Greg Bishop's thoughts after attending the 2012 Illinois Republican Convention
The sun wasn't even over the horizon when we met to leave town. It was a normal morning for me. For my two travel and lodging partners, it was a little early.
We had a seemingly routine three-hour trek to the Tinley Park Conference Center just outside Chicago. During the drive, we talked about the different committees we should attend and try to provide input.
I even had some platforms that I felt would be good to submit to the Illinois Republican Party all ready to go--platforms supporting reformation of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act or maybe supporting "Right To Work" legislation.
I thought these would be good issues to get some attention and spark some debate.
There was also the committee of at-large delegates and alternate delegates where a group of 19 appointed republican leaders would nominate a list to fill the twelve available spots for the national convention.
Another committee of interest was the committeeman and committeewoman nomination.
Our drive north wasn't just on the road with our overnight bags in the truck bed with suit, slacks and shirts hanging in the extended cab. Our drive was also the substance and desire to get involved for the sake of liberty.
I was approved as a delegate by my GOP county chairman, as were the eight other people I personally encouraged to get set up and registered to take part in the state convention.
Being a delegate means you have a certain privilege--you can vote on things and provide input--or so we thought.
For full disclosure, I'm a Ron Paul guy, as were the around two-hundred others we were soon to meet with at the convention center. Sure our candidate didn't win anything over ten percent in the state's primary. With Illinois 64 delegates being sent to the national convention in Tampa this summer, us Illinois Ron Paul supporters were going to claim the fruits of our months of labor.
We had the goal of not only influencing the republican platform with a list of possible motions important to Illinoisans liberty like banning red light cameras, reforming the eavesdropping act, adopting the Tax Payer's Bill of Rights, etc., we also wanted to submit six names to be considered national delegates.
These were just motions for the floor we wanted all the state GOP delegates, over one thousand from around Illinois (another record turnout), to vote on while taking part in the Saturday assembly.
The big tent was not very inclusive
Friday's committees were locked up.
"We got iced out," one organizer said.
Others were visibly upset about what they witnessed during the "open" committee meetings and the lack of input from the delegates who showed up Friday.
Two different attempts to put a resolution on the floor in two different committees I witnessed were blocked with a simple explanation of "we don't take motions from the floor."
Then what were we doing there?
Again, we were just trying to give people the chance to vote on something during the convention, instead of just being provided a pre-determined platform and list of establishment candidates to be rubber-stamped.
After that failed attempt to get motions heard in committee, the next course of action was to draft a new resolution and get the heads of 50 different delegations to sign a petition allowing it to be brought to the convention floor for consideration by all the state delegates.
This was a task that proved very difficult for the fifteen hours before the deadline--especially when it seems very few county chairman are willing to break from the traditional non-controversial convention production.
After the committee meetings, I walked through the hotel lobby at the Tinley Park Holiday Inn.
There I saw two people talking with Congressman Aaron Schock about his aye vote for the National Defense Authorization Act. One, a young navy veteran and delegate to the state convention, was expressing his displeasure at Schock's willingness to end Posse Comatatus and Habeas Corpus, two provisions in the NDAA legislation.
Another younger gentlemen said that he wanted an honest reason why the congressman would vote for such things.
"It's a good bill" and "the courts will decide if it's unconstitutional," the young congressman said.
I overheard this exchange thinking "so, lawmakers can take legislate our rights away and then we'd have to wait 3 or 4 years for the courts to decide that we get them back?"
This was obviously not what the two gentlemen wanted to hear. They politely let the congressman know they were not happy with his response and walked away without incident.
I wondered how often Congressman Schock actually gets to hear, face-to-face, that kind of dissatisfaction for his NDAA vote.
Witnessing that exchange was on top of a day where party pageantry seemed to take precedent over having substantive debates about the party's platform or other issues important to Illinois.
I started having flashbacks of the 2008 state convention.
It was time to get together with other Ron Paul supporters at the hospitality suites. There were several, but the Ron Paul suite was the place to be.
With some snacks and a bunch of liberty-minded folks ready to network and have a good time, the karaoke started. Hours later, the party was still going strong with songs, dance and plenty of people and conversations.
"This was the most fun I've had at a Republican Convention," one downstate county chairman said.
She was there throughout the night having just as much fun as all the Ron Paul people.
State Senator Bill Brady even came into the Ron Paul hospitality suite for a song sang by a Ron Paul supporter. That Ron Paul supporter's performance was with almost as much passion as he had for his principles and the cause of liberty.
The party lasted well past one in the morning; what a much needed all-inclusive celebration us Ron Paul supporters held! We opened the doors to everyone and joined in song and dance with our fellow republicans. It was a huge success.
After a short sleep, a quick shower, checkout and some fruit and coffee it was then time to get more signatures for our motion--a motion we as a group of Ron Paul supporters thought was fair.
After all, most of us paid our dues to be there and were appointed delegates from our respected counties. We should be allowed some input. At least just some input.
We were able to get a bunch of signatures before the deadline, but it was not the required amount. We had been blocked by strong opposition and a resistance to any kind of break from tradition. The old guard would not even allow the ball on the field.
The convention was on: political ads targeting Barack Obama, representatives speaking, a highlight of state representative Mike Bost's recent rant at the Illinois General Assembly, and committee reports.
When it was time for the platform committee, the chair tells the delegates they can see the recommended platform printout by their seats.
"The Ayes have it," he says.
It was the same story for the at-large delegates "recommendation." But this time the nay's where a very loud "No!"
"The Ayes have it," the committee chair tells the the state delegates.
You can watch that moment right here.
These delegates were there to "vote."
"Corruption," one woman yells from back of the assembly.
"Roll call," several people scream.
"Ron Paul," another person screams.
"Let's be respectful," State chair Pat Brady says.
I thought to myself "Let's be respectful? Like not even considering to have a real vote on this issue--or even the other issues like the platform or committeemen and committeewomen?" Illusions.
"We want to thank all the Ron Paul people," Brady says. "And the Tea Party, and Santorum folks."
I walked out from my delegation as did other members of our county delegation--25 percent of which were Ron Paul supporters.
It's not about the person
When you're shutout of the process after working for months and in my case years, collectively collecting tens-of-thousands of signatures, then working the convention floor and helping organize to bring a couple-hundred others into the "party," you'd think there would be the recognition of allowing our caucus' motion on the floor.
There were several hundred volunteers with the Ron Paul camp who busted their humps, volunteering to hit the streets, make calls and get out the vote for the republican party. But, unfortunately, there was only passive consideration from the convention floor and delegation chairmen.
This wasn't about the candidate anymore. This was about the process. The establishment tried very hard to appear to be all inclusive--but they failed. That must change.
Politics is a full contact sport and the convention was merely playing pat-a-cake. But to stay civil, the establishment got their controversy-free convention. Now the establishment should be on alert: We're knocking at your door! Let us in! In two and in four years--the rEVOLution will still be here and louder, even more organized than ever.
In other news ...
The Illinois Republican Party had their coronation Saturday where they selected twelve delegates and twelve alternates--none are from the Ron Paul camp ...