A war of ideas at the GOP convention?
Will Romney’s coronation as nominee be marred by a nasty platform fight?
by Jayel Aheram
Despite winning no states or even a significant number of delegates, supporters of Rep. Ron Paul are gearing up for a major war of ideas at the Republican National Convention which takes places next week starting Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla. In the center of the ideological conflict is the official Republican Party platform to be approved during that convention—and potentially problematic for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney if Paul supporters have their way.
The official platform cements the policies and priorities for the GOP for the next four years and includes policy prescriptions for issues of national importance such as the economy, foreign affairs, and as well as wedge issues to capture influential voting blocs such as social values voters and pro-life groups who have been historically dominant voices in the party. The platform theoretically dictates the actions of its members, including the presidential nominee, once approved at the convention. For Romney—as unlikely as it will be—it might mean running on an antiwar or anti-indefinite detention platform if the notoriously energetic Paul contingent actually manages to win some of their platform battles.
In a conference call to delegates and alternates on Sunday, Ron Paul national campaign manager John Tate declared a number of victories ahead of the official platform committee meeting which will take place early this week. According to Matthew Hurtt, an at-large GOP delegate from Virginia and Daily Caller columnist, Tate indicated concessions on the platform, including an audit of the Federal Reserve and opposition to indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). Tate also revealed that wording is being drafted that addresses Internet freedom, requirement of a Congressional declaration of war in foreign conflicts, and the formation of a gold commission.
When asked about the chances of any of these planks being adopted, Hurtt said he was optimistic, “I think we’re in a good position to make some headway in the GOP.” He added that with Chris Stearns as part of the Platform Committee, there is a very good chance of partial victories. Stearns, state coordinator for the Paul campaign in Virginia, was elected to the Platform Committee in June and is reported to be working closely with committee chair Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Last month, McDonnell publicly acknowledged the influence of the Paul campaign on the platform, according to the Washington Times:
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the rise of the tea party and Rep. Ron Paul’s supporters within the Republican Party will push the GOP platform this year to focus more on matters such as the deficit and constitutional liberties.
He said there is about 80 percent overlap of ideas between traditional conservatives within the party and the libertarian wing, and that his goal is to produce a document that both sides say “reflects, in essence, the views that we have.”
The efforts seems to be paying off as Romney’s campaign announced today that Romney supports audit of the Federal Reserve. The Hill reports:
The presumptive Republican presidential candidate made clear that he favored a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve, attaching himself to growing pet cause of conservatives and liberals alike.
“The answer is yes to that, very plain and simple,” he said when asked if it was time to audit the Fed at a town hall in Manchester, N.H. “The Federal Reserve should be accountable. We should see what they’re doing.”
The question is, will this be enough for Paul supporters? Will this victory mollify libertarian and conservative supporters of Ron Paul, or will it just embolden them to seek more platform concessions?
While some in the GOP have been conciliatory towards Paul supporters, others are predicting a noisy platform fight. Also-ran presidential candidate Rick Santorum said to ABC’s This Week in June he is “concerned that Ron Paul and some of his supporters out there are looking for a platform fight.” Santorum called on fellow conservatives to join him to “counterbalance the effect of the Paul folks” in the convention.
While the Paul campaign might not be seeking a platform fight, they are already engaged in numerous political battles against the GOP establishment. Legal challenges pertaining to the seating of delegates are being fought by the Paul campaign against GOP state parties in Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Oregon—which remains the top priority of the campaign. This sense of being under siege will not dissipate come Aug. 27 and delegates coming to Tampa will arrive as veterans of hard-fought political battles.
Despite all attempts by the GOP establishment to prevent an embarrassing “war of ideas” in the middle of their heavily-scripted convention, the energy spent by the Paul grassroots changing a political party that had been hostile to their ideas might make that unavoidable. The convention in Tampa is seen by those within the self-described “Ron Paul Revolution” as a culmination of five years of hard work and a beginning of the transformation of the Republican Party and its platform into something nearer to libertarian and traditional conservative ideals of limited government and civil liberties. More than a partisan gathering, the convention will become the political front-line in the battle for the soul and conscience of the Republican Party.
Hurtt, for his part, calls on his fellow Paul-supporting delegates to remain respectful, writing in the Daily Caller, “All eyes are on us, and it’s important that we act in a manner that enhances our movement. We have an opportunity to impress upon the Republican Party our ideas of limited, constitutional government. Let’s not squander that by causing unnecessary conflict.”
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