At the RNC Convention in 2012, there were hundreds of delegate/alternate challenges by the Romney campaign. Those challenges resulted in unseating duly elected delegates/alternates in 4 states: Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Oregon.
Maine's own Governor LePage and his wife -- both delegates for Romney! -- refused to attend the convention in protest and solidarity with the improperly disenfranchised Maine delegates.
Delegates, are you ready?
Read the blog here
RNC 2012 In Retrospect, From An Outsider.
The purpose of this entry is not to rehash everything that occurred in Tampa at the Republican National Convention. I’ll save that for another day. I want, instead, to focus on what I saw regarding the steadfastness of character within a group of people willing to put everything on the line and stand up for what was right; A group of people who were willing to dedicate months of their lives to fight for their rightful positions as Delegates and representatives of a movement; A movement that is based on hard work, honesty, and honour.
I write this as one of the people they represented; As someone who was there and saw what happened, but could feel only a fraction of its weight and the emotion involved. I was there as a spectator, supporting them in the only way I knew how.
When I decided to attend the RNC, I did so because I wanted to be able to tell others in Maine how things were faring for our Delegates. I knew we wouldn’t be able to rely on the media to tell us what was happening. I had no idea it would become something so much more than just a good learning experience.
What I witnessed in Tampa was the culmination of a battle by Maine’s Delegates to retain their seats and a battle waged by the grassroots movement of the GOP to keep the power to decide the future of the country in the hands of the people and out of the hands of the establishment leaders. The atmosphere was intense and heavy with emotion from the beginning. Even though I was in contact with a few of the Delegates and understood the process of what was happening, I had not invested as they had, nor had I endured the hours of brainstorming, strategizing, and meetings. Most importantly, I had not had the rights bestowed upon me by the voters stripped away by a force that was bigger than me.
While I knew in the beginning that it was not possible for me to fully comprehend what these Delegates had been going through, there was one specific moment where that realization hit me in a way it hadn’t before.
On the first official day of the convention, I was following around a few of our Delegates as they looked for media outlets to speak to. One of those Delegates was Sam Canders. Sam is a thirteen year Veteran and was one of the elected Delegates to lose his seat on the floor when the GOP split the elected delegation in half and filled the seats of the displaced Delegates with political figureheads of their choosing.
In between media interviews, we noticed one of the replacement Delegates, Avery Day, walking down the hallway. Day is a lawyer who currently practices out of Portland and Augusta with Pierce Atwood. Sam walked after him and motioned for me to follow. He was moving swiftly and my hands were shaking as I picked up my camera and began taking pictures, not quite realizing what was happening. Sam caught up with Day and introduced himself as one of Maine’s duly elected Delegates. He also informed Day of his military career and of his numerous overseas deployments.
By that point, it was common knowledge that the majority of our Veterans had been unseated and in confronting Day, Sam made perfectly clear that he had been one of them. As Sam spoke to Day, Day didn’t even do him the courtesy of stopping and listening to what he had to say. He just kept walking.
When Sam made his way back to me, I asked him how Day had responded. He told me that Day had said, “Thank you for your service.” The way Sam said those words made them seem vile. It was almost as if he had to spit them out because the taste of them was too bitter to not. I can’t remember what I said in response. It felt like I had been slapped in the face even though it didn’t anything to do with me. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it felt like for this Veteran, whom I, along with countless others, had voted for to represent me as a Delegate, to be placated in such a patronizing way by the man who took his seat.
I just stood there with my camera around my neck and my arms hanging at my sides, looking at Sam as he leaned back against a pillar trying to collect himself. He kept telling me that he felt physically sick over what had just happened. I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? I think I let out a paltry, “I know.” But I didn’t know. I had no idea.
It was in that moment that something in me shifted. I suddenly felt older, weathered, and more somber. I became aware of what these people had been through. All of the emotion suddenly made sense to me. When all of their frustrations finally broke loose, when the tough veneers cracked and the tears flowed, I knew where it was all coming from…even if I couldn’t fully understand what it felt like.
The things I saw at the Republican National Convention won’t be documented in any History books. The battles fought and words spoken will not be taught to countless awkward teenagers, sitting in their desks, staring at the clock and counting down the minutes until they are released from the boring drudgery of their Jr. High Government class. But that doesn’t mean that it was for nothing. It doesn’t mean that the fight led by Maine and joined by countless other states was for nothing. They left their hearts on the floor, were mocked, abused, and beaten down. They left bruised and spent, but not broken.
Despite losing the battle, they stood on principle and fought with honour for what was right, good, and just. They emerged stronger and their battle will not be forgotten. The energy they created within the movement will continue to propel it forward. It will continue to inspire not only those involved, but those on the peripheral as well. And as word continues to spread, it will inspire those who hear it for the first time. The battle fought will not be forgotten.