Sunday, June 15, 2008

2008 Republican State Convention (part 2)

Lunch was uneventful, I drove aimlessly around venting over the phone about how incredibly wrong everything seemed. Eventually, I stopped and ate, then headed back to the convention hall. On the way back inside, I passed the "Lunch on Table Rock" delegate soiree and could hear the music and what sounded like a live lounge singer doing assorted favorites from the Wayne Newton catalogue (or maybe some of Tony Orlando's classics). I wasn't disappointed to have missed it. Going back to the convention hall, my morale was not what it had been earlier in the day. As far as I knew, the only thing left to do was to approve the Party Platform, and since there wouldn't be any amendments or discussion, there didn't really seem to be much reason to return, but I had decided to go ahead and put in my time. I worked my way back toward my seat, hoping to find the area vacant, so I could settle in for a few minutes before everything started again. Unfortunately, there were four or five people gathered there. Most of them were my fellow county delegates who had been sitting near me, but one man was from somewhere else. He stood outside our district area, resting his forearms on the barrier between us. The group was deep in discussion, as I approached I heard the woman who had been sitting at my right side say "Yeah, I know! We've got two of them in our group!" she patted my seat for emphasis, and continued "I don't know how they got in!". About this time I passed by them and sat down. They were suddenly quiet. One of the men said, "not to change the subject, but..." and it went on from there.

Since the convention I've wondered what I was being portrayed as in that conversation. I wouldn't be surprised or bothered by being labeled as "one of those Ron Paul people", but I am a little concerned that they may think I'm a Democrat spy. There was a paper being distributed around the convention containing an article trying to connect Ron Paul to Barack Obama based on a link on a "meet-up" website. Upon the most basic investigation, the link they mention is actually in a directory of all the other "meet-up groups" on the site, and is in no other way directly related to the "Ron Paul meet-up" page. Maybe the article's author just didn't understand how website navigation works, but in light of what Bob told me earlier, it looks like are efforts afoot to invent some sort of Obama/Paul conspiracy to infiltrate the Republican party! The main reason this bothers me is that if they get this notion into their heads, they're going to see me as an enemy more than someone who's just misguided, and I'll be completely shut-out. Given the nature of my relationship with the party, one may wonder why I would see that as such a bad thing.

It was getting close to time to start up again, and we were still missing a man. It was a guy I had talked to during the break, he said he wasn't sure he was going to come back, since it didn't look like there would be anything for us to do. The club president came down the row, doing an inspection, and saw the empty seat, it was mentioned, and the man sitting next to the seat said "this guy hasn't been voting on anything! He just sits there". "Well, that's why he shouldn't be here" she replied, adding paradoxically "he's new. You've got to come to a few of these things to figure out how they work." She returned to her seat and the convention reconvened. For at least the first hour there were a series of speakers. I suppose it's good to get to the know the candidates, but I'm more interested in how they're going to do their job than how happily married they are, or if they "grew up on a small farm" as one particularly earnest candidate repeated several times. I have known a lot of people who grew up on small farms, and some of them are good, hard working people, but some of them are sticky-fingered meth addicts. Saying that doesn't impress, or tell, me anything except that you must not have anything worthwhile to say. I don't blame the woman to my right for falling asleep. On the positive side, the speeches did give people - including the guy missing from our row - time to distribute the three amendments to the Party Platform which, to my surprise, had managed to be printed out in time (maybe they were printed ahead of time?). Once the speakers had wrapped up it came time to get back to the business at hand, examining the proposed amendments to the platform.

One of the amendments offered more specific wording to an existing statement, which originally read that the Republican Party supports "Efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice." The amendment would have removed the period from the end of that sentence and added " using pell grants, tax incentives, or whatever means necessary to give all parents, no matter what their income, the opportunity to choose the best education for their children. No child should be trapped in a school where they cannot succeed." Oddly, most of the debate around me had to do with whether or not this would be exploited by college students, which was something I hadn't considered, because it had seemed directed at children in public schools. The idea of using the Pell Grants was also reviled. It didn't pass.

Another amendment was submitted to remove the wording stating that the Missouri Republican Party supports "Legislation to prohibit all human cloning." and replace it with "A constitutional amendment to prohibit all human cloning at any stage from the one-cell stage forward." Again, the amendment seemed to be trying to add some specificity to the wording in the Platform, but it was voted down because, according to one speaker, the medical definition of cloning already refers to anything from the one-cell stage forward.

The convention was revitalized by the third proposed amendment, which, if passed, would state that the Missouri Republican Party supports "Replacing all income, pay-roll, and death taxes with the FairTax on new goods and services above the value of basic necessities and any need for the Internal Revenue Service." An excited murmuring washed through the crowd, eyes gleamed, there were giddy chuckles all around. There was discussion. What exactly is the FairTax? Nobody seemed clear, and the ones I talked to, who had some idea, said it was just another Federal Tax, which didn't quite work for them. A proposal to amend the amendment was made, and passed (at least I believe it passed, things were getting a little chaotic and hard to keep track of). It now read "Replacing all taxes with the FairTax on new goods and services, exempting the basic necessities, thereby ending any need for the Internal Revenue Service." The faithful party members around me beamed with the childlike exhilaration of being naughty, "Can we do this? I don't think we can even do this." "It looks like we are doing this!" The vote was extremely close, but the amendment was shot down "by about two votes", in one estimation.

Following the presentation of amendments submitted to the Platform, there was an opportunity to hear what resolutions had been submitted to the Platform. As it was explained to me, resolutions are very similar to amendments, except that they are attached to the Platform instead of written into it, and aren't taken as seriously. Five resolutions were submitted. By this time the crowd was getting restless. The first resolution, dealt with teaching our "true" national history in schools, and making sure money given to schools would improve education instead of expanding facilities. There was a little debate, questioning: "who determines what the 'true' history is?" and raising concerns: "this sounds like it could be used as a way to push political correctness". The resolution was defeated by a large margin. The second resolution was a request that our elected officials abide by the Party Platform and strive with every decision to ask themselves "will this protect or harm the liberty of the citizenry". The point was made that this is what these officials are supposed to do anyway, and the resolution was deemed unnecessary. The next two resolutions were variations on the previous one, but each was longer than the last. I couldn't help laughing each time the chairman paused before reading the next section of the second, and most epic, of these. There were at least five false endings, and each time he resumed, the groans from the audience got louder. The fifth resolution was announced, but before it could be read someone called out a "motion to adjourn", and with a swift vote, the convention was over.

Before dismissing us, the chairman gave an appreciative little speech to wrap things up and send everyone home happy. He thanked the staff from the venue, and the volunteers who set things up for the convention, he thanked the candidates for getting up and speaking to all of us, he thanked us for coming and being such great Republicans. He reminded us all just what being a member of the party meant, and I could hardly believe it. "We are the party of free thinkers and strong individuals. We don't expect everyone to be in lock-step or toe the party line." The cheers and applause rose to a final crescendo as the faithful firmly patted themselves on the back, basking in this absolving anointment.

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