Forget the horse race, constant polling, and the bickering over inconsequential issues that have consumed the 2012 presidential elections. The most interesting event by far of this political season will be this upcoming week in Tampa with the P.A.U.L. Festival over the weekend and the Republican National Convention next week (which PolicyMic will be live blogging and covering extensively).
While the 2012 election will likely be between two candidates who offer different styles of the same packaged message, the next week offers a true battle of ideas, countless examples of the success of grassroots organization, and the potential for chaos that is truly unique and will be the real entertainment.
While the media has already virtually crowned former Governor Mitt Romney the Republican nominee to face off against President Obama this November, things won't be so simple in Tampa. Although Ron Paul has stayed very quiet lately, the Republican establishment will have their hands full in the next week.
Since 2008, the Republican Party has sought to purge any of the growing Paulian influence within the party. They were largely successful in 2008 (and not coincidentally, lost the election). The GOP is still trying to "play defense" against anything other than a rubber-stamping of Romney at the convention, but after four years of more war and debt from Obama - combined with grassroots Paulian action at local and state Republican offices — the GOP will have to do deal with some uncomfortable realities.
First of all, as Laura Trice pointed out in a recent article for the Huffington Post, despite GOP fears and attempts to prevent it, Paul could theoretically be nominated at the convention (and props to Trice for detailing why Paul should be nominated). And while the big banks, corporations, and special interests are salivating at the thought of Romney being the nominee, principled conservatives are not happy with a candidate who wants to reappoint Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, constantly flip-flops, and whose only appeal is that he is, well, not Obama.
What if the hundreds of delegates Paul has accumulated, as well as uneasy Romney supporters, decide not to play ball and nominate Paul instead? Or short of something so drastic, raise hell at the convention when the laundry list of establishment and neocon Republicans are scheduled to speak?
This has got to keep the GOP bigwigs up at night. While their only concern is wresting the power to use force and aggression at home and abroad away from Obama, Paul's delegates, representing issues of substance that Paul has been talking about for decades, will be there to actually have a debate about the future of the party and the country. This potential battle of ideas, fought out over one of the biggest stages possible, might just be the most exciting political sight to see for years to come. And despite what Paul's horrible campaign managers may tell the press (I'm looking at you Jesse Benton), Paul's delegates are not making any "deals" with the Republicans. They are hungry, passionate, and only want to be heard.
And if the GOP responds with hostility like they have countless times before, then the Republicans deserve to lose. They dug their own grave by offering the American people a plastic and robotic empty suit despite the polls that have Paul beating Obama in a general election, drawing significant support from Democrats and independents.
Democrats, too, should be disheartened. At their convention, President Obama will address swooning crowds and warn them about the dangers of some non-existent caricature of conservatives and Republicans. But what about the honest progressives who value peace, civil liberties, and oppose corporate welfare? Well, they're stuck with Obama, just like conservatives are stuck with Romney. Maybe this will open more and more people's eyes to the phoniness of the two-party system and make them refuse to choose the lesser of two evils. A pox on both of their houses!
The fact that Hurricane Isaac is threatening to derail the Republican convention may just be a coincidence, but it is sure is representative of what the GOP should except next week. The Paulian delegates and the presence of the P.A.U.L. Festival right next door, who are armed with passion and principles, are not going away quietly. Their presence alone creates the real storm that the GOP does not know how to handle.