By Craig Dawkins
May 12, 2012
Animosity boiled out of control at today’s 2012 Oklahoma GOP state convention. Three Ron Paul delegates were physically assaulted by angry “old guard” delegates at today’s convention. Police were summoned, reports filed, and that was just the beginning of the assault visited upon the delegates.
It all started with a galactically incompetent credentials process where ballots cast exceeded the actual number of certified delegates. The entire Tulsa and Oklahoma County delegations had to be “re-credentialed” because their totals far exceeded the certified amount. No one explained how or why the totals were so dramatically different. Hundreds of additional delegates were suddenly “approved” despite the fact that many delegates were turned away because they arrived a few minutes after 9am.
From my perspective, the problems of this convention started with the selection of convention chairman, Marc Nuttle. Despite his pledge to be fair, he demonstrated time and again his willingness to manipulate vote results. The worst instance of his unwillingness to follow the rules is illustrated by the National Delegate slate voted upon by the convention. State party rules are clear, in terms of how the “Delegates at Large” and “Alternates at Large” are to be selected. Rule 18d (http://gallery.mailchimp.com/512354e730a88fee4fcc330f7/files/ORP_Rules___Amended_August_27__2011.pdf ) of the state party rules clearly states that these delegates are to receive a roll call vote. Nuttle called for a standing vote. The standing vote was nebulous in terms of how many were standing as it was actually hard to tell that one side had a larger group than the other. He made the call that the “ayes” won and the establishment slate was approved.
A call for roll call vote was offered from the floor. He stated that he had made his ruling and that an appeal could be made of the chair. An appeal was made. Once again he asked for people to engage in a standing vote. He, once again, determined that the majority affirmed his decision. It was a farce over and over as this strategy was used to prevent a roll call vote from occurring.
It seems that the whole show was orchestrated to simply approve the executive committee slate. There was plenty of motive because the Liberty Caucus swept national delegates in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th district conventions. The acrimony was at high pitch over the entire convention as seething delegates screamed and yelled at each other across the convention floor. If anyone tells you that the GOP in Oklahoma is united, they are just not telling the truth.
Another dirty trick, played out at the end of the convention, was a call for a standing vote after the entire Tulsa delegation had been completely blocked off by divider walls. Despite the fact that roughly 500 delegates were out of view by the Nuttle, he declared the “ayes” to have prevailed. You could hear a Tulsa delegate pleading into a microphone for him to count their votes. He didn’t.
So the convention reconvened outside the hotel in the parking lot and the delegates continued to cast votes according to Rule 18d of the state party rules. An alternate slate of delegates was elected. I suspect the national GOP will be asked to rule on the matter. I suspect that will go nowhere as the Romney train will drive all the decisions on the matter. The national party will be of little assistance I predict.
SO WHAT DID WE LEARN TODAY? First, you cannot prevail at a convention unless you actively select your own chairman. Again and again, the chair just ignored fair play and the rules. Second, we learned that the rules don’t matter. You don’t have to follow them. You can deviate as you desire if you feel you can get away with it. Third, rough play, name calling, intimidation tactics are acceptable forms of politicking in the GOP. Fourth, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a majority if you don’t have the ability to have those votes counted.
This was a lesson in hard ball politics. The old guard got their way today because, for all the talk of duty, honor, and country, it was really all about how to abuse the process. Only the future will determine whether or not they will appreciate the new rules of the game that they dictated today.
Congratulations Oklahoma GOP leaders. Your “Red State Ready” looked more like a “Red State Rebellion” today. You have a hopelessly divided party. You maximized the level of acrimony between the factions.