Matt Evans: North Dakota Is The Best Place In The Nation To Get Involved In Politics

ndgop delegate

The 2016 NDGOP state convention is my 3rd in a row, and it has been the best one yet. I’d like to thank state chair Kelly Armstrong, as well as the many other volunteers who worked hard to make the convention run fairly and smoothly.

You may recall that during the 2012 convention, the Ron Paul supporters staged an ambush insurrection. They came prepared as delegates, with some knowledge of the rules, and they had a single mission: make sure that the people elected to be national delegates were all Ron Paul supporters.

Many of the 2012 Ron Paul supporters had never been to a convention before – myself included. Furthermore, I don’t think there had been a state convention where a serious and organized floor challenge emerged (or at least, not to the same degree as happened in 2012).

The Paul insurrection challenged the rules, challenged parliamentary procedure, and its supporters came ready to propose an entirely different list of delegates.

The folks running the convention seemed unprepared for the Paul supporters. They were facing floor challenges from people they hadn’t seen before. Some folks in attendance thought the convention had been infiltrated by democrats.

As a result, the convention floor got ugly. Voice votes were challenged – repeatedly. The delegate balloting was insufficient, and multiple challenges to the delegate process and balloting kept coming up. There was yelling on all sides; raw emotion at the microphones, and a lot of frustration, hurt feelings, and animosity to go around.

In the end, the Ron Paul supporters didn’t succeed. It had been a long shot, and everyone knew it, but there was a hope that the process would at least seem fair to all involved.

But coming out of that 2012 convention, not everyone felt that things had been done well or fairly. Even some folks who weren’t Ron Paul supporters thought that the convention had gotten out of hand.

The NDGOP listened and responded, and as a result, the 2016 convention (the next one to deal with national convention delegates – since there wasn’t a presidential race in 2014) ran smoothly and fairly.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The NDGOP listened and responded, and as a result, the 2016 convention (the next one to deal with national convention delegates – since there wasn’t a presidential race in 2014) ran smoothly and fairly.[/mks_pullquote]

In the 4 years since the 2012 convention, the rules about how to be considered for national delegate, how to get nominated, and how balloting is to be done were all explored and improved. I’d like to thank everyone who had a part in those discussions and changes. This convention was a great success, in part because of your efforts.

This year, in 2016, floor nominations for national delegates were taken and compiled, without drama. The convention organizers were prepared. Chairman Armstrong explained the process to us ahead of time, and he stuck to it. The nominations were accepted on Saturday, and the ballots were prepared overnight for voting on Sunday. All of the nominees had their names appear on printed ballots. This is what I, and many others, wanted after the 2012 convention, and for 2016, this is exactly what happened.

A stressful point of the 2016 convention was a floor motion to change an aspect of the national delegate voting process. A request was made to ask each nominee who they planned to support at the national convention. The chair was fair but firm in handling this request. He explained that he would allow 5 minutes of discussion in support of the motion, and 5 minutes for those opposing.

After the discussion period had expired, he called for a vote. The vote was done by voice, and was close. I believe the chair called it for the “nays”, but there were some shouts of protest (e.g. “division”, or calls for a more careful vote tally). I believe the chairman next asked to do the vote by asking the yeas and nays to take turns standing. When it was clear that the vote was too close to count visually, Chairman Armstrong made the decision to put the matter to a tallied, written vote.

This was absolutely the right call. It took longer. It was frustrating. It was especially frustrating for me, since for each matter put to written ballot during the weekend, I was stepping over people’s knees, handing out, collecting, and counting ballots from the 48 seated delegates in my district.

Ultimately, the nays won the vote, just as the chairman had initially called.

The point is that this time, the convention was able to handle an unexpected challenge in a way that was fair, transparent, and professional. The folks that lost that particular vote were obviously disappointed, but when the proceedings are fair and transparent, everyone can respect the process and the institution, and therefore, the results.

I should point out that I’m happy with how this convention went, even though not all of the votes went the way I wanted them to. That’s a sign of a well-run convention – even the “losers” go away satisfied.

One of the votes that disappointed me this time was the governor’s race. I came into the convention being a solid Rick Becker supporter, but admitting that any of the three candidates would do a fine job as governor. But of the three qualified candidates, Becker was the clear choice for me. I’m a political principles nerd, and Becker speaks my language. I cheered when I noticed the copy of “Atlas Shrugged” on the bookshelf in the upper right of his campaign video. As far as I am concerned, that book was put in that video as fan service specifically for people like me. I loved that his team put together a coloring book that had quotes from the great political philosophers of Western Civilization – from Thomas Jefferson to Milton Friedman. I grabbed extra copies for each of my kids.

So, how could I not support Becker?

Despite his loss, Becker got many more votes than I expected he would. He surprised many people this weekend. Numerous folks who were not Becker supporters told me that they want to see more of Rick Becker in the future; that their opinion of him went way up during the weekend. That’s fantastic. It’s disappointing for this weekend, but it’s promising for the future of the party.
There were many new convention attendees and first-time delegates at this convention. The feedback I’ve heard has been overwhelmingly positive. People enjoyed the convention. They want to come back and do it again. They want to get more involved.

To be sure, every event can be improved. There was some feedback that nominating speeches, seconding speeches, additional seconding speeches, and candidate speeches didn’t have to be quite as long if the convention was running behind schedule (it was), or if a candidate was running un-opposed (some were). These are minor complaints, in my view. Furthermore, candidates can (and did) help with this. I appreciated the candidates who called-off their floor demonstrations in the interest of saving time; I appreciated that some candidates shortened their speeches in the interests of letting people get home at a reasonable hour.

What a difference four years makes! After 2012, many first-time attendees lost interest in the state party. We’ve lost them. They haven’t come back.

Contrastingly, after the 2016 convention, many first time attendees are excited. They want to get even more involved. They want to go to more conventions in the future.
I’ll say it again: North Dakota is the best state in the US for citizens to get involved in the political process. I hope you’ll join us before 2018!