Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Shape of Things to Come OR Chaos in the St. Charles County Republican Caucus

Let me set the scene.  Yesterday was the Missouri Republican Caucus (if you're asking yourself, 'wait didn't Missouri already have a Republican Primary?', yes they did, it didn't actually count for anything, and delegates for the state convention, where the national delegates will be selected, were chosen yesterday).  St. Charles County is one of the most conservative counties in the state and awards one of the largest delegations to the convention.  Except that didn't happen yesterday.  Instead the caucus ended with a police helicopter circling overhead while campaign representatives were arrested by swarms of police on the ground and no delegates were awarded to anyone.  But that's jumping ahead.

Last month during the non-binding Missouri Primary, Rick Santorum won St. Charles County with 56.3% of the vote to Romney's 25.4% and Paul's 12.7%, but as previously mentioned that didn't actually mean anything.  In what is increasingly becoming a race for delegates, they were still up for grabs.  Which is pretty much exactly what happened: "We had about 300+ Paul supporters at the caucus, but we didn't have a majority. Our camp made a deal with the Romney camp to shut out Santorum and we'd still get our chair and Romeny would get delegates and secretary."  There's nothing wrong with this by way, combining their forces, the Romney and Paul camps figured that with low turnout they'd end up with a majority at the caucus and be able to divide up the delegates amongst themselves, completely shutting Santorum out.

It was a good plan really, and it would have worked too if it weren't for those meddling kids and that mangy dog too (also known as Santorum supporters on the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee). This included Bryan Spencer, the committee member tasked with organizing the caucs, who told the Ron Paul county organizer, "if the Ron Paul people come in and hijack the caucus, I will do everything in my power to throw out the entire delegation on a technicallity."  Spencer even found a clever way to figure out if they were likely to be 'hijacked', he had all caucus attendees vote in a straw poll while signing in.  Which pretty much sets up what followed.

Fellow Santorum supporter, and temporary caucus chair, Eugene Dokes refused to start the caucus until all recording devices were turned off.  When a Paul supporter refused, Dokes had the cops called and proceeded to appoint a permanent caucus chair and rules and credentialing committee members on a voice vote that he pretty clearly lost.  Newly appointed caucus chair Matt Ehlen was unable to gain control of the caucus, which was quickly becoming a mob, and declared the caucus over without having appointed any delegates and that anyone who didn't leave the building would be arrested.  And then a couple of people were in fact arrested as they tried to organize supporters for whatever the next step will be:

Now as insane and entertaining as all of that was (and calling out a police helicopter to break up a Party Caucus at which there are no actual protestors is pretty insane and entertaining), it's not in itself very important.  What it is, is a canary in a coal mine.  Because the reality is that most of the contests thus far have been little more than the Missouri Primary, merely a straw poll while the actual delegates to the National Convention are to be selected later.  And this kind of grassroots level infighting, scheming, and back stabbing can destroy a Party.  Half the people at the St. Charles County Republican Caucus think that the other half is bent on overturning democracy, and the other half believes the same about the first.  The only difference is one side thinks their opponents are fascist while the other thinks they're a mob.  It's hard to come together behind a nominee after that, even harder when everyone admits that this primary is going to drag on for at least two more months and probably more.  Two more months where we're going to get to watch this type of drama unfold again and again, all over the country, each time building off the last.

I can't wait.

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