Yesterday the Ron Paul rEVOLution was thrown out in the gutter, alongside the storm-bathed protesters carrying 99% signs. Thanks to the RNC's backroom rules changes, the good doctor's delegates were not seated. Supporters' chants of "point of order!" from the convention floor failed to incite a floor fight. Their overwhelming "nay" vote on the rules changes went ignored by John Boehner (R-Leatherette), who gaveled the faint "ayes" into the record books.
Ron Paul and his campaign followed the rules, amassing delegates according to the tradition of their party, to no avail. When the outcome of this quadrennial democratic experiment displeased the donors who'd given the lab funding, the results were dismissed as non-representative. And it is that ownership presence that determined the outcome far more significantly than a podium doublecross yesterday. The endgame began, perhaps, in January, but it was only five days ago that most people took notice.
On August 24, in the exalted biblical tradition of the Philistines, Pharaohs and Satan, the Republican National Convention Rules Committee convened, straightened their ties and willfully chose to ignore that God was trying to murder them. With Motion One—"Who is Yahweh, that I should obey his voice"—unanimously passed by a voice vote, the Rules Committee could move on to less cosmic concerns in their quadrennial effort to further coarsen American life. And while queer-smearer Willard Romney was all smiles, embraced non-homosexually by at least one erstwhile opponent, the knives were out in the smoke-filled room.
Romney caporegime Benjamin Ginsberg, the Bob Balaban clone best-known for his swiftboating acumen, was dispatched to do the dirty work that Friday afternoon: inveigle the Rules Committee into an RNC power grab. Over several hours, Ginsberg successfully forced through a welter of amendments designed to sideline the ruby-red Winter's Bone GOP grassroots—handing control over the party machinery to Willard's set of bloodless suits. Given that, in recent weeks, these patriots have somehow made rape an unsettled issue, this was perhaps not a bad idea. But the base was livid at what North Carolina delegate Drew McKissick called the "complete insider's ballgame," such that the committee chair, cruel country squire and Romney enforcer John Sununu, actually fled the building. Morton Blackwell, a Rules Committee gauleiter best known for mocking John Kerry's war wounds on national television, fumed that Ginsberg was "systematically trying to prevent minorities from having even any remote opportunity of being heard."
This frustration did not suddenly materialize out of thin air. Beyond provoking the historic, first-ever expression of concern for "minorities" at a post-LBJ Republican function, Ginsberg's massacre serves as coda to an underreported narrative that, since February, has been roiling Romney's coronation: that of Texan clocktower sniper Ron Paul, and his unlikely skill in gaming the nominating process. In their quixotic bid to put a fleet-footed Count Chocula in the White House, the gold bug's rabid following of cultists have dramatically crowded delegate slates across the nation. Nearly every one of the arcane amendments proposed by Ginsberg—raising the threshold on dissident "minority reports," binding convention delegates to state caucus results, giving the RNC veto power over rule changes—stanches a tactic employed by Paul, as he seeks to impress his ragamuffin libertarian ethos upon the GOP platform.
Elite-driven voter disenfranchisement: it's a real problem in this banana republic, as bullet-headed replicants like Rick Scott unburden the voter rolls of all their "ethnic" registrees. But finally, at long last, in the brewing slapstick comedy of a convention floor swarming with "LET 'EM DIE" Randroids, we benighted Americans have been gifted with the first feel-good story of democratic erosion. It is a thing of beauty, richly ironic and precious to behold: libertarians, the most potent and energetic reactionary bloc in America today, are seeing their vanguard strung up by the Brooks Brothers mafia, their hard work and clever politicking nullified with a few pen strokes, with little recourse to right this injustice. Just as it is the RNC's right to do, as a private, voluntary organization. In full accordance with orthodox libertarian thought.
As political scientist Corey Robin argues, "Libertarians cannot come to grips with the systemic denial of freedom in private regimes of power, particularly the workplace." Never was this truer than in Tampa, now, in the orange and violet of a post-storm twilight.
Dele-Gate: Ron Paul's Great Rock-N-Roll Swindle
February is the ugliest month in New England and, therefore, in the country. Shut-in Yankees in sagging clapboard homes shoot themselves, each other, each others' dogs. It's not their fault; there's nothing to do. The inland shirt factories and paper mills closed years ago. They're full of rats now. On the coast, the fishermen don't fish, they get their only month off. The snow looks like shit. Exhaust and snow bond to form a new substance that is wet and everywhere.
In primary season, it's always New Hampshire that gets the attention—New Hampshire, a mean, stupid state full of jabbering, joyless people, who only enjoy lying to pollsters, baiting bears, and screwing neighboring economies. In contrast, Mainers, the kindest denizens of New England, are content with the anodyne of Allen's Coffee Brandy, the most depressing liquor ever concocted, neither a best-seller nor even consumed anywhere else on the planet. Most people mix it with 2.5% milk, though for those with a richer palate, you can substitute it with half and half, for a drink called "fat ass in a glass." A few years ago, a lady, drunk beyond belief, dug up her dead boyfriend: "I never would have done that if I hadn't been drinking Allen's," she sobbed.
Clearly, the state was in dire need of the Ron Paul Revolution, and I witnessed the magic first-hand. I can personally account for Paul's strange necromancy one February morning, as he exhorted caucus-goers to hand liberty its first statewide victory. And as surreal as that rally was, it would be the caucus's aftermath—involving thuggish party functionaries, a raucous state convention, and spam folders—that would constitute the first bout in a bizarre struggle that finally resolved this week in Tampa. The rally was the first hint of the long game Paul played.
Out-of-staters usually only come to Maine during the summer, and usually from Massachusetts, to their lakeside dachas on lakeshores only Massholes own. They wear boat shoes and are loud in bars, and tip terribly.They are Romney voters. But the guys with the weird Flobee haircuts, with acne medication prescriptions, with their oddly-bulging polo shirts buttoned all the way to the collar—they are ardent believers in Ron Paul. And on that February morning, driving behind a black Mercedes with New Hampshire plates and a "REVOLution" bumper sticker, it was going to be their world; I was just visiting.
Middle-aged men waving signs on stakes beamed. One older man, wide smile in a fleshy face, very graciously pointed at me, waving a sign saying something about parking. It takes a very precious lack of guile to be happy standing in slush outside a political racketeer's quinceañera. I drove around the campus and parked probably illegally next to a gymnasium. The buildings were all low brutalist structures, a lot of concrete and brick paneling. A plain-looking girl in sweatpants with a ponytail was wobbling down the path from her dorm, a huge laundry bag slung over her shoulder like a miner. It was difficult to discern her feelings on fiat currency.
The faithful all streamed into the same building. A woman with spiky bleached hair passed out pamphlets. I did not care for this at all. Nobody was looking at me—and then I realized why. I look like one of them. A sallow white Bickle in a thick winter coat, the profile of Ron Paul fans and presidential assassins alike. I moved confidently down the hallway of a publicly funded university hall that these people would see shuttered, turned over to Kaplan con-men. Or off-shore sweatshop interests. Or some Lew Rockwell subforum of amateur racial phrenologists.
Say what you will about these people—they had numbers. The place was packed. A very polite crew-cut directed me to the overflow auditorium, and there, in a '70s era lecture hall, was Dr. Paul, in a preposterous sky blue windbreaker, being broadcast via Skype from another auditorium in the next building over. He might as well have been broadcasting from Tora Bora. The grainy footage, poor internet connectivity and heinous leisure suit rendered Paul somewhere between "Star Trek villain appearing on the Enterprise main screen as his ship explodes" and "the video will of castrato Hale-Bopp suicide guru Marshall Applewhite." An Indian-American toddler in front of me had hand-drawn a portrait of Ron Paul. A middle-aged woman pulled her husband out the door, sighing, "Come on, Graham, I can watch him on TV anytime." The Skype connection sputtered in the middle of some point about the G.I. Bill, Paul's face frozen in a horrifying contortion, suggesting some deep physical pleasure. It was all too much to endure.
There was a line out the door of people waiting to get into Paul's auditorium, but clearly I needed to see the show first-hand. I had to think fast—how would a true libertarian solve this problem? I would have to be, in the words of hysterical poetaster Ayn Rand, "A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul." Excising concern for others, ignoring all social conventions, and flouting all standards of fairness, I libertarianly waited until a janitor exited through a locked rear door, then crept in, down a fiat currency-funded hallway, and boldly cut in line, in front of an elderly parasite wearing cataract glasses.
The powder-blue imp was wrapping up his speech, standing between two burly bodyguards who looked like, and possibly were, Neo-Nazis—one, in a brown leather jacket, clipped American flag tie, and crew cut, a dead ringer for one of Martin Sheen's goons in The Dead Zone. But as I waited in line to shake hands with a whingeing race-baiting púca, I overheard something fascinating—by far, the most interesting thing I heard or saw all day. "Excuse me, I promise I'm not cutting," said an avuncular older guy in a suit, as he crossed the line to get his coat, hanging a few feet from me. Another man clapped him on the back, as they shook hands. This guy was with the campaign.
The gist of it was, the campaign felt good about Maine, but not because the suit thought it was going to be the springboard from which Paul would capture the presidency. As the politico told me a few minutes later, after mistaking me as a reporter for the college newspaper, while he obviously wished Paul would be the 45th president, it was a somewhat unlikely prospect. What was within reach, though, was delegate accrual, "The next step." And just as a little girl ahead of me in line had been memorizing state capitals, quizzed by this operative where Carson City is, so too the Paul campaign was scouring the country, researching the byzantine electoral rules of each state.
What I slowly realized was that we Americans have the stupidest electoral system in Christendom, from the party nominating contests right through to the general election. See, the reason Candidate Gollum's team was feeling so good, going up against the well-funded Stormin' Mormon juggernaut, was that, in the best-case scenario, five thousand hard-core GOP activists would caucus, and possibly hand Paul his first state-wide majority. Next best-case scenario, he would perform well, and come in second. And worst-case scenario, he could receive not a single vote and still accrue every single one of Maine's delegates, because Maine's caucus is a non-binding preference poll that has no bearing on the May selection of convention delegates.
As admirably explained in torturous detail by an actual reporter at Arianna Huffington's "Kardashian Klearinghouse," Paul's activists were able, through a "mind-numbing process—caucus vote, county convention, congressional district convention, and then state convention—to overturn the results of the popular vote at the caucus." Paul's followers ultimately managed to stack the decks in Nevada, Maine, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Oklahoma and Iowa, despite Paul's failure to win the popular vote in any of them. For putative "sons of liberty," this sure seems awfully undemocratic. But then, in the words of billionaire Ron Paul sugar daddy Peter Thiel, "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible."
Why exactly did they do this? Well, if a candidate controls at least five state delegations on the convention floor, they can formally nominate that candidate. In the infinitesimally remote possibility of a brokered convention, this could presumably have resulted in Paul's nomination. More realistically, it could have set the stage for a noisy putsch in Tampa, distracting from Romney's best chance to boost his campaign. Setting the standard GOP shibboleths, as embodied in their glass-jawed nominee, on a collision course with Paul's unorthodox foreign policy and ultra-Hobbesian economics, noisily, and in full view of cable news cameras, would have made the 1992 Pat Buchanan "culture war" incident look as quaint as that recent Muppets movie.
All very crafty, how these would-be Galts threaded the loopholes. But they clearly forgot the party to which they belong. And what ensued in the following months, winding inexorably towards the final snuffing of the Ron Paul phenomenon in Tampa, is the Romney establishment's reversal of the paltry gains of political activism in 2012 America.
The Snow Job: How Romney Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Libertarianism
In their zeal, the Paulites really seemed to think there wouldn't be a price for their intransigence, in a party known for liquidating apostates as ruthlessly as Dzerzhinsky. See, an unfortunate byproduct of the plutocrat-Babbit reactionary front is the tendency for the wingnuts to get the idea their voice matters. Incorrect. The running game is simple: the moneyed Bainiacs of the world fly the aspidistra—just as they do in every other aspect of American life—while the unbalanced Birther types lamely chew cud in the background. And nowhere was this hierarchy more hilariously clear than in Maine.
It started on February 11, when state GOP chairman Charlie Webster declared Mitt Romney the winner of the Maine caucus... even though voting had not yet finished. Webster, a herculean specimen of stupidity, dismissed further voting as pointless, reasoning, in the same way simians know twigs can reach grubs their fingers cannot, that, "If Romney lost by 20 votes, would we be having this big discussion?" After it was revealed Webster's voting tabulation was incorrect because some of the results were mistakenly intercepted by his e-mail account's spam filter, Webster refused to release the corrected totals, stating, "People can whine and complain and plead, but I'm not going to make them public." After this statement, for some reason, provoked a backlash, Webster appeared to state that he possibly had no idea what the final vote totals were, as no hard record was kept. "There's no way to recount. These were just slips of paper that were thrown away after."
So subtlety's not the Romneyite strong suit. It doesn't matter, as it hasn't hindered Mittens' path to the nomination. Romney was declared the winner in Iowa—wrongly, as it turned out, but for long enough to derail Santorum's momentum. Romney was declared the winner in Maine, when it's possible he was not. Newt Gingrich briefly opened his porcine maw, so Romney jammed it full of attack ads. And now, the establishment GOP has largely succeeded in destroying any threat Paul delegates could pose, either in the next cycle or in Tampa—seated in the rafters, their delegations either halved or invalidated, and unable to formally nominate the good doctor.
To put it plainly: the hard-right obscurantist libertarians who support Paul—a hobgoblin who would see the sick needlessly die, the elderly eating cat food, and children working on assembly lines—are finally experiencing the blows they'd gladly inflict on the poorest Americans. "Fuck you, I've got mine," libertarians tell us, as they gussy up their foreclosures upon every facet of the American dream, defending our birthright of greed and boundless graft against any demand of restraint. Except when it interferes with a libertarian's own bottom line.
Take a dues-paying member of the Cato Institute/Reason Magazine clique like Julian Sanchez—please. Sanchez, who, as roommates with pimply pork chop Dave Weigel, lived in an apartment dubbed "Casa de los Libertarios" (Spanish for "House of the Virgins"), is fond of impoverishing the sum of English language discourse in creatively unhinged flights of fancy. Could it be, for instance, that "generous benefits programs....are actually fuelling [sic] hostility to immigrants?" While Sanchez admirably tells these Mexicans to pound sand, he couldn't seem to understand why lefties made fun of him when, faced with the probable takeover of his employer by the Koch Brothers, he worried... gulp… that he'd be subject to workplace coercion! As the always-sparkling Corey Robin distills it: "When the Kochs wield their money at Cato, that's hegemony. But when they do it in Wisconsin, that's democracy."
In defending jug-eared Governor Scott Walker's efforts to strip Wisconsin workers of the right to collectively bargain, Paul argued that unions have "the right to organize and meet and talk... but they can't use force, so they don't have a right to force themselves on others.... [Walker is] taking away the power they've artificially accumulated over the years." I can't think of a better way to describe Paul's delegate accumulation, and I must laud the Romney camp for their principled revocation of this power. Milton Friedman would've been proud.
The Paultards are apoplectic at being arbitrarily coerced by the leaders of an organization they have voluntarily joined—a scenario they are oddly unconcerned about when it occurs to union members and cancer patients, as a direct result of their Rollerball theory of economics. Paul shrieks that any expansion of the welfare state signals that "we're slipping into a fascist system," in which the government suppresses "the individual rights of each and every American." Then by all means, lead the fight for freedom; you can start by burning those Social Security checks you have an irksome habit of cashing.
In other words: fuck you, Ronny! Taste the delicious irony, savor the send-off curb stomping a bunch of castaway Gordon Gekkos have given you from the GOP. Hope you had fun at your University of South Florida picnic, because it was also your "forced retirement" party. Over and out. If untrammeled freedom in the private sector is what libertarians demand, with no recourse of social solidarity or government protection, so shall you too, Ronald Ernest Paul, know the abridged freedom every anxious, exploited American has been enjoying in the "despotism of the workshop"—at your loud behest.