Paul’s GOP Battle Reveals Some Truths About Political Parties
by Ryan McMaken
by Ryan McMaken: The
Failure of ‘Law and Order Conservatism’
didn’t go the way the pro-Romney leadership wanted them to go,
they simply created a new GOP to replace the old one. That’s what
happened in Nevada when Ron Paul supporters managed to gain control
of the state’s Republican Party apparatus at the state convention.
In response, the pro-Romney and establishment Republican forces
broke off and formed Team Nevada which is essentially a shadow
Republican party. In addition, by pledging support to Romney,
Team Nevada is receiving funding from the Republican National
Committee. If all goes as planned on the Romney side, Team Nevada
will provide Nevada’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.
The duly-elected Ron Paul delegates, who were elected through
state and local conventions in Nevada, will be barred from the
ways in which the old guard of the Republican party has repeatedly
sought to disenfranchise Ron Paul voters and delegates are too
numerous to count. Some cases have been noted by Doug
Wead and by others with anti-Paul strategies ranging from
smearing Paul supporters with carefully edited videos to having
Paul supporters arrested for no reason.
with how parties have functioned historically, may be shocked
by such things, but these actions are really just more of the
same from the GOP and from American political parties in general.
efforts to simply destroy anyone the party leadership dislikes
are hardly the first instances of occasions on which an American
political party has taken steps to nullify or ignore primary and
caucus results that it did not like. For example, in 2010, Dan
Maes, a businessman who ran for governor in Colorado against former
Congressman Scott McInnis, was abandoned by the GOP after receiving
the nomination. McInnis was heavily favored as the moderate, establishment
candidate while Maes was regarded as an upstart from the populist
and conservative wing of the party. Near the end of the primary
campaign, however, McInnis was accused of taking money from an
employer for written work he allegedly stole from someone else.
support collapsed and Maes was able to win the nomination as the
Republican candidate for governor. The GOP leadership didn’t care
for Maes for a variety of reasons (some of them very good) and
instructed him to pull out of the race so a candidate more to
the party leadership’s liking could be appointed outside the established
nomination process. When Maes refused, the party leadership threw
its support behind former-congressman Tom Tancredo who ran on
a third-party ticket. Maes was denied all financial support from
the Colorado GOP and the RNC.
here is less than perfect, of course. Maes was a political novice
with a shady background, while Ron Paul is a twelve-term Congressman
with a well-funded and highly-organized national organization.
Paul’s base of support is broad and deep while Maes’s base was
narrow and temporary. Maes’s campaign ran on issues quite different
from those that drive Paul’s campaign, although both did draw
support from the populist and anti-establishment wings of the
Republican Party against moderate center-left candidates supported
by the GOP establishment.
coupled with this year’s all-out effort on the part of the GOP
to prevent even the most mild dissent should make it abundantly
clear to all by now that the GOP does not exist to grant a fair
process to grassroots-supported candidates, or to adhere to any
type of ideological consistency, or to even follow its own rules.
of the substantial differences between the candidates in these
two cases, the Nevada and Colorado experiences help illustrate
a few truths about how political parties function to enhance and
maintain the power of the established leadership.
be stated that most everything we say here can be also applied
to the Democratic Party, as the two major parties behave in fundamentally
similar ways. But it has been in the Republican Party where populist
uprisings have been most common in recent years and led to some
of the most strident efforts on the part of party leaders to crush
Parties exist to elect candidates.
parties in the United States do not adhere to any specific ideological
program. The written party platforms are all but completely irrelevant
in the day-to-day actions of the party and its members. We can
also note the lack of ideological inconsistency by looking at
the parties over time. Prior to Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic
Party was usually the party of small, constitutional government,
and it did a much better job of filling that role than the Republican
Party ever has. By the 1930’s, the party completely changed its
orientation, however. The GOP, on the other hand, has always been
the party of major corporate conglomerates like railroads and
major banking interests. At its founding, it was the party of
easy money and federal meddling in the economic system. It wasn’t
until the New Deal that the Republican Party, by virtue of being
the opposition party during the long reign of FDR, found itself
solidified as the party associated with free markets, and its
record on that issue has been spotty at best.
If we look
deeper into these ideological evolutions over time, we find that
it is political expediency that drives the ideological claims
of political parties, and certainly not loyalty to any sort of
intellectual or ideological tradition.
This is not
shocking since fundamentally, political parties exist to run candidates.
Any decent American Politics 101 class will define political parties
as candidate-running machines. Ideology means little, and we have
seen this repeatedly in practice. This fact was summed up nicely
Nevada by a GOP partisan complaining about Ron Paul supporters:
method is we elect Republicans. That's what the party's for,’
said Dave Buell, chairman of the Washoe County GOP in the state's
northwest corner, the second largest county in the state. ‘Down
south, the Ron Paul people down there are pushing ideology rather
than electing Republicans.’"
parties are really just coalitions of interest groups
being organizations devoted to any particular ideological vision,
parties are far more correctly described as coalitions of interest
groups that have come together to serve their specific interests.
Sometimes, these interest groups are fundamentally opposed to
each other, as in the case of the environmentalists and organized
labor together in the Democratic Party. In the GOP, the presence
of small-business and free-market groups together with military
contractors and other pro-war groups has led to the incoherent
yet enduring myth that small government and free markets are compatible
with a huge national-security state. We see here yet again the
special-interest tail wagging the ideological dog. The parties
don’t want to cut off their own bread and butter, so they function
as an organization that forces compromises on the least-wealthy
interest groups in the name of party unity or defeating the other
party. We see this again and again as the forces of small government
in the GOP are repeatedly told to get in line behind the more
well-heeled interests driving an aggressive foreign policy or
protecting endless taxpayer largesse for old people. The result
is that votes are delivered for candidates promising to shovel
more cash to the most powerful interests. The factions within
the parties who bring neither money nor power to the party, such
as free-market and pro-peace groups, slavishly vote again and
again for the party, naively convincing themselves that the party
will do something for them if they can just win one more
benefit most from this management of factions and interest groups
are the parties themselves, since electoral victories bring with
them jobs, power, and many financial rewards. The rich, well-connected
interests within the party are regularly rewarded while the other
groups within the coalition are told they should just be happy
that the other party didn’t win.
of the party leadership justifies this all in their minds by convincing
themselves that they’re pragmatists in the service of freedom
and justice and all things good. To them, it’s just a happy coincidence
that all this service to truth and justice happens to bring with
it lucrative jobs and positions of power.
3. The party
leadership would rather have a safe, establishment candidate from
the other party than a "dangerous" upstart from its
used to the jobs and the junkets and the privilege and the financial
rewards gleaned from protecting the entrenched interests behind
each political party, the leadership in each party has no interest
whatsoever in overturning their well-stocked apple carts. Insurgent
candidates who challenged the entrenched party leadership are
repeatedly mocked, opposed and generally blocked from party leadership
roles and from receiving nominations. This will be justified with
all kinds of excuses ranging from ideological rifts to appeals
to be good team players, but the fact is that it’s about catering
to the interests who control and fund the party. Indeed, most
candidates who promise to not upset the party’s core interests
will encounter little in the way of truly stiff opposition. This
is why Goldwater could get the nomination but not Paul. Goldwater
promised not to stand in the way of endless taxpayer cash for
At the pinnacle
of the major parties the interests of those in charge vary little.
Devotion to big business, to the warfare state, to easy monetary
policy, and to buying off seniors with more and more cash and
government favor spans the two parties, and ultimately, were a
candidate who threatened these major interests to actually receive
a presidential nomination, he would be abandoned by his own party.
Colorado case serves to illustrate what would likely happen if
Ron Paul were to somehow manage to actually obtain the party’s
nomination at the convention. The party leadership would immediately
begin searching for a third party candidate it could support.
It would deny all RNC money and other traditionally GOP-controlled
funds to Paul, and it would begin poisoning the GOP base against
its own nominated candidate.
GOP leadership knows that such a path would guarantee the re-election
of Obama, but the GOP establishment would clearly prefer a Democrat
victory to a Ron Paul victory. The threat to the GOP’s core interests
groups would be just too great were Paul actually elected, and
it would better, in the eyes of the established party leaderships,
to be seen as supporting their special interests rather than side
with any victorious anti-establishment grassroots groups from
within the party.
the GOP leadership supports just the latest Ivy-League-educated
supporter of more debt, more spending and endless war. This new
one even helped invent Obamacare.
This is the
choice the GOP has decided the party will provide, and anyone
who disputes this vision is a radical or a kook who must be disenfranchised.
The fruit of this is now being seen as the Romney camp desperately
tries to rewrite its own rules and disenfranchise Paul supporters
in Oklahoma, Nevada, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
succeed, but the benefit of all of this will be that many Americans
have now seen our political parties for what they really are.