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Whatley’s Circus: Elephants, Clowns, Illusions, and Big Tents

-Robert Burns

The North Carolina Republican Party Convention finally came to an end Sunday in Greensboro and with it any trust the NCGOP still had intact. You don’t have to be involved in politics long to realize it is chaotic and messy, but Saturday many witnessed a political circus on a scale likely they didn't think possible.

The main performance took place around two when we gathered for the main business meeting of the convention, where we were also going to vote on who would lead the party going into 2024. Things looked optimistic for those delegates wanting change as they succeeded in censuring Thom Tillis despite the many conflicts of interest, including with the Convention Chair, Billy Miller, and the preventative actions of the NCGOP.

In hindsight though, the stage was set the day prior when an amendment to vote via paper ballots was struck down, albeit after the rules had been changed from a fifty-plus-one threshold to two-thirds. This was a new rule change specially made for this year’s convention.

The business meeting had maintained the ordinary level of disorder, but things went downhill quickly when the voting commenced. People found themselves being kicked from the voting app, many having to undergo the confusing and lengthy process of resetting their password with the bandwidth slowly diminishing as 1,863 people logged on to the Koury Center’s internet.

Hindering this was the already heavy use of bandwidth by Trump’s advanced team who was setting up for his appearance at the 6:30 dinner, which many were now panicked they were going to miss. This added a sense of urgency to the existing madness.

For those opting to use the kiosks set up in the four corners of the room, this process was complicated by similar connectivity problems and by the mass of people lining up to use them. Several of the kiosks were also designated as help desks which created another headache in itself.

During the voting, several votes were cast by guests and by delegates caught in the lobby after the doors had been barred by the convention’s Sergeant at Arms. Even despite being barred, delegates started pushing their way in halfway through the election. Towards the end, it got to the point where the Sergeants didn’t bother keeping the doors closed at all.

While some had voted from other parts of the building, some had voted from outside the Koury Center with three known votes being cast from Wilmington, Florida, and Wisconsin. This foreseeable flaw had been brought up the day before by one of the delegates.

To this concern the response was given ‘We are all Republicans here, we are the party that follows the rules.’ Maybe some didn’t get that memo. Regardless, the individuals who raised the issue of illegal votes were instructed to join the maze of people in line to vote.

Some delegates attempted to have the election nullified given the unfolding pandemonium to which the Chair promptly responded that 'As the voting has not yet been closed, such a motion was out of order.' Other delegates used the mic to sell t-shirts and announce raffles. Disappointingly, no one was selling peanuts or Cracker Jacks.

Eventually, voting was closed after what seemed like an eternity but then began the arduous process of displaying the results on the screen and striking the votes of counties that had more votes than registered delegates. Several county chairs were likely then confused to see their entire county's votes, both legitimate and illegitimate, stricken instead of individual votes.

At this point, new attempts were made to throw out the clearly tainted election. Unfortunately, the Chair refused to do so as invalid votes were in the process of being struck, which in the Chair’s opinion was satisfactory to restoring integrity to the election.

To no one's surprise when the votes were totaled, Whatley won but could not actually be certified as the new Chairman as there was no longer a quorum in the convention hall since many like myself had gotten enough entertainment for our money and left early.

Even though the convention ended Sunday and I have since recovered from my headache, I have still not recovered from my astonishment at what was allowed to happen Saturday. As a testament to the scale of the mess that was made, issues are still coming to light including errors with the vote calculations.

Two things are starting to make sense to me now, though: why we have to pay for admission and why establishment Republicans want a big tent. After all, what is a circus without a big red tent? However, the bearded ladies will have to wait for the Democrat’s convention.

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