By MATT BRADSHAW
TAMPA, Fla. — An unscripted and very public airing of grievances, largely from delegates loyal to Congressman Ron Paul, occurred on the first day of the 2012 Republican National Convention Tuesday. This unscripted moment lead to great speculation on the part of pundits across the nation, some claiming that division within the Republican Party was on full display during the opening day of the convention.
While there is reason for concern amongst Republicans there are many within the party who believe that they are united against a common enemy in Barack Obama.
Many of the Paul supporters who were so vocal last Tuesday, are delegates from Texas. Michael Bergsma, a Texas delegate and geophysicist from Corpus Christi, has heard from Paul supporters within the Texas delegation since long before the national convention.
“I have dozens of stories of aye yigh yigh (regarding disputes amongst Texas delegates),” said Bergsma.
“Some of their (Paul supporters) complaints are legitimate and some are not. I like to think that all of my complaints are legitimate,” he said laughing. “It would have been beneficial to let them say what they had to say (on Tuesday) but at the same time these issues are really just petty compared to what we are facing from Obama. What we are facing is the slashing of the Constitution by Democrats if Obama gets re-elected.”
Do the complaints and disputes within the Republican Party hurt moving toward the election in November?
“Probably,” said Bergsma. “We should work harder to talk to each other instead of at each other but come on man, in this election we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
Former Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and Georgia delegate Martha Zoller expressed both concern and understanding, saying, “I think conventions are our place to debate all of these things, even if the party leaders don’t like it. Paul didn’t win enough to get on the ballot at the convention and while I certainly want his supporters to join in and be a part of the party, there are rules.
“We as conservatives and Republicans must unite because the point is to be unified coming out of the convention. There should be debate at the convention but not coming out of it. I think we are definitely going to come out of this convention united.”
Not every Republican is happy with what has taken place at the convention and many Ron Paul supporters are still not convinced that they should side with Romney. Catherine Bernard is a delegate from Georgia’s 12th District who pledged her support to Ron Paul and in doing so drew the ire of many of her colleagues.
“Some have said to me thank you, I really appreciate you standing up for your convictions, standing up for what you believe in but I’ve heard plenty of negative comments,” she said.
Bernard is going to remain patient though and is encouraged a great deal to have heard Rand Paul speak to the convention on Wednesday night.
“I’m looking forward to listening to the speech from Rand Paul. I’ve not always been a big fan of Rand Paul, you know he did endorse Mitt Romney, he made some comments to suggest that he is a little close to the rank and file Republicans but he did give a great speech at his dad’s rally last Sunday,” said Bernard. “Paul really hit on some really important freedom issues, economic issues like audit the fed, so I’m just going to keep an open mind in regard to him and hope that he’ll be a very strong voice for the liberty movement.”
Bernard voiced a fear that some would say is a common sentiment amongst young people, quoting Charles Bukowski, “the problem is you had to vote for one evil or another and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little bit more off you, until there was nothing left.”
Bernard’s alternate, former Navy Seal Daniel Burton from Vidalia, Ga., is also a Ron Paul supporter but has a different perspective and different reasons for supporting Paul.
“I’ve witnessed overseas in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Burton. “I’ve witnessed liberties taken away in the name of protection and I see it here in America when more and more people are told they better rally around the flag in the name of being a patriot and for our protection for our security. They exchange liberties a little bit at a time and one of our biggest rally points was the authorization of the National Defense Act. There was a clause in there that basically said Americans suspected of terrorist activity can be detained indefinitely and then habeas corpus goes right out the window.”