Tales of two conventions

The Nevada State Republican Party convention was held in Reno May 13-15, the same weekend the Nevada Democratic Party held its state convention in Las Vegas.

While some insist no chairs were thrown by the Sanders delegates in Las Vegas, they can’t deny the Democratic Party appears more divided than anyone could have predicted. They also can’t deny that despite Donald Trump’s intemperate language, most of the authoritarian actions lately are coming from the left. Organizing to prevent a candidate from speaking is the same rights-violating tactic we see on college campuses where free expression is subordinate to the supposed right to a “safe space.” Maybe the Sandersnistas don’t actually threaten violence, but the Bernie Boys’ Twitter and Instagram has insults even Trump could learn from. Dialogue with a lefty often consists of your policy question followed by a guy wearing a Che Gueverra T-shirt commanding you to perform a physically impossible sex act.

The Republican Party’s insurgent businessman and reality TV show personality, Donald Trump, is a winner. On the other hand, while Sen. Sanders has fought an excellent campaign, there is little chance he will be the Democrats’ presidential nominee.

The Ron Paul Revolutions in 2008 and 2012 did not get as far as Trump or Sanders, but Rep. Paul’s insurgent campaign in 2008 caught Nevada GOP officials unprepared. They then panicked and shut the state convention down, leading to T-shirts that cried “Don’t Gavel Me Bro.” In 2012 the Ron Paul Nevada delegates were blatantly ignored at the Republican National Convention.

Dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment in Nevada goes back at least to the late Aaron Russo’s 1998 attempt to run for governor that resulted in another memorable state convention disruption. Kenny Guinn won the nomination and governorship but then saddled Nevada with the largest tax increase in its history until Sandoval’s commerce tax was passed last session. The more things change, the more they remain the same in politics.

The Nevada Republican Convention this year welcomed Trump supporters. The voting on the first day of the convention was electronic. Every delegate—I was one—was given a hand-held electronic keypad, and the votes were recorded electronically. This greatly speeded up the procedure and eliminated the long lines and delays that paper ballots cause. The convention was a success, and the organizers deserve a lot of credit.

The more than a thousand delegates present made it very clear throughout that they were angered by Gov. Sandoval’s commerce tax, passed in a Republican-controlled legislature. They passed a resolution denouncing Republicans who voted for the tax. State Controller Ron Knecht, who is running the commerce tax repeal initiative, spoke at the convention.

Gov. Sandoval and those legislators who voted for the tax did not appear at the convention to face the delegates.

The convention adopted a detailed platform, reflective of freedom loving Nevada. The social planks were kept to a minimum.

The story of the convention was the split between the grassroots activists and the Republican political class that has now, under different governors, passed the two largest tax increases in Nevada history. The real battle in 2016 Nevada Republican politics will be to unseat those Republicans who voted for the tax, put the commerce tax repeal initiative petition on the ballot, and elect more constitutional conservatives who will adhere to the new state platform while in office. The Nevada GOP has to show it really, really stands for low taxes and limited government. If it doesn’t, Americans will support a party that does.