The Iron Fist in Tampa

As the Republican convention-goers gather in Tampa, Florida, the Republican party Establishment is eager to crush any public expressions of dissent — both inside and outside the convention hall.

Inside, efforts are underway to make it impossible for delegates pledged to antiwar libertarian Ron Paul to place their candidate in nomination — an effort the Huffington Post deems a “defense” against Paulian “shenanigans.” Party rules say officially-recognized candidates must have pluralities of delegates in at least five states: however, at a recent Republican National Committee meeting, Texas committeeman John Ryder moved to increase the number of states to ten — just to make sure Paul doesn’t make the grade. Disdaining convention floor fights as “the residue of the 19th century,” Ryder averred it is time to “streamline” the process by which the GOP nominates its standard-bearer. Ryder claimed that he wanted to eliminate “distractions” at the Republican convention:

Unless you’ve got a real contest, where you have two candidates or three candidates who actually have a mathematical chance of winning, then why do we want to go through the exercise?”

I have a better idea: since polls are showing Mitt Romney being soundly beaten by our incumbent President, why don’t’ we just dispense with these pesky elections — which are, after all, just part of the residue from the 18th century — and declare Barack Obama the winner? That way, we can save time, energy, and taxpayers’ money — because, after all, the taxpayers are footing the bill for Mitt’s coronation, just as they are for the Democrats. Think of it as a Republican budget-cutting plan — the Ryder plan.

To the Republican party Establishment — and much of the rank-and-file activists — political debate is a “distraction” from what really matters in politics, which is seizing power. As for the rules governing the political process — they can be changed at a moment’s notice, and bent any which way, in order to facilitate this seizure. Ron Paul’s supporters in the GOP learned that the hard way, as the Romneyites used their control of the party bureaucracy at the state and national levels to retroactively change the rules in order to unseat duly elected Paul delegates. In Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Oregon, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, the party bosses have disenfranchised Paul voters — closing down party caucuses, rejecting as delegates anyone under 50, and calling the cops when all else failed. And while Ryder’s rule change failed — thanks to RNC’er Morton Blackwell — the Romney people did sneak in an amendment that would require delegates to state in writing who they intend to vote for on the convention floor at least one hour before the vote.

This is something not even the Communist Party of the Soviet Union required, and is unheard of even in Red China. The reason for the new rule is obvious: to alert the Romneyites to impending displays of public dissent. This will give them time to isolate the dissenters, strip them of their delegate credentials, and unceremoniously haul them out of the convention, preferably in handcuffs, while the cameras roll.

On the outside, it looks even more grim: aside from the fact that a major hurricane is reportedly headed straight for Tampa — in which case the whole thing is apt to be cancelled — preparations are underway for mass arrests: they’re emptying out the local jail to make room for all the protesters, who have been duly warned, in a letter posted by the local top cop on the county web site:

To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift.”

What political convention would be complete without an Anarchist Scare? The feds are warning us about “anarchist extremists” plotting to use “acid-filled eggs” and other infernal devices to disrupt the smooth flow of the expected in Tampa. And Fox News “reports”:

On Tuesday, Tampa police confiscated bricks and pipes found on a rooftop several blocks away from the site of the Republican convention. Graffiti associated with the anarchist movement was also found. Castor called the discovery “disconcerting but … not surprising.”

Bricks, old pipes, and graffiti — on an urban rooftop? Why, it’s unheard of! Surely this is evidence of a criminal conspiracy of unprecedented proportions. I’m surprised the Governor hasn’t called out the National Guard. Although I’m not at all sure how those “acid-filled eggs” are supposed to work: wouldn’t the acid eat away the egg before it’s thrown? Perhaps I’d better look up the recipe in my autographed copy of The Anarchists’ Cookbook.

The idea that this convention is part of the “democratic” process is a joke: it is no more free and open than an old-style Soviet party convention. What’s going on in Tampa is the culmination of a process that has nothing to do with democracy, and everything to do with legitimizing the control of party bosses, corporate interests, and, most important of all, the War Party over the nominating process and the two-party duopoly.

The extraordinary hostility of the GOP hierarchy to Ron Paul and his supporters hardly comes as a shock: Paul is, after all, the single most trenchant critic of our interventionist foreign policy since William Jennings Bryan, and he is the War Party’s deadly enemy. To the servitors of the military-industrial complex, the foreign lobbyists, and would-be Napoleons of the neocon persuasion who hold the reins of power in the GOP, he is the Devil Incarnate. So unwelcome is Paul’s presence that I doubt they’ll even allow him on the convention floor, even given that his more pliable son is one of the speakers. And you can bet Rand Paul’s speech will be vetted under a magnifying glass well in advance: these are people who hate surprises.

For all their talk of “freedom” in the abstract, when it comes to their own party, the Republicans are ruthless authoritarians: we’re about to see that demonstrated in Tampa.


We no longer have political parties in the American tradition: private organizations that arose out of common concerns and dueling theories of government: today the two-party monopoly ensures that both “major” parties are extensions of the state apparatus. And it is dangerous to criticize their stranglehold on our politics: recently, a group of third parties and concerned individuals, including ballot access expert Richard Winger, sued the state of California to allow third parties to put their names on the ballot, or even have their candidates dubbed “independent,” instead of being labeled “no party affiliation.” Under California’s new election law, passed by initiative, all candidates run in the same primary and the top two compete in a run off: third parties are effectively abolished. The suit was an effort to rescue their legal and political status from utter oblivion. The judge not only ruled against the plaintiffs, he also required them to pay the legal costs of the well-heeled backers of the law, who had intervened in the case. The six plaintiffs are being billed for $243,279.50 — because, the judge said, the case was “not in the public interest.”

If it happened in Putin’s Russia, we’d be reading about it in the New York Times.

I see we’re seeing somewhat better results from our fundraising drive, but we’re still lagging behind where we should be at this point — even with our pledge of matching funds.

Look, I hate to bring this up at the end of each and every column, but I really don’t have a choice. Unlike those Republican revelers in Tampa, we aren’t partying on the taxpayers’ dime. We depend on you, our readers and supporters, to support the kind of independent journalism that has made a byword for fearless commentary and reporting on the foreign policy front. We’re in this fight for the long haul — fifteen years and counting, so far. As war clouds gather on the not so distant horizon, is more essential than ever: so please, contribute what you can — and, remember, it’s tax-deductible.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].