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Ron Paul Supporters Seek to Assert Presence at RNC in Tampa and Influence Long-Term Direction of GOP

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At the “Paul Fest” for supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul in Tampa, Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke speaks with Brian Doherty, author of the new book, “Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.” Doherty discusses the role Paul delegates will have at this week’s Republican National Convention and, looking ahead, in the future of the Republican Party. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: After the rally ended, Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke spoke with Brian Doherty, author of the new book, Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired. He talked about the role Paul delegates will have at this week’s Republican National Convention.

BRIAN DOHERTY: Tampa, in the buildup to the RNC convention, has been the Ron Paul forces’, both the official campaign and the grassroots, chance to sort of define where they move forward from here and the manner in which they move forward, in a world where they all have to admit that Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for president. The campaign has clearly made a very deliberate strategy, even in the face of what the grassroots see as deliberate disrespect, conniving and shenanigans on the part of the RNC to keep what they see as legitimate Ron Paul delegates from having a chance to be seated at the RNC. The Paul campaign has clearly chosen that they do not want to be a fighting rabble within the GOP in a manner that I think a lot of Ron Paul’s fans would like to be. They want to normalize themselves as what you might, at best, call the loyal opposition, but I think what they would characterize as just a legitimate faction of the party, especially given that Paul more than doubled his raw vote totals and percentage totals from 2008 to '12. Rather than 4 percent of GOP primary voters voting for Ron Paul, this year 10 or 11 percent did. So this is a significant part of the party with a distinct ideology from the Romney mainstream wing. And they're trying to play it that way.

The historical analogies that give them sort of hope for the future are both the Goldwater one—Goldwater in 1960, his fans were considered too radically anti-government, too young, too rabble-rousy. The sort of Rockefeller-Scranton establishment hated and mistrusted them. Four years later, their guy is candidate. It’s a disaster, of course. Sixteen years later, another Goldwater acolyte is president of the United States. The religious right is another analogy which was explicitly mentioned from the floor of this Paul rally today, this notion that after Pat Robertson’s failed 1988 run, he got his people doing the same thing that Ron Paul people are trying to do, taking over the party from the bottom up, being the people who go to local precinct meetings and get elected to committeemen positions, become delegates to the national convention. Even if they don’t get to vote for their candidate, like the Ron Paul people won’t, they start to become the party establishment. And the rule makers who are grinding the Ron Paul people down this week, you know, 10 years from now or whatever, it’s those Ron Paul people making those rules, and hopefully the party becomes a more Ron Paul-like party.

MIKE BURKE: Now, what role do Ron Paul delegates have here in Tampa inside the convention hall?

BRIAN DOHERTY: From what I’m gathering from talking to most of—and I am not someone who’s expert on Republican National Committee floor procedure, and I’m talking to a lot of delegates who aren’t either. Most of them have never been here before. But most of them feel that there’s not going to be any actual outlet for them to express their support for Paul. You know, when that whole thing happens on the floor where the great state of whatever announces who they’re for, there’s a spokesman for the delegation who does that. And most of the Paul delegates seem to think that because Paul has not been officially placed in nomination, that there’s not actually going to be any opportunity for anyone to say, “And x number of votes for Ron Paul,” that it will seem like a Romney coronation, even though we all know that there are hundreds of people on that floor who, if they had their druthers, would be voting for Ron Paul.

MIKE BURKE: I also want to hear your take on the speech we just heard from Ron Paul. He spoke for over an hour, did not mention Mitt Romney once by name.

BRIAN DOHERTY: Yeah, of course he didn’t. When Paul is asked, he consistently says he is not endorsing Mitt Romney. And I expect that to continue. He doesn’t like—I mean, he doesn’t support what Mitt Romney supports. He knows that his fans do not support what Mitt Romney supports. As much as the Republican Party might like that kind of discipline, Ron Paul understands and his political machine understands that he would basically lose all of the credibility he’s built up with these, you know, 6,000 or 7,000 people here, plus the 2.1 million people who voted for him, if he did that.

MIKE BURKE: If Mitt Romney loses in November, what impact do you think they’ll have in the direction the Republican Party goes?

BRIAN DOHERTY: A Mitt Romney loss in November would actually be a great opening politically for the presumptive heir to the Ron Paul movement, his son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. While it would be a mistake for the Paul political machine to assume that the loyalty of their fans is transferable and inheritable, you know, in a sort of king-to-prince way, it is true that his fans are inclined to want to like Rand Paul. And if Rand Paul just doesn’t do anything that completely angers them, they will stick with him.

Rand Paul is clearly making an attempt to appeal beyond his father’s base. He will speak the language of your sort of talk radio, red state Republican in a way that his father tends not to do. Like when he talks about foreign policy, rather than decrying the crimes of empire in a way his father might, Rand Paul is more likely to talk about the constitutional authority to wage war, you know, belongs to Congress and the Senate, and not the president. He’s more apt to emphasize the fiscal responsibility end of it: we cannot afford the empire. He doesn’t tend to decry it in moral terms in the way his father might.

So, a Romney loss in 2012 leaves the Republican field wide open in 2016, and Rand Paul is well situated and, by all accounts, is ready to take that run. He uncertain—he certainly would run for president in 2016 in the case of a Romney loss. And I should think that a defeat for the party’s mainstream really would leave the direction of the Republican Party in a great deal of flux in 2016, a great opportunity for an insurgent movement that already has proven itself to have pretty substantial numbers to really shift the party in their direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Doherty, author of the new book, Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired. He was speaking at the Sun Dome, interviewed by Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke, talking about the role Ron Paul delegates will have at this week's Republican National Convention and what Ron Paul’s candidacy means for the future. Sun Dome at the University of South Florida here in Tampa, where we are broadcasting for the week. Next week, we’ll be in Charlotte, North Carolina, for “Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” When we come back, the protests. Stay with us.

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