GOP factions struggle for primacy

The Washoe County Republican Convention held April 2 exceeded all attendance predictions. So many paid at the door the convention could not start on time as the volunteers worked hard to process them.

Mike Weber did a fantastic job as chairman and kept the convention running smoothly. However, an inordinate amount of time was spent on bylaws changes aimed at one person, Gary Schmidt, owner of the Reindeer Lodge on Mount Rose Highway and a long-time curmudgeon who has irritated many a local government body arguing over his property rights.

Gary sued an officer of the Washoe Republican County Central Committee, and the bylaws change was to permanently ban any member of the Central Committee that sues an officer. All this effort to punish one man was tasteless and wasted time.

The social conservatives won the platform battle, and the Washoe Republican Platform will not stand up for individual rights by replacing laws that punish consensual adult acts with a regulated legalized regime. In fact, the party platform now proclaims that Washoe Republicans want to criminalize even the legal brothels in Nevada, strip clubs and other sex work, and do not support legalized marijuana or gay marriage. The pro-life planks went on for almost two pages.

Platform chair Kiran Hill, a liberty Republican, tried to run an open process. On the last day of the committee, the social cons presented a minority platform for the convention and then walked out. Hill’s platform was actually a consensus platform, with some social conservative planks and some liberty planks.

There was a strong religious liberty plank in the consensus platform, but the social cons wanted to go beyond the defense of their beliefs from government intrusion and instead impose their beliefs on others, using the police power of the state.

While Hill felt their action was a stab in the back, he acknowledged the social cons did not technically violate the convention process. The convention, perhaps weary of the by-laws fight, approved their motion to cut off debate and passed the social cons’ platform.

Nevada Democrats now have more ammunition to use against Republicans on women’s and gay rights. The sex trafficking issue will depend on how Nevada Democrats respond to the anti-sex worker neofeminists in their own ranks. It will be interesting to see if a bi-partisan coalition could actually threaten the legal prostitution industry in Nevada in 2017.

During the platform committee discussions, I told the social cons that what they were doing would write off the millennial vote. The millennial generation is perhaps the most irreligious, socially tolerant generation in our history, and a political party against gay marriage and marijuana reform is a complete millennial turn off. Some social cons, like Sharron Angle, deny that reality. But the response I received was that they didn’t care if their policies writes off a generation of voters. One told me, “If that’s true, I would rather the party go down in flames than change this platform.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen gave a fiery speech, calling out Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval for abandoning Republican principles by passing the commerce tax. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, in contrast, gave a rather bland speech calling for unity and repeating the tired refrain that any Republican is better than a Democrat.

The soul of the Republican Party is up for grabs in 2016. The social conservatives, the constitutional conservatives, and all the various factions are in turmoil, with Donald Trump stirring up the witches' brew.