The beauty of C-SPAN is that it allows citizens to witness democracy in action at the grassroots level from the comfort of their living room. On the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, 2008 at the Denver Sheraton in Colorado, the Libertarian Party held its party convention to decide who would be taking a savage, statistical beating in November as their Presidential nominee.
Much different from the streamlined infomercials that are the Democratic and Republican conventions that air on the major networks, the Libertarian convention shows the fascinating process of people working together towards a common goal. As the cameras panned across and worked their way through the room, there was a noticeable lack of minority faces. Although to be fair, there’s no telling who the gentleman wearing the V for Vendetta mask was.
Eight candidates were on the ballot for consideration. The party rules state that if a majority isn’t reached after the votes from the first ballot are tallied, no winner is declared. Another ballot would then be handed out, modified with the removal of the person with the least amount of votes as well as anyone with less than 5% of the total votes.
After the first ballot, the totals were given, and former Republican Congressman Bob Barr and author/scientist Mary Ruwart, who was informally drafted by Libertarian Party activists, were separated by one vote (153-152). Christine Smith and Mike Jingozian didn’t make the cut. After running through each state’s tally (North Dakota had no delegation to the convention) to make sure there was no error, the former candidates were allowed to take the stage and speak to the assembly. Smith, quite possibly slightly bitter from only receiving six votes, railed against Barr and his supporters for his appearance on top of the first ballot because she doesn’t feel he is a true Libertarian based on his Congressional voting record and his work as a federal prosecutor. She was first cheered and then the boos kicked in. Jingozian threw his support to Mike Gravel, former Democratic Senator from Alaska and recent Democratic Presidential nominee.
After the second ballot, Barr jumped out to a 26-vote lead over Ruwart (188-162). Steve Kubby, founder and director of the American Medical Marijuana Association, came in last. He took the stage and threw his support to Ruwart. Stephen Colbert received a write-in vote.
Someone from the floor named Brown requested a point of order, asking that George Phillies be cut from the third ballot to save time since he only got 6%. National Party Chairman William Redpath asked Brown if he is sure and when put to the floor, the idea was booed harshly.
A little bit of chaos ensued as a West Virginia delegate claimed that the when they ran through the state tally, the end of the spreadsheet didn’t appear on the screen. When told it had and they went through it all, which I myself witnessed on the screen, the delegate claimed he and other two delegates didn’t see it. He was shown the numbers and the three votes were attributed accurately.
Joe Johnson, former Trustee Board Member of Fredrick, CO took to the stage with a bizarre speech. He wanted to get people motivated yet he started by explaining how hard the work was on the Trustee Board, an all week-long job, and how he usually lost, so he didn’t run for re-election. Many people in the crowd seemed to ignore him and went about voting the new ballot, schmoozing the room, and eating pizza, so his speech shouldn’t unintentionally dishearten anyone in the ballroom.
The C-SPAN cameras showed candidates making their case to delegates. Ruwart, following up on Smith’s point, asked how someone like Barr, who supported the Patriot Act, could be their nominee.
On the third ballot, Ruwart closed the gap with a tie of 186 votes. She won 24; Barr lost two. Ron Paul received a couple of write-in votes. No doubt satisfying to Brown, Phillies came in last. He received applause when he stated he wouldn’t speak ill of fellow Libertarians as the real enemies were outside, but he offered no endorsement. He claimed the majority of his state delegates were neo-Pagan, but I couldn’t tell if he was joking.
Wayne Allyn Root approached Gravel and they had a discussion that a Root advisor requested not be shown on C-SPAN, so the video cut away. It was understandable, but unfortunate for the viewer.
On the fourth ballot, Barr and Ruwart remained tied for first, now with 202 votes. Gravel lost a couple, ending up in fourth place and out of the race, making the Gravel-Root discussion interesting because if – and it’s a big if – Root could get all of Gravel’s supporters, he would leapfrog into first place and avoid missing the next cut.
Gravel didn’t take to the stage, but spoke with reporters, which C-SPAN caught. He offered no official endorsement because he didn’t see that was his place, although he claimed to have voted for Root on the next ballot. He told reporters that this was the end of his political life in terms of running for office.
On the fifth ballot, Ruwart took the lead by six votes (229 – 223). Root spoke and stated he wanted to be part of a Barr-Root Presidential ticket, receiving a mixed response from the crowd. He asked to become the Vice Presidential nominee and said he would learn from Barr and run for President in 2012. Their alliance might stem from them both being former Republicans, although they made clear the party left them.
It had usually taken about 20 minutes between each ballot, but this sixth ballot had an extended break as a few states were repeatedly asked to return their ballots. Barr won 324 to 276 with 26 voting “None of the Above.” Ruwart took the stage with her campaign team and introduced them in a rather boring fashion, a possible indication of why she didn’t appeal to more people.
Barr accepted the nomination stating they don’t want to make a point or send a message to Washington D.C., but they plan on winning. While they earn points for enthusiasm, I am not sure whom they are fooling. While Barr has countrywide name recognition as a former Congressman, he could well splinter the Libertarian vote due to his past positions. Considering they haven’t garnered more than one percent of the popular vote since 1980, a fractured party certainly doesn’t bode well for his chances.
Chairman Redpath ran the show from the podium and kept things progressing smoothly for the most part, even though the organization at times betrayed its small-time nature. When the results of the first ballot came down off the overhead projector, some attendees asked they be put back, but it was explained that couldn’t happen because the secretary’s laptop was being used. Hopefully in 2012, they bring a spare. Later, a lost camera was found and Redpath twice gave out the name and cell phone number of the person who found it on national TV. I was tempted to call it.
Without knowing the candidates or their positions, watching the democratic process unfold in a civil manner is an inspiration and an example of true patriotism. It is a great tribute on the weekend when we honor those men who gave their lives for this country and what it stands for.
Not shown on C-SPAN, Root defeated Kubby on the second ballot to become the Vice Presidential nominee. The voting numbers can be found at the Libertarian Party’s website.