[Context: This is a response to two interesting posts (here and here) from Mitch Berg on his blog. His essential argument was that Paul supporters should stay engaged and cooperate with the GOP after the convention process wraps up, with a particular focus on the 4th congressional district of Minnesota. The following is an email I sent in reply.]
Hello Mr. Berg,
I read your two recent posts on your blog about Ron Paul supporters, and there were some kernels of truth in there. However, I also wanted to clarify some things I have observed that would seem to run counter to some of your claims.
2008 was definitely a training ground. Paul supporters were new and ideologically invigorated. You were once a Libertarian (I love that you get the distinction between big-L and small-l libertarians!), so you probably understand the early win it all or die for principle mentality many libertarians (or even those with entrenched ideological views of the world in general) have. So yes, it was definitely fault-worthy that many Paul supporters showed up and never came back.
One big problem: 2012 is not 2008. I get it. There is a lot of bad blood and bad stereotypes from 2008 on both sides. As an anecdote from Texas (where I am from), a couple of my family members went to a county convention in Texas in 2008 and, after a long convention fight, left late at night. They found out later the local party leadership simply outlasted the Paulites to keep their personal fiefdom intact, revoting on everything because the Paul folks were ignorant of Robert's Rules. I was not deterred (having only come of age to vote in 2010 and not going through that experience), and I managed to become a delegate to our state convention and actually work with Ron Paul's 2008 primary opponent to attempt to kill some bad platform language at the county level. While there I met other Paul supporters who were new to the process and getting involved; today, they are still active. They work for candidates, show up to conventions, and some work in the local party. The old chair, meanwhile, eventually left his post after it was revealed he was having an affair.
Now obviously Minnesota is not the same as Texas, but the comparison still counts. I have been told of Paul supporters who were elected to local party leadership who found some of the old guard to be uncooperative with them. That is not to say that many Paul folks did not drop out on their own accord- they did, as happens when political movements first take shape (and if you are familiar with libertarian politics, you know there has not been a libertarian movement like this since the 70s, if even then). Some were just frustrated, others impatient, still more just grew bored. Either way, politics requires growing a certain thickness of skin to make a difference.
One of the stories in Minnesota is that this is happening. Paul supporters are having to learn to work with their local parties, find common ground, run basic political campaigns, and win. I know Paul supporters here who have been active in the party organizations, in Young Republicans, in College Republicans (there is a substantial presence there),and more. The Paul campaign was actually professional in 2012, unlike 2008 when not even Paul expected to meet any kind of success. For my part, I am running for Vice-Chair Metro of the MNCRs [Editor's Note: I was elected to the position this weekend], managing the campaign of my friend running in 64A (yes, as a Republican), interning at the Capitol, and serving as Co-Chair of our CR chapter at Macalester. And no, I and my friends have not just worked for Ron Paul- just last weekend a few of us libertarians went down to Wisconsin to make calls for Scott Walker. Our libertarian contingent at Macalester volunteered to help set up our local precinct caucuses. We even campaigned in the uphill local races in Bloomington a few months back.
So yes, some of the old guard have not been as welcoming as they should. Similarly, some of the Paulites have been less of team-players than they should have been. We should not implicate one side and act like the other did not make mistakes. I don't hold grudges against the establishment- when a bunch of wide-eyed, untested political neophytes appear I would be skeptical of their ability to get the job done too! It is like when two adults with kids from earlier marriages get married- we've all just been learning how to live in the same house.
Obviously libertarians need the party. From the discussions I have had among those who are serious, we are here to stay in the GOP. Not take-over; there is nothing hostile about it. Parties are about winning elections for like-minded folks, and it is easy to find commonalities. There are some establishment folks who want nothing to do with Paulites, and there are some Paulites who want nothing to do with establishmentarians. Both groups I see as ignorant of the big picture- we need each other, institutional memory and fresh ideas. Luckily, I think that combination is taking shape now.
PS: The local Paul groups tended to support Tony Hernandez before he dropped out of the Senate race (and before Bills entered), and from what I have seen they still support him. For my part I'll be working on the 64A campaign to turn out our folks for the rest of the ticket.
PPS: I do also blog very regularly at Red Racing Horses, a site I co-founded over a year ago with Republicans from every faction of the party. It is a national site, but we have a sizable Minnesota commenting community. So there are Minnesota libertarian bloggers out there (even if this one is too busy to take on any more blogging responsibilities)!