The arrest of Ron Paul supporters during the Missouri caucuses show how they have continually pushed up against the limits of our electoral system. In states that chose delegates through caucuses, many Paulines are frustrated by a system that thwarts direct democracy. They have responded by fighting back against the byzantine rules that favor established candidates favored by the Republican Party establishment.
According to ABC News, the moderators of the caucus held in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles called in the police when Ron Paul activists would not conform to its by-laws. Two Paul supporters were arrested for trespassing. They had violated the rules by videotaping the proceedings.
Four years ago, the St. Charles caucus was overwhelmed by Paul supporters. However, when it was discovered that many of the them were not, in fact, Republicans but were registered Libertarians, the caucus results were thrown out.
After the 2008 debacle, the St. Charles caucus organizers were better prepared this year. They hired private security guards to make sure things didn’t get out of hand, yet were still forced to bring in the police. Because of the ruckus, the caucus failed to elect delegates.
Paul supporters have been vigilant during the quirky state caucuses such as in Maine, where voters sympathetic to their candidate were excluded by the state party. Polls indicated Paul had a good chance of beating Romney, but he came up short. In one instance, state GOP officials effectively disenfranchised an entire county that had been expected to favor Paul.
Beginning with the Iowa caucuses, Paul supporters have provided evidence that the people who run these events have mistakenly or deliberately caused miscounts. They keep an eye on the voting, which is not run by elected officials but by volunteers in caucus states, and document irregularities.
Ron Paul has yet to win a single state caucus or primary.
Caucuses are not like binding primaries, where delegates are apportioned based on the candidates’ proportion of the popular vote. Iowa and Missouri are typical in that they are multi-tiered and the first round doesn’t actually chose national convention delegates. The first caucus selects delegates to a district caucus that selects delegates to a state convention that then chooses delegates to the national convention. Given the byzantine nature of the caucus process, there are many opportunities for something to go wrong and frustrate a candidate’s supporters.