Grace Wyler / Business Insider
TAMPA, FLA. — The floor at the Republican National Convention briefly erupted into chaos Tuesday, when supporters of libertarian gadfly Ron Paul burst out into boos and chants of “point of order” over a new Republican Party rule that conservative activists say will sharply curtail the role of state parties and the party’s grassroots base. The rule — which passed on a vote voice despite loud “nays” from the floor — allows the Republican National Committee to override any decision made by the convention’s Rules Committee. It’s one of several measures passed at the convention today that Paul supporters protested, including a decision by the credentials committee not to seat all of Paul’s Maine delegates and a rule that would force states to select delegates based on the results of their primary or caucus.
Immediately after the rules vote, grassroots activist Kristina Ribali, new media director for the Tea Party/grassroots organisation FreedomWorks, sent off a stream of tweets lambasting the GOP Establishment and the Romney campaign for ignoring calls for a vote and forcing through a rule that will centralize power with the national party.
A sample from her Twitter feed gives a good idea of how the grassroots feels about the rules change:
Photo: Twitter / @KristinaRibali
Photo: Twitter / @KristinaRibali
As Ribali’s tweets illustrate, the dissatisfaction with the GOP extends far beyond Ron Paul’s Liberty Movement to other Republican activists that are not part of the traditional Republican Establishment, like the Tea Party and social conservatives.
In an interview with Business Insider Monday, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe expounded on Ribali’s arguments:
“I think the Republican Party overstepped its bounds by establishing a more top-down process,” Kibbe explained. “But they are essentially fighting against history. Politics is becoming more decentralized and more democratic — dramatically more democratic. More command and control from the top down is just a bad approach.”
The new rules are a short-sighted attempt to prevent the Ron Paul supporters from embarrassing Mitt Romney, Kibbe said, but they could end up having long-term consequences on the future of the Republican Party.
“They were worried about a few Ron Paul supporters creating a bit of drama on the floor, but they essentially are throwing the baby out with the bath water,” Kibbe said. “They are telling any grassroots delegate that wants to get involved in the process that they can’t be included in the process. It’s potentially dangerous.”
“This was a ham-fisted procedural stunt by the Romney campaign — they didn’t appreciate how quickly information traveled and they got caught doing something that has always been done by insiders,” he added. “It’s a real distraction at a time when every one is trying to come together.”
Kibbe conceded that the Republican Party may also be playing a long game, aimed at curtailing the potential power of other anti-Establishment activists down the road — including a possible primary challenge from the right, or worse, from another Paul.
“I think this was more about 2016, to be honest with you,” Kibbe said. “But if Mitt Romney isn’t able to hold together a broad coalition, he won’t be successful.”
But Kibbe does see a silver-lining — to him, the 2012 rules fight looked like the last, desperate power grab from a slowly dying Establishment.
“It strikes me as one of the final showdowns between the old top-down system and the new bottom-up system,” he said. “Because the grassroots will be heard.”
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