By Cynthia Kennedy
I’ve served on several platform committees during my years in political activism, but never had the privilege of being elected to a national platform group until now. So, it was with a measure of apprehension and anticipation that I made the trip to Tampa eight days before the GOP National Convention, to serve.
The apprehension stemmed from the fact that as a Ron Paul Liberty Republican, even at the county level, some of Paul’s libertarian viewpoints spark heated reaction when trying to get these planks on local platforms. At Nevada’s (my home state) Platform Committee, I was called out for being a crazy pot smoker, when I wanted to add language about ending the War on Drugs. What would happen at a National Platform meeting, when I introduced an amendment ending the NDAA, or censuring the FDA for arresting raw milk sellers?
Last Sunday night, it was anticipation that propelled me through the luxurious lobby of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel, and up the stairs to register and attend a welcoming meeting. Most of the delegates had been briefed earlier, and it was just a smattering of late arrivals like myself, who were greeted by the Committee’s Executive Director, Ben Key. My guest, Juanita Cox, an Alternate Delegate from Nevada, was vetted, but had to wait outside the main meeting room, while we received our instructions. They were what one would expect, about submitting amendments (what are usually called “planks”), and how the next morning we would break into our subcommittees, work on our section of the Platform, and then reconvene after lunch with entire body, to go over the additions, and changes.
Ron Paul national delegates had been spoiling for months for this convention. Most were ecstatic to be elected, but then as numbers were chiseled away by rules infractions and other challenges, those left remaining wondered, “What can we achieve in Tampa?” One of the most offered responses was, “Influence the Platform.” The idea of doing just that had me eager to start.
I knew from talking last week to Chris Stearns, a delegate from Virginia, and the unofficial Paul liaison who was also on the Platform Committee, that there were about a dozen of “us” to take on the other 100 delegates (two from each state and the six U.S. Territories). The odds were atrocious, but if we played our cards right, wrote our amendments with an eye towards flying under the neocon radar, and then defended them with a dash of Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan (who’s attained sainthood in the party pantheon), they might have a chance of sliding home.
“Have your amendments (hand written), submitted to your committee by 8am.” Key instructed, as we were given a thick binder entitled, “Committee on Resolutions, Republican National Convention 2012 Platform Draft.” I thumbed through the six chapters: Economy, Jobs & Debt (Rebuilding the Economy), Agriculture, Energy, & Environment (Natural Resources), National Security & Defense, Healthy Families, Great Schools, Safe Schools, Restoring Constitutional Government, and Government Reform (Medicare, Medicaid, Immigration, Postal Service, etc.). Prior to coming to Tampa, we’d been asked to rank these committees in order of preference, and I was thrilled to find I’d been assigned to my first choice – Restoring Constitutional Government. It was a mixed blessing because, if I failed I’d want to fall on my sword, but if I was able to influence some major issues, it would make the week-early stay in Tampa totally worthwhile.
Before I left, I looked around the room in which the entire Platform Committee would be meeting. It was impressively staged with three risers set with long tables to accommodate the delegates. Nameplates for seat assignments showed me that I’d sit alongside my fellow Nevadan, Pat Kerby, who’d been delegated to Agriculture, Energy & Environment. What was this at our workspace? A handout I’d missed? Did Pat leave this for me? The five page document, with **CLOSE HOLD** typed at the top, contained 45 instructions and comments about “Potential Amendments,” and evidenced a prior dialogue between the Romney and Paul campaigns. I scanned the tables to see if this document was at anyone else’s space. If it was, then it was just another hand-out. But it wasn’t, someone had left this for me. I quickly called Pat, “No, I didn’t leave anything for you, and it wasn’t there when I left the earlier briefing.” I ran through the comments and was struck by items like, “Bring all our troops home. – Must avoid this language. Reinstatement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Governor Romney was initially opposed to DADT before it was repealed; it is impractical to repeal something at a time of war. Eliminate indefinite military detention of any person detained in the U.S. – The language in the Constitution section was negotiated by Romney campaign policy team and Paul campaign leadership.” Negotiated by Romney and Paul? Were the two camps actually pre-planning the platform together? The document was a melange of strict conservatism and a slight nod to some of Paul’s main issues: Audit the Fed, Balanced Budget Amendment, the Gold Standard, reduction of federal workers, eliminating the DOE, no regulation of the internet, and ending NDAA. This last was confusing, as it was on this issue that we were defeated in the four attempts we made to get this amendment in the platform.
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