnered less than 10% of the votes cast in all the primaries and caucuses this year. That is less than what Newt Gingrich received. He did not win one state, although his followers did manage to wrest a majority of delegates from the states of Maine and Iowa whose caucuses were non-binding, i.e. the selection of delegates at the state conventions did not have to align to the number of votes cast in the earlier caucuses (they were open to any and all comers, anyway, so who really cared?).

His supporters try to pump up Paul’s support among younger voters, non-affiliated voters, and even Democrats. To no avail since Republican voters turned him down cold. If they believe that by their refusal to vote for Romney they would devastate Republican efforts to defeat Obama, just what do they think would result if even just half of those who rejected Mr. Paul in the primaries refused to vote for him in November?

Republican voters overwhelmingly believe that Mitt Romney will be our 45thpresident. No machinations, no manipulation of party rules, and no lawsuits are going to change that evaluation. Guerrilla tactics that only seek to undermine the strength and enthusiasm of the party have no place in our strategy to win back the country. There is too much at stake this time.