Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Columnist John Romano: Maine delegates knew their dissent was symbolic

Sometimes, you fight.

Even if you are outnumbered. Even if you are certain to lose.

Sometimes, you shout.

Even if it won't help. Even if your voice will not be heard.

Sometimes, you stand up for what you believe, consequences be damned.

And so it happened that a handful of delegates briefly shattered the image of one large, happy Republican family at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday.

They led a chorus of dissenting voices during a seemingly routine rule change, and then continued protesting so loudly that RNC chairman Reince Priebus had to swing the gavel several times and ask that speakers be treated with respect.

The protest died quickly and will ultimately be remembered as inconsequential, if it is remembered at all. But for the few, the angry, the disappointed, it was necessary.

"They're so terrified of a conversation, they'd rather have people yelling into a microphone that their rights are being violated. How does that help anything?'' said Jeremy Blosser, an alternate delegate from Texas. "If they wanted one voice for the party, that's what they achieved with what they did here today.''

The confrontation came to a head during procedural votes Tuesday afternoon, but the root of the problem was several months old.

Mitt Romney supposedly won the Maine caucus, according to state party leaders back in February, but straw polls seemed to indicate Ron Paul had greater support.

So when the GOP proposed rule changes last week that would severely limit the ability of dark horse candidates to collect delegates at the convention, the Maine delegation rebelled. And when the rule changes were adopted Tuesday — despite a rather loud number of "no" votes from across the floor — many of the Maine delegates left the arena.

They understood their dissent would be symbolic.

"I'm happy with the noise,'' said Maine delegate Russell Montgomery. "We weren't going to get our fair share anyway, so we made sure they were going to hear us. Apparently, the rules don't matter to the RNC.''

The protest, they insisted, was not about the candidate. The point was that a delegate should be permitted his or her choice, and should not have the party dictating votes.

As if on cue, Republican leaders ignored delegate votes for any candidate other Romney during the roll call early Tuesday evening.

"What happened to Maine was unconscionable. It's a complete violation of party rules,'' said Blosser. "And I wouldn't care if they were Romney people or Gingrich people. If their rights are violated, we need to stand up for those people.''

Maine delegates were unsure if there would be ramifications. Half the delegation had already had its credentials pulled, and the rest were on day-to-day passes.

"If we behave, maybe we get credentials. Or maybe not,'' Montgomery said. "They didn't kick me out, but what am I supposed to do if half of my team is gone?''

As he was explaining this in the Times Forum corridor, a delegate from New Hampshire walked past and gave him a pat on the back.

"Keep fighting,'' he said.

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