A Tale of Two Conventions

Over the past several days, two political parties have been holding their national conventions. One party holds all conventions online, with online voting and no overhead (other than cost of getting online) for party members who wish to participate. The other party regularly holds conventions in upscale hotels and has recently adopted a mandatory fee for any party member who wishes to be a delegate.

The first party, which holds conventions online, is able to hold multiple votes at the same time and party members elected NOTA to two positions on the National Committee, which under party bylaws means the positions will remain unfilled. After an objection to fill the “vacancy” created by electing NOTA, the Chair ruled the motion out of order and the the party founder stated, “if the members choose ‘None of the Above’ to fill an office, the office goes unfilled… it’s the members saying that there’s nobody they want in that office.” During the brief dispute, Robert’s Rules of Order were never quoted and there was no need for a parliamentarian.

The second party, which excludes party members who can’t afford to attend the convention, can only accommodate one vote at a time. Disputes can cause the process to continue for hours on end, and that happened this weekend. Reason.com reports that it began Saturday afternoon when one delegate pushed for someone to speak on behalf of NOTA for Chair. The only two candidates were the current Chair & current Vice-Chair, plus NOTA. The current Chair was eliminated on the first ballot, in the second round, NOTA beat the Vice-Chair. Immediately after the vote was announced one delegate alleged vote tampering and a new round of balloting took place. The delegates voted to ignore the results of both the second ballot and the re-vote. The events carried over into Sunday and more candidates were added to the race. During this disputed election, Robert’s Rules of Order were quoted many times and there was a need for a parliamentarian. Delegates to the convention then had to hurry to elect a Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer & At-Large Representatives to the National Committee.

One of these parties has only been around for 6 years, the other for 40. If you guessed that the party that had a dysfunctional Chair election was the newer party, you would be incorrect. The party with the dysfunctional Chair election is the Libertarian Party, and the party that elected NOTA to two positions on the National Committee is the younger, Boston Tea Party (not to be confused with the Boston affiliate of the “Taxed Enough Already” groups).

There are other differences between the two parties. For example, the LP will be running hundreds of candidates with ballot access in almost every State, while the BTP will likely only run Presidential ticket with ballot access in a handful of States. The LP platform is modified every two years, the BTP platform can never be changed and forever reads, “The Boston Tea Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose.”

The BTP continues to experience growing pains, however the LP is proving that age does not always equal wisdom.