Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?
Smoking Out The Rats In A Snake Pit - Calley vs. Cooper
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
You'd think that someone would have covered it. In the Grand Rapids area, channel 3, channel 13, the Grand Rapids Press, and the Associated Press mentioned it in passing. Channel 17 mentioned the event that precipitated it and much of what followed it (although they did give it some coverage on the video). Channel 8 was the only one to cover it in any detail. Oddly enough, even Michigan Liberal at least gave it a spot. And the really goofy thing is that in perusing the statewide media coverage of the 2010 Michigan Republican Convention this past weekend, the two Detroit papers provide the most accurate account of what happened as a whole at the convention . . . but only if you know how to combine the facts and weed out the inaccuracies. Even then, both the Freep and the detNews didn't quite get the key point of what happened.
So I suppose that, as usual, the conservative blogger-journalists have to step up to the plate and correct the record. And in this case, I can provide a rather unique perspective.
According to a quote misattributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." Keep that quote handy; it'll come in useful as we go along here.
A little bit of background is in order first
Earlier in the month, 27 of the 31 member organizations (currently) of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance had decided to gather in Holt - it was originally billed as a "Gathering of the Eagles" - and caucus amongst those of their alliance who had been seated as convention delegates and alternates. The idea was to build some kind of consensus as to whom we should be supporting so that we could go into convention with something of a unified voice. On paper, it was a very sound concept. Depending on whose numbers you believe, the "tea party caucus" of the state convention made up between one-third and one-half of the seated delegates; and if they chose to speak with a unified voice, then they had the power to sway the contested ballots in a manner that would likely run afoul to the intentions of the party establishment . . . and would also set a very historic precedent, as Strategic National (whom MTPA was opposing on at least two contested ballots) has never once lost at the MIGOP State Convention.
And as it was originally laid out, the concept was sound. Only known tea party delegates and alternates, a Q&A session followed by discussion period, followed by a straw poll to see if consensus could be built in the first place. Two problems developed during the final week, however. The first was that, for reasons that remain ambiguous, instead of just being a "tea party caucus," the door was going to be opened up to all delegates; the second was that the person who was going to be "moderating" the session was someone who was known to have provided high-profile endorsements to candidates in each of the races being discussed . . . and thus a conflict-of-interest pall was settling onto the event before the day had even arrived.
And at the event itself (as accurately reported by the Detroit News), the message was switched to using this caucus as a voting bloc on the convention floor, and ruffled damn near every feather in the room. You see, getting the MTPA to work as a cohesive unit is not unlike herding cats. While they are willing to coordinate their efforts and work as a team, the member organizations, as a usual rule, pride themselves on their individuality and bow to the dictates of no one. Several of the delegates that I talked to privately during the event grumbled that, the way things were working out, they smelled a rat.
Storming the gates
I don't care if it's Ron Weiser's first time chairing a convention or not, he's not a newbie to these things. All the apologies and excuses from the lectern may have placated the crowd, but the tea party caucus wasn't fooled. MIGOP had plenty of time to scout the location and determine its usefulness for convention purposes; even the rookies were noticing that this arrangement wasn't particularly conducive to allowing the districts to caucus as the convention went on. Add to that the unnecessarily long lines at the door, and the lack of pre-convention district caucusing, and much of the grumblings from Friday night were starting up again. I know that the tea party delegates from West Michigan were discussing among themselves, and their take was that the entire chain of screw ups to date was creating the impression that the fix was already in.
See, while about 55% of the convention delegates were new to this, unlike years past these "rookies" were of a different sort. The typical tea partier is in their forties, an established professional, and college educated. In other words, these people are quite capable of doing their own homework and making up their own minds. In their opinion, the "party establishment" was afraid of getting their "rubber stamp party" applecart upset, and was doing everything within their capacity to protect their choices from the tea party caucus. Whether that is actually true or not may never be provably known, but as anyone who knows anything about running a business can tell you: when it comes to marketing, perception is reality . . . and the MIGOP officials were doing very little to correct that perception.
There had initially been a concern that the Rules Committee Meeting earlier that morning would adopt a change to the convention rules that would do away with the secret voting in the contested ballots. Whether or not that was actually being brought up was not as important as the perception that it was even being considered (remember that "perception is reality" thing). I was very pleased when I heard from a couple of friends on that committee that the integrity of the secret vote was going to be preserved, and I spread that word around.
The word had been put out at the Tea Party Caucus Meeting on Friday night that Bill Cooper was going to be nominated from the floor. However, once again, that conflict-of-interest pall had interfered with the message (and again, it was due to the conduct of the person who was "moderating" the event). But, just to make sure that as many people as possible were aware of what was going on and why, the key players of Michigan Tea Party Alliance were diligently circulating leaflets to every delegate who didn't already have one . . . and making sure that they knew what it was about and why. According to the straw poll taken at the tail end of Friday's meeting, this was something that we could pull off.
Let's be clear about something, at no point did the MTPA actually have a problem with Brian Calley as the running mate to Rick Snyder. See, the irony is that both Bill Cooper and Brian Calley had been vetted by the Independence Caucus and endorsed in their respective primaries. As Don Jakel and Fred Bertsch said in their nomination and supporting speeches, we have no issue with Calley himself . . . our issue was with the process.
And let me clear up something else while I'm at it, MIGOP knew at least two days in advance that this was coming. This wasn't a last-second surprise from the floor; we had notified the appropriate state party committee officials and had received confirmation that all of the relevant procedural hurdles had been cleared to advance a contesting nomination. The convention officials and state party leadership had no excuse for not being prepared for an appropriate and secure contested ballot vote.
An act of courage and faith
However, now with two valid nominations on the floor, a vote still needed to be called. Convention officers apparently were going to rely on a "show of hands" method; the problem was that not all of the credentialed delegates had been issued their credentials. So the solution to that was to use the "honor system" and trust that no alternates would vote. Yeah, in a contested convention vote with the party apparatus in danger of losing control of the top of the ticket, we're going to have an honor-system-show-of-hands vote . . . how can this possibly go wrong?
Remember that I said earlier that the tea party delegates made up between one-third and one-half of the delegation? Well, this ad hoc version of "card check" provoked an immediate blowback of disgust that was given voice through a loud and growing chorus of boos. A good chunk of the delegation suspected that Bill Cooper was about to be railroaded, and they did not like it.
In the four or five minutes that it took the convention officers to "agree" to the charade of a "card check" vote, I was on the floor and very close to the stage . . . and several thoughts flashed through my mind:
Colin Powell's 15th rule of leadership is that as soon as you have enough information to give you a 40% to 70% chance of being right, then go with your gut. The point of this philosophy is that it's often unwise to wait until you have enough info to be "statistically certain" (≥ 90%) before acting . . . because by then it is frequently too late.
I had to do something, and I was in a position to do something, so I did something. Pay attention to the following video, especially to the guy approaching the left side of the stage at about the 4:39 point.
That roll call motion - which received immediate support - logjammed the convention floor for, at most, 17 minutes (although it felt closer to an hour), and somehow also caused some technical difficulties with the live online feed.
Both Bill Cooper and I were swarmed immediately (he was up on the back part of the stage; I was on the floor at the corner), and placed under tremendous pressure. I can't speak for what Bill was going through, but I was finding out who my friends were in a hurry. I had people who were in strong support of this nomination urging me to stand my ground (not that I was actually considering doing anything else); and I had a few very close friends reminding me of what I was putting at risk in terms of my political future. I had told Hank Fuhs, the convention secretary, that I was willing to allow my motion to be tabled so that we could sort out a fair, proper, and secure method of casting a vote one way or the other.
The funny thing about the fog of conflict (including a good floor fight) is that it gets confusing in a hurry. I was trying to find a microphone (security had snagged the one I was using, and I didn't have my megaphone with me) so that I could request that the vote motion be tabled. I don't know what was going through Bill Cooper's head, but my guess is that he misinterpreted one of the initial show of hands as being for him (neither were, both were for Calley), and concluded that he might not have enough support to win this. In his mind a pyrrhic victory would be worse than a withdrawal, and as much as I would have preferred that the vote actually be taken, I don't question his decision to avoid making a bigger mess out of things.
I learned in a later private conversation that Rick Snyder, the gubernatorial nominee (and the Strategic National candidate in the gubernatorial primary) had been working behind the scenes - in direct opposition to the party officials and other sundry staffers - to advance my motion. No dice, apparently; it seems that the Yob Machine was already at risk of losing one contested ballot (which I'll talk about in another essay), and they didn't want to take a chance at being embarrassed twice in the same convention.
What I can tell you for sure is this: The Michigan Tea Party Alliance is okay with Brian Calley being the running mate on Snyder's ticket; but they are mad as hell at the clear betrayal of the most sacred element of a free society - the secure ballot box. They know that it isn't Calley's fault or Snyder's fault, and they won't take it out on either of them. But they also know that Bill Cooper had it right; the process is broken. So the MTPA is going to do what needs to be done to fix this mess . . . and the parties responsible for that travesty will answer for their actions.
Smoking Out The Rats In A Snake Pit - Calley vs. Cooper | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Smoking Out The Rats In A Snake Pit - Calley vs. Cooper | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)