On March 8th, I spent all morning and afternoon sitting in a metal folding chair, watching the slow, steady trickle of insanity take over a room full of people. I went to the Linn County Republican Convention.
Initial impressions first: it was held in the Teamsters Union Local No. 238. Apparently Jimmy Hoffa spoke at the building's dedication. Also apparently, John McCain is still a hard sell around these parts, as I ended up with no less than four glossy brochures going on about sacrifice and being Ready To Lead From Day One. Possibly the most convincing aspect was how half of them were obviously left over from January, giving the option of being a McCain supporter by voting in the Iowa Caucus.
They were expecting 400 or so, and ended up with somewhere around 150. Clearly only the most dedicated, plus me, showed up. This was a wee bit frightening, as it made me out to be dedicated. I like to tell myself I'm nothing of the sort; I just show up to keep myself informed on how local GOP politics is going. And to remind myself that yes, I'm mostly libertarian now.
It started off, as conventions always do, with lots of talking about how people need to be 'united' and 'pull together behind the candidates' and 'support the party' and a whole lot of rot. All a massive ploy to get people to buy snacks from the tables in the back, really. The idea is that if you talk a lot about things people don't want to hear, they'll drown out the pain by buying food. Brilliant, without a doubt.
This was followed by the keynote speaker, also known as the Iowa State Auditor. He was there to reveal to us all about how the governor, who happens to be a Democrat, is running the state into the ground financially. Wouldn't actually surprise me, but I wasn't paying much attention any more as I'd finally got my hands on a copy of the 2008 Linn County Republican Party platform, and it was a sight to behold. 238 planks, prior to amendment, with about half proposing new ways to spend money, a third proposing new ways to violate the US Constitution, and most of the remainder weaseling out of saying anything at all.
A few samples:
We support companies and individuals who invent an affordable car that gets 100 miles to the gallon - We also support ponies and rainbows. And sunshine, because it makes us feel happy.
With the increasing percentage of obesity and several health conditions, it is essential that our children are fed nutritional, life-giving foods in our public schools. It is time to be proactive instead of reactive, our kids deserve it because they are our future. Let's teach our kids how to eat to live instead of living to eat. - Clearly, we must cancel all the mandatory classes on junk food appreciation. And also stop serving things that literally suck the life out of kids in their school lunches. And also probably suspend students for buying Skittles. It's the only way.
We affirm that any Global Warming that may be occurring is not the result of human activity. - Now, I'm as much of a skeptic of an anthropologic cause for global warming as anyone, but the logic in my head says that affirming things in party platforms doesn't actually make them so, and that possibly attempting to use a political platform to state things about science is a dumb idea. But maybe I'm wrong, and the best thing for the country is a plank that states how we affirm that gravity is indeed that force which causes attraction between two masses.
We affirm that the current language in the Pledge of Allegiance and the original language of the Declaration of Independence are very important and must be protected. - Clearly, I missed the memo stating that historical documents like the Declaration of Independence are in a state of flux and can be arbitrarily reworded at any time. Given that, I have a brilliant new version of the Magna Carta I'm going to be shopping around.
We call upon the Linn County Building Department to honor state standards and stop making normal construction difficult. - I admit it, this one was just amusing. I'm envisioning a very put-out local entrepeneur writing this one hastily down at his local caucus.
We demand that when DHS (Department of Human Services) is involved with a family that the courts protect both the best interests of the child or children also protecting the rights of the parents. - We also demand that we not be constrained by the petty restrictions of English grammar.
And, of course, the section on Defense, Immigration, and Foreign Policy:
We believe that the United States Embassy in Israel should be moved to Jerusalem. - But seriously, why stop there? Since increasing controversy is clearly the answer, we should start construction of a nice new facility on the Temple Mount itself.
Terrorist websites at home and abroad should be closed down using computer warfare. - Yes. Yes. We must send out our remote-control mini-tanks into the tubes of the internets, post-haste!
We believe in more restrictions for legal immigrants (H-1B visas). - Wait. Are we trying to restrict legal immigrants, or are we trying to restrict the number of H-1B visas? Or perhaps we're trying to tell ourselves that all legal immigrants have H-1B visas? We're confused.
*insert a week-and-a-half writing break here*
I can give the platform a break, though. The planks are generally written by random people at local caucuses, and then collected with little to no editing by the platform committee. It's quite common to find incredible leaps of logic and massive internal inconsistencies in a county platform.
However, what happened as we were going through potential amendments to the platform was rather eye-opening.
I really, really wish I would have thought to write down the exact wording of the potential new plank that came up as an amendment. What I remember of it is that it referred to fighting terrorism in some way, and then went on to say that U.S. citizens should receive full due process rights regardless. It came up on the screen, there was no discussion brought up, and I thought to myself, "Well, that's fairly reasonable. I mean, it doesn't go as far as I would like, given that I'd rather see due process rights extended to everyone, period, but I can't imagine the average conservative having much problem with it. Eminently respectable."
But, no. The voice vote was not obvious enough to carry the amendment, and when they had those for, and then against, stand, I realized it was going to fail by a nearly 2-1 margin. Clearly, Republicans in Linn County are massively unconcerned about fair trials. It's not actually fun to find out that your neighbors wouldn't particularly mind you getting held without trial if you were under suspicion of terrorism or something.
And thus, my concern for the state of mind of the Linn County Republican Party.