I’m in the middle of serving as a member of my county Republican party’s Nominations Committee and have also performed a similar function on my county party’s Vacancy Committee. I thought it might be helpful to share some of my experience and offer some simple advice for Republican Liberty Caucus members and other liberty activists who have to go before a committee in order to be selected as a delegate to their State Republican Convention. The rules and procedures for this are not the same in every state, but the human dynamics and the general parameters of the experience are likely to be similar. Ultimately it’s all about showing a level of commitment to the party and the process and you can do that by sticking by these five simple guidelines.
Rule #1 – Don’t be nervous or scared.
- Some people find the interview process intimidating. Just remember that you’re not being singled out. Everyone has to go through it and despite the perception that it may be a tool of the elite designed to expose you and weed you out, that’s not really what it’s all about. Although there may be some people on your committee whose goal is to keep Ron Paul supporters or Liberty Republicans in general off the list of state convention delegates, there are also likely to be people on the committee who are sympathetic or at least neutral. For the most part they will be earnestly trying to do their job, which is not to keep people out, but to find people to qualify to go to the convention whether they agree with them or not.
Rule #2 – Be committed to the process.
- The main qualification for being a delegate is your willingness to show up and participate in the process. Many of the questions a Nominations Committee will ask are likely to be geared towards determining whether your commitment is solely to a particular candidate or to the process which your local and state conventions are part of . They want to make sure that if you are made a delegate you will participate fully by showing up, participating in debate and voting. What they really do not want to see is people who are likely to become discouraged and give up if their favorite candidate is not nominated or if they feel you have no interest in anything that will be going on at the convention except the nomination process. When they ask you why you want to be a delegate tell them that you want to have a voice in the party and don’t just talk about one aspect or issue or candidate.
Rule #3 – Be prepared and qualified.
- Another thing the committee will be looking for is your level of political awareness or involvement. They don’t want to send clueless political neophytes higher in the system than they are qualified to go and this is a reasonable concern on their part. State delegate positions are positions of responsibility and they are in some demand and committee members are perfectly correct in believing that people with no political experience and no depth of involvement shouldn’t be given those positions. If you’ve just joined the Republican Party and the only candidate you know by name is Ron Paul, don’t even go in front of the committee, or at least educate yourself before you do. If you go there unprepared you will irritate them and make them more hostile to the next guy to come along. Inform yourself about other major races in your area. Know the names of other candidates for lower offices you might vote for in the election. Know a couple of mainstream issues you can say something about. At the very least be prepared to object to Obamacare or say something nasty about Eric Holder and be able to name the Republicans running in your Congressional District or for Senate in your state. An hour spent on Google News can make you look relatively well informed.
Rule #4 – Be involved.
- This isn’t something you can do on short notice, but if you are in this for the long haul (as you should be) then having a history of involvement with the party is one sure way to get to be a delegate. Join a local Republican club. Donate to your county party. Work for a local candidate or two making phonecalls or block walking. There are good candidates running in every state. Find one and get involved. You can also be an activist on local or national political issues. If you can talk about this kind of involvement they’ll definitely warm up to you. If you have a family history of being involved with the party bring that up. It can’t hurt. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
Rule #5 – Don’t lie. People can tell when you’re lying.
- If you have met committee members before and they know something about your positions, don’t come into the committee and suddenly express completely different beliefs. If you’re a known Paul supporter then don’t hide that fact. Instead make a good argument for why you’d be a good delegate anyway. Rather than misrepresenting yourself, focus on your other good qualities. And if you don’t like the establishment candidate, just say so. Don’t hem and haw and try to conceal your true beliefs. Ultimately do say that you’ll at least reluctantly support whoever the nominee is. And if you can’t do that honestly then you actually are not qualified to be a delegate. You don’t have to like him or be loyal to him or even actively campaign for him, but you do have to express support for the process and its results. You’d want them to support your candidate if he’s nominated and you should be honest enough to do the same if someone else is nominated.
Good and Bad Ron Paul Supporters
There seems to be a trend that establishment Republicans have identified a divide between “good” Ron Paul supporters and “bad” Ron Paul supporters. It also tends to be true that those who are identified as “good” also have the qualities which are likely to make them members of the Republican Liberty Caucus. In most cases a Nominations Committee will be comfortable sending the “good” Ron Paul supporters on as delegates, but be deathly afraid of their more radical comrades.
The key defining characteristic of the “bad” Ron Paul supporter is that it is obvious that their interests are extremely narrow. All they care about is getting Ron Paul elected and perhaps the specific issues for which he is most known and most intensely supported. To the average Republican they are perceived as outsiders trying to subvert the party and the process. As a Liberty Republican who is involved in the delegate selection process I cringe when certain candidates for nomination come to be interviewed, because they are so utterly clueless. They come in with this air of arrogance thinking that their high level of commitment to Ron Paul is all the qualification they should need, when that’s really not at all what the party is looking for. To you it may all be about Ron Paul, but to those who make the decisions it is about being a useful and involved participant in the party. If your only interest in the party or the process or even politics is to advance Ron Paul then you are not going to be nominated as a delegate and probably shouldn’t be.
The “good” Ron Paul supporter is identified easily as well, because they will have some higher level of political involvement. Most typically when they come to the committee they can explain what they are concerned about why they aren’t satisfied with current political conditions or leadership, including their objections to the GOP establishment, and they can make clear that they support Ron Paul because they think that he is the best answer to the problems while making it clear that it is reform and better government they are after even if it turns out that they have to achieve it by some other means maybe not involving Ron Paul. Commitment to a broader cause which is compatible with Republican principles will be respected even if it comes with support for Ron Paul as part of the package.
Some Obvious Dos and Don’ts
You can never go wrong attacking Obama and his administration. Even if you also have problems with the political insiders of the GOP, you can find common ground with any Republican if you remind them that you can’t stand Obama or his policies or the Democratic Party in general. Unions, Eric Holder, Nancy Pelosi and the leftist media are good targets too. If you don’t revile Obama and the Democratic leadership at least a little bit more than even the worst corrupt Republican elitists then you’re not paying attention and you’re probably not qualified to be a delegate. Remember that everything Bush did wrong, Obama has done at a higher cost and on a larger scale. If you spend a lot of time talking about shared enemies there’s less time for them to ask you more difficult questions.
One of the obvious things they may ask you is whether you will “support the Republican nominee regardless of who it is.” This is an inevitable question and you ought to be prepared for it. There is a good answer and if you cannot make it honestly, then don’t bother to show up. The answer is “while I’m not happy with the most likely nominee, I still think he’s better than Obama and if those are my two choices I’ll vote for the Republican nominee.” If you can’t truthfully say that then you should not be a delegate. And remember, it cuts both ways. If they expect you to support their nominee then you have an equal right to expect them to support your nominee if he wins.
Try to avoid desecrating the sacred cows. If you are strongly anti-war, just try to stay away from the subject. While many establishment Republicans are coming around on issues of national defense, it’s an area which is too contentious and too complex to argue out in a committee meeting. Don’t lie about it, but consider ducking out with a statement like “I’m more concerned with domestic policy right now when our country is going to hell in a handbasket.” If you are pro-choice, don’t bring it up. Before the rise of Ron Paul, abortion was the litmus test question in these interviews. It’s a difficult issue to deflect on, so do everything you can to avoid it. Also try to avoid the topic of Israel. They don’t understand Ron Paul’s stand on it and they won’t understand yours. l shouldn’t have to say it, but don’t mention 9/11 truth or any other popular conspiracy theories. No matter what you believe or how strongly you believe it, that’s an argument you don’t want to raise at all and which will only brand you as a nut.
Remember that even Republicans who are not committed to liberty the way that we are do usually have some level of belief in the same broad principles of limited government and individual rights. They may not always act rationally on those beliefs and they may back the wrong leaders a lot of the time, but they will still usually respect your commitment to the principles the party was founded on if you remind them that they are Republican ideas with a long history in the party and not just the views of radicals and Ron Paul supporters. Look for common ground and common concerns and focus on them. Your interview with the Nominations Committee is sort of like a small-scale political campaign and you need to sell yourself as someone who will represent the interests of all Republican voters and of the party if you are selected as a delegate.
The commitment to liberty is a lifelong commitment. It’s not about one election or one candidate. It’s a movement which may take years to succeed. If you are committed to the movement and to that process of changing the Republican Party and our political system, then you ought to be prepared for the similar commitment necessary to be an effective delegate, representing not just the party but the Liberty Movement at your state and eventually at the national convention. As a delegate you are serving the party and its members first and your own interests second. At the same time, never forget that the best service you can do the party is to help it live up to the high principles on which it was founded. This is what it means to be a Liberty Republican.