Coronation Goes Off-Script
by Thomas MacMillan | Aug 29, 2012 7:48 am
Posted to: Campaign 2012
TAMPA, Fla.—The carefully orchestrated coronation of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president was threatened with derailment, thanks in part to Laura Clarbour’s heartfelt heckling from the nosebleed seats.
As delegates cast their votes Tuesday in the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa, 33-year-old Clarbour was up in section 308’s lofty mezzanine, shouting at the top of her lungs in support of Texas State Rep. Ron Paul. The erstwhile candidate for the Republican presidential nomination continues to enjoy the zealous support of a rag-tag band of die-hards, even as hundreds of delegates gather this week in Tampa to nominate Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
Clarbour’s voice was one among many that temporarily upset the convention’s carefully crafted narrative on Tuesday, the first full day of the convention. Click the play arrow to see some of the day’s highlights.
The disruption reflected the changing nature of national political conventions. They traditionally served the purpose of having a party decide whom to nominate for president; competitors worked behind the scenes and sometimes on the floor to negotiate among ideological and political factions. Now major party conventions occur after special-interest groups and big donors have already finished the fight for the nomination in the primaries and caucuses; by the time the delegates arrive at the convention, their job is to act out a carefully scripted made-for-TV coronation of the nominee.
Unless the convention goes off script. Which happened Tuesday.
Before Romney’s official nomination, two votes on convention rules led to arena-wide booing. National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus had to bang the convention’s massive gavel to try to retain order amid chants of “point of order!” from delegates.
At issue were two changes to rules covering the way that delegates are seated. The changes were widely interpreted as intended to defuse the threat of a convention-floor Paul nomination by his unruly supporters. They follow a controversial en-masse replacement of Maine delegates, also seen as move to neutralize Paul support.
When the rule changes came up for a voice vote, House Speaker John Boehner, acting as convention chair, said the “aye” votes had outnumbered the booming “nay” votes, to his ear. That touched off boos throughout the convention. (Check out the video at the top of the story, at about the 30-second point, to judge which side had more votes.)
The ensuing chants of “point of order!” were heard most loudly from the sizable Texas delegation (pictured), resplendent in matching cowboy hats and red, white, and blue shirts.
Boehner and Priebus pushed through the disruptions and eventually regained control of the proceedings.
Gil Hernandez, a 43-year-old delegate from Corpus Christi, Tex., said he is a Romney supporter but thinks that the leadership mishandled the disruption by trying to ignore it.
“They should have done a roll call,” he said. “We have procedures and policies and rules. We should follow those rules. You don’t want to create discontentment when we don’t have to.”
Discontentment had already been created, as was evident not much later, during the roll call of delegate nomination votes.
As representatives from each state—in alphabetical order—proudly announced their claim to fame (Illinois: the birthplace of Ronald Reagan) and how their delegates were voting, Clarbour led a noisy group of balcony-bound Oklahomans in cheers for Ron Paul and jeers for the process.
After Louisiana announced 12 votes for Paul and 32 for Romney, the official vote tallier on stage announced only the Romney votes. Every time Paul won votes, only Romney’s votes were announced.
“Cheaters!” Clarbour (pictured) yelled. “Announce it!”
Her shouts and yells eventually provoked counter-shouts from surrounding balcony Republicans. “He’s not on the ballot!” one shouted.
“Shut up!” shouted another.
After the voting was done, with Romney victorious and “Shout!” playing over the PA, Clarbour had nothing nice to say about the process, or about her fellow Republicans.
“We know they’re cheating. We know everything now,” she said. “This is a political convention. Business is held—rules, credentials. That isn’t what these people are about. They’re about dancing in the aisle.”
“This is a facade,” she went on. “You don’t go and vote for Mitt Romney, he is just as disgusting as Obama, hands down, period! … There’s no talking to these people. They’re FOX news, Glenn Beck numbskulls that really don’t know anything. … They follow what a Republican is supposed to do. They conform.“N
“The way it went in there, there’s absolutely no reason for delegates to be here. They’ve already decided what they want,” said 23-year-old Paul-supporting Oklahoman Qadashyah Fish, amid tears. “They don’t care about the rules and so they make us look like idiots to the outside world.”
Outside the convention center, Paul supporters refused to go quietly. Holding banners and signs, they continued their quixotic chants.
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