Isaac isn’t the only newsmaker in Florida
By Bobby Regi
The National Republican Convention this weekend is shaping up to be something much more unpredictable than even the most seasoned political-climatologist could’ve possibly forecast.
There are so many factors converging on Tampa this week that it is a daunting task just to try and list them all.
First there is the ‘brilliance’ behind the choice to host the RNC in Tampa during the very peak of the hurricane season. Even though it appears that Hurricane Isaac will no longer be a direct treat to the convention, the impending natural disaster will inevitably cast a shadow over the entire week in Tampa and distract from the hype and expected bounce that Republicans wanted from this event. I understand that holding the event in a swing state is a political play for this year’s close election, but when too much depends on the weather, surprises will happen. It was a poor choice for publicity, something akin to holding the event during April in Tornado Alley.
Secondly, there are the underground tremors arising from the divided factions that make up the Republican Party in 2012. These remnants are divided between the Rick Santorum and Ron Paul candidacies. Amidst the increasingly insistent calls to unite behind the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, both the Santorum and Paul factions are faithfully awaiting the return of their respective Republican revolutionary, and everything will come to a head when the storm-delayed convention kicks off this week.
While the Santorum contingency has been mostly silent leading up to the Republican National Convention, the throngs of Ron Paul supporters have had very busy weekend with a dedicated camping festival attracting thousands to the Tampa Bay Fairgrounds this past weekend. The appropriately named PAUL-fest (People Awakening and Uniting for Liberty) featured an entire weekend full of liberty minded speakers, musicians, and activists gathering under one roof to further the cause of Libertarianism within the Republican Party. Interestingly enough, 2012 Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the ex two-term Republican governor of New Mexico spoke at length on Saturday during the event in an overt attempt to get in good graces of the Ron Paul supporters. Then on Sunday, the official Ron Paul campaign hosted an event at the Tampa Sun Dome billed as “the speech the Republican National Convention doesn’t want you to hear,” which was seen by many to be the culmination of Dr. Ron Paul’s three decade long career in politics. The gathering was officially dubbed “The Rally Before the Storm of Liberty” which attracted over 10,000 fervent supporters of Ron Paul and his message of minimal constitutional-based government. To put this number in perspective, the entire RNC event will barely eclipse this number unless some unforeseen surge of attendance occurs. Getting incredibly enthusiastic crowds to show up in huge numbers has been a specialty of the Ron Paul candidacy since day one this go round.
As if the fray in Tampa couldn’t get any more unpredictable, now add a bit of Occupy Wall-Street to the fray and you’ve got a situation that could tepidly simmer or just as quickly boil over into riots at this year’s Republican National Convention. One thing is for sure: the potential for widespread disruption at this year’s event is not a foregone conclusion. Today’s protesters are a very savvy and educated bunch and with the amount of firepower the GOP has placed on the streets of Tampa, it would be foolish for anyone to resort to violence and destruction as a means of protest.
Traditionally the conventions of both Democrats and Republicans have been a place where hotly contested battles between presidential candidates are finally decided via debates and delegate voting. In the modern day however, there has hardly been an election year in which the contest wasn’t decided well before the convention convened. The 2012 Republican convention will either be a forum for discussion between the remaining factions vying for the nomination, or a place where the GOP leadership quashes all disruption in hopes of producing of a picture perfect coronation of Mitt Romney. Let us all as Americans hope that the former is the option that the GOP chooses.
It goes without saying that in the 21st century, nothing can ever truly be planned to perfection. There are just simply too many variables to account for. Both Santorum and Paul supporters are hoping that the Republican Party is as open as they purport to be. A fair and substantive process is all that any candidate and their supporters ask for. America is a country based on the promise of equal opportunity. Hopefully for all conservatives, the GOP will allow such opportunity to manifest itself this year. For the good of the party and the Process, they should make the right choice to allow a bit of dissent and discussion at the 2012 Republican National Convention. A genuine effort to welcome all Republicans into the GOP tent regardless of the candidate they support would be a very wise decision. And, if the GOP is truly wise, clever, and inclusive, they will unite all the newfound energy from the Santorum and Paul campaigns under one banner to easily defeat the Democrats come November.
If not, there is more than enough gunpowder in Tampa this year to completely destroy the Republican Party for another four years or longer. The choice is in the hands of the beholder.
Editor’s note: Bobby Regi is a recent graduate of the Journalism School at The University of Colorado, Boulder campus and is on the ground in Tampa reporting for this newspaper and an active volunteer for the Ron Paul campaign. To comment on this colomn or to ask questions of Regi, email email@example.com.