We are starting to see the stories appear in the Washington Post, the outrage on the blogs, the snickering from the left, and the confusion of the party regulars. It seems that we are running head-long into the Republican Party of Virginia selecting a convention for the 2016 presidential nomination. It's about the craziest damn thing I've ever heard of, quite frankly. I'm not a real big fan of statewide conventions because of their inconvenience and the way they force campaigns to look inwards rather than outwards. I would have thought that the 2012 7th district nomination would prove that primaries are just fine for conservatives.
Then I thought about it and then I thought some more? Wasn't it interesting how these stories are making it into the Washington Post? Other states use different methods - including incredibly complicated ones like Iowa, Nevada, Idaho, and now Kentucky. There is no rule that says every state must use a primary. But then I dug deeper and put my keen historical skills to use to look all the way back to ... 2012.
Trolling aside, I am very serious about this. The Establishment in this state has brought this onto themselves. The Republican Party of Virginia has the strictest ballot access laws for presidential candidates. It is so bad that a statewide convention is a fairer and more open process than a primary in Virginia. I can't believe I have to even say that, but it is true. Like a lot of things in Virginia, it's another way for the powerful in the state to make it appear like we have a choice when we really don't. As we remember to our great embarrassment as a swing state, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified for the ballot in 2012. While there was much laughing and taunting at candidates like Bachmann, Huntsman, Santorum, and Gingrich (the latter two being Virginia residents) it was the nature of the process of getting on the ballot that should have been mocked.
To review. A candidate must have 10,000 total signatures but at minimum of 400 must come from every congressional district, they must be collected by a resident of that same district and you must collect the last four digits of the signee's social security number - all to be done by December. So in order to qualify for a primary in early March a presidential campaign must have an organization set up in all 11 of the state's congressional districts by the early summer of 2015. That's in three months from today. The reason for this in 2012 was, of course, Virginia's political establishment *cough* Bill Bolling *cough* wanted to rig the state for Mitt Romney, so it's no surprise that the two candidates who ran in 2008 where the only ones to make the 2012 ballot. Do you think Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich had the resources in June, 2011 to start this process? Do you think Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or anyone other than Jeb Bush and Rand Paul have the resources in the state to cross that threshold? Where is the choice in that? Jeb will have the Richmond folks behind him and Paul will have his father's organization.
Compare that process to what it takes to qualify for a statewide convention and then ponder which is more open, fair and welcoming? For those veterans serving overseas, people with religious reasons for staying home, parents who can't bear to leave their kids ... what if one of those people want to support Walker or Cruz or Christie or Fiorina? What if they wanted to vote for Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman three years ago? Who is really being disenfranchised? The idea of promoting openness to the public while privately rigging the system for the establishment pick has a long history in Virginia and it needs to be exposed.
For the record, I would support a presidential primary if the ballot access rules were changed to even a fraction of what most normal states are. But the reality is we are going into another game, where the establishment rigs things behind the curtain while proclaiming openness and deriding conservatives as wanting to close the party, shrink it, blah blah blah. Can someone tell me how that embarrassment of a primary in 2012 helped anyone but the consultants milking Mitt Romney's campaign for all they could? The shoulder parrots out there babbling these talking points need to look really hard at this post and think about what they are talking about. If you support any candidate other than Jeb Bush or Rand Paul, you better pray you get a nominating convention or else your vote won't matter.