Tampa—What happens when you fail to process what is happening before your eyes and just run with a lazy interpretation? You get really incendiary stuff like this from Harper's Jack Hitt:
There were energetic shouts of "Aye!" and "Nay!" as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"
The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, "Is this happening?" I said I honestly didn't know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.
First some background: Scheduled between the two committees the Ron Paul people were really upset over, Credentials and Rules, was the Committee on Permanent Organization. Nobody gets too upset over (or cares about) Permanent Organization because all they do is select convention officers. Rules and Credentials have the power to seat delegations and dictate how the party is run.
The Credentials Committee that was up before Permanent Organization denied a request from the Paul folks to seat the disputed Maine delegation. They were, understandably, really unhappy about this. Loud chants and cheers and boos broke out in the hall. At one point there were several dueling chants. These chants continued to take off and die out in almost cyclical manner. Paul people were fuming that their Maine friends were shut out of the convention.
The Republican Party is atrocious on immigration but the cacophonous shouting and chanting was not "an ugly outburst of nativism." It was disgruntled Ron Paulers expressing their displeasure with the party establishment they perceive as hostile to them not Puerto Rican National Committeewoman Zori Fonalledas. Of course, if you were paying any attention to what was happening on the floor you already knew this.