Angry Grassroots Activists Stage Mini-Rally on the Balcony of the Convention

TAMPA – One hour before the final evening of the Republican National Convention was set to be gaveled in session, a group of roughly 100 angry and passionate grassroots Republican delegates, most (but not all) of them associated with either the Tea Party or Ron Paul campaign, held a rally/press conference on a balcony of the Tampa Bay Times Forum to express their bitter displeasure about being disenfranchised by controversial rules changes and delegate recognition-processes on Tuesday.

A series of speakers, shouting into a scrum of reporters while delegates held homemade signs saying "GRASSROOTS," made repeated accusations that the Mitt Romney-led establishment abused the process to prevent future bottom-up presidential runs a la Ron Paul.

"We were railroaded. This is the shot heard 'round the world," said Mark Anthony Jones, a delegate from Missouri's 5th district. Echoing many other speakers, Anthony said the pissed-off delegations were going to stand and fight, agitating for mediators to restore the previous caucus rules that activists learned and exploited to punch above their weight in the long run-up to the convention. (For a breakdown of the complicated parliamentary tussles, see Brian Doherty's piece from Tuesday, and my interview with FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe.) "We are absolutely not leaving this party," Jones said. "This is my party!"

One delegate from Oklahoma warned, "If these rules changes are the way Mitt Romney will govern as president, then he's unfit for the Republican nomination, he's unfit for the presidency." Another speaker said that activist Republicans "will not vote for Mitt Romney if these rules are in place....This will cause Mitt Romney to lose the election."

A delegate from Alaska went so far as describing the Republican National Committee as an "organized crime syndicate," but he was hissed down by the crowd. The general vibe was that the activists are bloodied but unbowed.

After the ruckus, Minnesota delegate Bill Paulsen, a 33-year-old Paul backer who was on the 39-member Rules Committee that made the controversial changes, explained some of the mechanics behind the outrage. "One thing to understand about the power grab is that it bypassed a deliberative four-year process," Paulsen told me. "They're trying to control the process....It's a few insiders in the party who want to have power."

And it's not just about shutting out noisy constitutional conservatives, Paulsen said. "They don't want to see another Ron Paul, but they also don't want to see another Rick Santorum; let's be honest here," he said. Social conservatives, including a loyalist to Pat Robertson, were among the Rules Committee members most opposed to the changes. Paulsen said he received hundreds of angry e-mails from grassroots Republicans after word about the rules-changes leaked, "and these were not Ron Paul supporters."

Another Minnesota delegate, 37-year-old Daniel Lipp, who is running for the state House of Representatives in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, said that the dispute could do tangible damage to Republicans' electoral prospects in November. "If the grassroots gets damaged...we're going to lose a lot of votes."

The protesters were explicitly forbidden from bringing their signs inside the arena, but I saw many tuck them into their pockets. Look for the small yellow signs that say "GRASSROOTS."

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  • brec||

    ...associated with ... the Tea Party ...

    Originally the "party" in the "tea party" protests, or movement, was clearly a reference to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. But then some commentators replaced the sense of "party" as social gathering—birthday party; tea party—with that of a formal political organization—Republican Party; Communist Party. Now we often see references to "the Tea Party," a non-existent political organization.

  • CE||

    Not non-existent at all:
    See BostonTea dot US

  • CE||

    Here's hoping the RNC rules changes will backfire on the Establishment.

    They were originally afraid of a grassroots candidate catching fire, that's why they gave control of the nomination to party insiders in each state.

    Now they're afraid of a committed core of activists taking over at the state level, as happened in 6 or 7 states this year, so they're going back to relying on the popular vote, which is more easily manipulated through the media.

    But eventually a real pro-freedom candidate will catch on, and they'll have removed their own firewall.

  • ||

    This is why the idea of taking over the GOP from the inside was doomed to failure from the beginning.

    I won't hold my breath that many of these people will vote for GJ instead of holding their nose and pulling for Romniac anyways.

  • Cenotaph||

    Speaking of being doomed to failure.

  • Nondescript||

    "We were railroaded. This is the shot heard 'round the world."

    "The World" being a mute, frigid, icy and airless planet orbiting Gliese 229B, a brown dwarf in the Constellation Lepus.

  • Sevo||

    Or the HR blog at Reason.com

  • Sevo||

    Damned squirrels stole my ampersand!

  • Cenotaph||

    Being unfit to be president is pretty much a job requirement for the presidency these days.

  • Azathoth!!||

    From the 'bottom up'? The 'bottom' of the process is voters. And voters did not give the votes to Ron Paul. The activists using parlimentary procedures to overturn what the votes said can hardly be said to be in favor of a bottom up presidential candidacy.

    No, they are in favor of rule by activism--as evidenced by their actions.

    The Gramscian* infiltration is also quite evident--as the Ron Paul movement appears to be far to the left of Ron Paul himself. Surely the fact that potential Ron Paul voters are put off by the actions of the Ron Paul movement hasn't gone unnoticed?

    *Gramscian--I do not refer to this as an organization--rather it is the permeation of society with leftist thought. This process is so complete that it is nearly impossible to get fully away from it.

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