183. On the 2016 Nevada Republican Convention

First of all, this is not a report on everything that happened. For that, look for the minutes sometime, somewhere on the NV GOP website. This is only an account of what I found noteworthy, or more precisely, weird.

Overall, this convention was a vast improvement over 2012. There were none of “those Ron Paul people” trying to take over or disrupt. There were no demonstrations, no floor fights, verbal or real. For the most part, we saw none of the endless, tiresome, unreasonable parliamentary maneuvers. The voting especially was a huge improvement; paper ballots were replaced by iPhone sized gadgets that record the vote instantly, and the results are posted on-screen within a few minutes. We did not display the running totals or the votes as they were coming in, to avoid the “herd conformity” or bandwagon effect. Only 1-2 people had serious trouble with the gadgets.

For me, this was a rather grueling three day affair, because I was also on the platform committee on Day Minus One. With two delegates from every county, this was the only body that had a fair and accurate representation of the diversity that is Nevada. The main convention, where representation is based on population, is all too biased in favor of heavily californicated Las Vegas and Reno, and against the traditional Nevadan rural counties where water and land use is a huge issue in mining, ranching and farming. I was impressed by the platform committee’s deep knowledge of the issues, and the respect they had for each other. Of course we had long and friendly, cooperative discussions on land use and water rights, the Constitution and limited government, sanctity of life, health insurance; all the traditional conservative Republican issues, as well as Article 5 Convention of States. It was the first time that I’ve seen a good solid argument being defeated by an inarticulate one, but in the end we voted (as I did) not to mention Article 5. Aside from all this, for the most part we just edited the 2014 platform, and in the end, we produced a great document.

I made several suggestions, some adopted immediately, some modified (for the better) and some ignored. Couple of them received great applause (eliminate the US Department of Education; OK, I forget what the other one or two were). The house broke out in roaring laughter when I moved to approve a pro-recreational marijuana plank on the grounds that, with all the advances in medical care and the food supply, and therefore longevity, we are just about immune to natural selection, and allowing more and a greater diversity of drunks on the road is one way to bring it back. The way I said it, in real time and off the cuff, was funny. But the platform committee decided to ignore the issue so as not to aggravate the millennials; we want to be “inclusive.” When the motion was made to reinsert a strong “sanctity of life” plank, I pointed out that in light of Article 1, Section 8 (enumerated powers) the federal government has no say on social issues, but it is entirely appropriate at the State level. The plank was inserted without that distinction being made.

The next day the convention opened formally and just about the first order of business was determining if we have quorum. The credentials committee reported that there are 1008 delegates present (later revised to 1088). That’s more than 30% (set by the rules) and therefore we have a quorum, the convention can proceed. But someone just had to do it; he rose to ask, 30% of WHAT? Another one asked, what rules? we have not seen or approved any rules yet… This last point was disposed of on the grounds that until approved by the full body, the proposed temporary rules are in effect. Coming back to the first point was downright funny. Eventually someone did reveal that there were over 3000 delegates selected by their counties to be here (yea!… 1000 is less than a third of over 3000, so we don’t have a quorum, the convention is over before it started, and we can go home with no business having been done) BUT the chairman had to sheepishly admit that, well, 100% of the delegates present is more than 30% of the delegates present, so obviously we have a quorum…

I sure wish they get their act together next time. They could have based quorum on the number of delegates who pre-registered, or find some way to harangue enough delegates to preregister if too many of the over 3000 who were selected failed to preregister. On the other hand, there were some who just showed up without preregistering. Anyway, the way is was handled was dubious and rather comical — and very necesary, of course, because you can’t expect people who paid dearly to be here (registration, travel, hotel room, meals) to just turn around and go home.

Another funny thing was The Presidential Candidate Who Shall Not Be Named. Minutes and minutes passed, in speech after speech, before finally it was clear that it is safe, even in this convention, that, well, “even though he was not my first choice,” we should unite behind him, because the alternative is … (yucch) … Hillary, and actually pronounce the name of our obvious (presumptive) candidate. Well, he only got 46% of the vote in the NV caucuses, so yea, we should not be too enthusiastic about him, right? Yea, eventually the speakers did bring themselves to some level of enthusiasm for Trump. There was only one outburst of typical convention behavior, a  brief and rather feeble yell of “Trump Trump Trump” mostly from the Clark County part of the convention floor.

Another funny thing — disgusting, actually — was that practically none of the elected officials bothered to show up in this convention. Sandoval, Heller, Amodei, and the others from the other congressional districts? AWOL. (If you don’t know what AWOL means, shame on you. Google it.) Ron Knecht and maybe Dan Schwartz were there, so too Don Gustavson, Jim Wheeler and Robin Titus, but no PK O’Neill, no Ben Kieckhefer, etc. It’s not as if these local people had all that far to go to be here…

It could not have been made any more clear that the “establishment” has no respect for the Party and the people who elect them. No clearer case, no matter what their excuse, needs to be made to throw them out of office ASAP. Whoever they claim to “represent,” it sure ain’t the people.

But in the end, we the people did turn out to be the wimps that the establishment disdains so easily. There was a motion to amend the by-laws; to delete the section that gives voting rights to ex officio members of a county central committee. This rule is the Republican version of the Democrat “super delegates,” which makes elected officials automatic voting members (and why Bernie wins the elections and Hillary gets the delegates). The proponents argued that these elected official shun our central committees, they come to our meetings only at election time when they want our votes, if even then, so the heck with them if they can’t take an evening a month (or every 2-3 months) to be with us. But some rose to defend the honor of those to got elected,… and we the sheeple voted to table the issue till the next state convention.

During the discussion on endorsements, someone waived his cell phone bill that already we the people are paying the Commerce Tax that’s supposed to hit only big business; in the itemized list of taxes and fees tacked onto the bill, there is a line item for it. Check it out yourself; I have to remember my password to go on-line because I am running paperless.

Back to funny stuff — The Fraudulent Slate That Shall Not Be Named. People who want to be selected to represent Nevada in the national Republican conventions actually have to run a mini campaign to get the delegates to vote for them. Yes, there was a Trump slate; delegates who pledged to vote for Trump first last and always. But a couple of delegates, part of a group said to consist of disgruntled former Trump employees who were fired, were handing out a competing “official” Trump slate, AFTER having been served with a cease-and-desist order by the Trump campaign. Therefore the convention officials threw them out. When the issue came to the floor because someone demanded an explanation, the only question that was not answered is, what was the fraudulent slate so we’d know not to follow their suggestion? The chair ruled it was not his job to share that information…Many people around me thought the official slate was the fraudulent one…(Later in a private conversation I learned how to tell the difference — but this information was never shared with the delegates.)

They passed out a membership list of the state central committee. That’s nice, except for the fact that the list was either out of date or incomplete or both. Look for the real list on-line.

We used our new-fangled gadgets to elect our national committee people, the at-large delegates to the national convention, the delegates to the national convention from each of our congressional districts, and the presidential electors (the now ceremonial Electoral College that rubber stamps the popular vote). Yes, the results were displayed almost immediately on four large screens, but if you want to see the list of names, … go on-line.

By this time the first day’s agenda was seriously behind schedule and we postponed the discussion of endorsements till the second day. Serious business such as dinner and dances and parties took precedence over the trivial matters on the floor.

So the second and final day had a full schedule of items that nobody really cares about, in this convention or any other convention, but we still have them on the agenda: bylaws, the platform, and endorsements.

We had a sometimes heated discussion about even the appropriateness of endorsements.

Someone asserted that non-endorsement is an insult to those to got elected. (Well, that’s the point, if an elected official violated his campaign promises…) Someone claimed that endorsements are important, because 90% of those who were endorsed the last time had voted against the commerce tax, but 100% of those who were not endorsed voted for it. This is an area that needs to be researched, because as I recall an easy majority of the Republican caucus in 2015 also caved to the supposedly Republican Governor’s demands and voted both for his tax and his budget; it wasn’t just Democrats and a few RINOs.

Having to work without our electronic working gadgets, we postponed this part of the agenda till the technical people could figure out how to proceed with paper ballots for endorsing or not endorsing every candidate running for state office. Think about it. No, don’t think about it.

Amazingly, there was a lengthy discussion, and a demonstration of parliamentary correctness, when the next item on the agenda was resolutions:

  • Motion to accept them in whole? Yes, except for this one and that one. OK, accept the whole without those two? yes.
  • Motion to amend one of the exceptions (honor those legislators who stayed loyal to the platform in the 2015 session). OK, but add condemnation of those legislators who voted for the Commerce Tax.
  • Motion to end debate on this amendment? yes.
  • Vote on amending this resolution? yes.
  • Vote to accept the resolution to as amended? yes.
  • Motion to amend the other exception (state control of public lands). Change “public lands” to “managed”? no, “administered by the federal government.”
  • Motion to accept this amendment? yes.
  • Motion to accept all the resolutions? Ah, wait, there are other motions to amend.
  • Motion to make another change; delete taking possession “via eminent domain” (that is, we don’t want to pay the feds for the land they do not “own”). yes.
  • Motion to add another “resolved, that…” (OK, I forget what that was.) yes.
  • Finally back to accept the resolutions as a whole.
  • Motion to end debate? yes.
  • Accept all as amended? wait…
  • Motion to add a resolution to honor the military, including the K9’s? yes.
  • Motion to specify what is included in “public lands;” military bases? national parks? Boo Hiss. Motion defeated.
  • Motion to end debate? yes.
  • Accept all as amended? yes.

Whew.

Ain’t this FUN? If done in a spirit of cooperation toward a more perfect result, it’s actually like a nicely choreographed dance. You wish…. the endless “request for information” ruins it all. At one point the delegates groaned loudly, oh shut up! sit down!

The next item on the agenda was by-laws, but I discussed that already several paragraphs earlier. Subject to grammatical corrections, we accepted them as submitted.

The next item was the platform. It was immediately challenged by a delegate from Washoe County (Reno) who wanted to replace it with a one-page statement of principles that can be posted on a wall. After much point-and-counterpoint, many of which drew enthusiastic applause and hopefully will show up in the minutes of the convention, the body voted down the motion to scrap the platform committee’s work and replace it with the short form. Then someone raised the issue, whether the platform violates the section in the by-laws that sets a maximum number of planks and the maximum word count per plank; in the same by-laws that were approved earlier. After some discussion whether the by-laws were in effect at the time the platform committee was doing its work (heh heh heh), the body decided to suspend the rules and accept the platform as submitted. Then someone moved to re-insert the preamble from the 2014 platform. End debate? yes. Make grammatical corrections? that’s implicit; yes. Accept as is? yes.

Like I said above, we do have a great Republican platform.

By this time we were losing delegates just walking out the door. Eventually someone raised the question, do we still have a quorum? Obviously not, but irrelevant; we had quorum at the start.

So with most of the Clark County delegation gone, we returned to the resolutions… Yes, the sages on the stages did produce a good paper ballot. Yes, eventually, after endless “requests for information” and other objections, and votes by hold up your hand, the ballots were handed out. Mark it, drop it in the box, get your badge punched to show you’ve voted.

There was still the issue of counting the ballots. Now imagine this. About 4-5 pages of candidates for the various legislative positions (not the federal ones), each with “endorse” or “not endorse.” There is no limit to the possibilities. The estimate was that it will take hours to tabulate the ballots and publish the results. With the approval of those still present, they decided to box up the ballots and count them at a later date (next Thursday in Carson City by NRP staff and, as it turned out, mostly local volunteers, results to be posted on the NRP website no later than May 21). People need to leave, they face a long way home, after all.

I totally forgot about the slates, I forgot about consulting the endorsement committee’s report (endorse, no recommendation, declined to participate in the endorsement process), I forgot about consulting with other delegates and counties to trade votes; I just marked candidates whose names and positions I remembered from past experience, dropped off my ballot, told the people not to mutilate my credentials, and left. Did not wait for formal Sine Die. It was a LONG walk to the parking lot, even with a stop at the great Jewish deli in the casino next door.

For me, one good thing, besides seeing friends and acquaintances in person, was a stroke of lightning about how to do the next platform. And yes, the current state platform committee chairman loved my idea. Sometime before the next state central committee meeting, I will flesh it out to present it to the body.

Definitely do look for the transcript or video of Jim Wheeler’s invocation. I don’t think I ever heard one that got both laughter and applause while it was being given. Also look for Michael McDonald’s welcoming speech; see how long it took to name The Presidential Candidate Who Shall Not Be Named. That too was funny. If the elephant in the room had been any bigger, they’d have had to remove the seats.

Still, this convention was boring in comparison with the last one (2012), and definitely less fun than the Democrats. Headlines on local news mentioned chairs being thrown…? Wow. They know how to party…!

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