Reports coming from the Maine Republican Convention this past weekend are that Tea Party activists and Liberty Republicans, who were elected as delegates in large numbers, have outvoted the party establishment and passed an alternative party platform stressing party reform and emphasizing traditional Republican and conservative values.
After their suggestions submitted through the platform formation process were ignored, the delegates on the floor rejected a platform proposed by party leaders which was virtually identical to the party's 2008 platform and then voted on and passed a much more libertarian and anti-government platform which passed easily. Then when it was challenged on procedural grounds it passed again with an even larger majority.
In the preamble they issue a challenge to the corruption of the party system, writing that "Years of neglect have allowed factions detrimental to the core principles of this nation, to entrench themselves in both political parties, and undermine the education of Constitutional principles vital to the survival of the republic." They also stress constitutional values and announce that:
We, the citizens of Maine united by free association as Republicans, dedicated to seeing the principles which brought forth the birth and ascendance of this State and these United States once again made dominant and pledge our unwavering allegiance, not to a political party, but to the Constitution of the State of Maine and the Constitution of the United States of America. The Republican Party is the vehicle through which we seek to better unify and promote those in pursuit of these goals.
The principles upon which the Republican Party was founded, to which we as Citizens seek return, and to which we demand our elected representatives abide, are summarized as follows:
- The Constitutions, both State and Federal, are the framework to which any and all legislation must adhere.
- State sovereignty must be regained and retained on all issues specifically relegated to the States by the constitution.
- National sovereignty shall be preserved and retained as dominant over any attempted unconstitutional usurpations of such by international treaty.
- It is the responsibility and duty, of “We the People”, to educate both ourselves and others; to demand honest elections free of corruption, and to hold our elected officials to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and loyalty to the constitution."
They then go on to address many specifics, although the platform is relatively short compared to those of other state Republican parties. Their concerns include protecting state sovereignty, national sovereignty, and individual rights, opposing federal interference with free speech in the media, opposing card check and forced unionization, prohibiting public funding for advocacy groups, opposition to cap and trade, ObamaCare and any kind of tax expansion, term limits and other limits on congressional power, and some socially conservative positions including opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Not everyone is happy with the new platform. The state party has yet to actually put it on their website, with the old proposed platform remaining in its place. Dan Billings, former attorney for the Maine GOP, called the new platform "wack job pablum" and "nutcase stuff." Yet the content does not really focus on the kind of conspiracy-related issues, hardcore anti-globalism or other radical agenda items of the Tea Party movement. Most of what it contains is very mainstream and widely supported by Republicans. It's just more specific and less moderate than many insiders would have preferred.
Response has been positive but qualified from party reformers and Liberty Republicans. In a comprehensive examination of the platform, Matt Gagnon of Pine Tree Politics applauds the substance of the platform while criticizing the cobbled together nature of a document essentially written off the cuff on the floor of the convention hall. R. Kenneth Lindell of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Maine commented, "It would have been better if the Platform Committee had done its job and taken the proposals for changes to the platform seriously. The end result would have been better written and more presentable. That said I think that it is a very positive development that activists who are new to the party have been able to succeed where earlier they were simply ignored and dismissed."
Critics on the left have been quick to attack the Maine platform as radical and the product of political amateurism, pointing to the criticism of the Federal Reserve and of globalist groups as "conspiracy theories and making much of the favorable mention in the platform of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Some have been eager to make fun of the conflict between the "teabaggers" and the Maine GOP. Nonetheless, even they admit that this may be a sign of things to come as grassroots activists gain a larger voice in Republican politics.
With state Republican conventions scheduled all over the country in the coming months, we may see more large-scale movements towards a more purist Republican ideology and an ongoing reaction against big government. Even if other state parties don't see outright takeovers of their platforms, they may respond to this grassroots pressure by shifting farther right voluntarily to address the increasingly loud demands of constituents.