Walk into the John Ascuaga Nugget in Sparks, Nevada and you immediately see that there might not be a single more fitting place for what will happen Saturday. An 8-inch high, 18-karat gold rooster graces the entrance lobby and has been there since 1962, when the government returned it to its owner, John Ascuaga.
Claiming that it was just too much gold for one man to own and therefore in violation of the Gold Reserve Act, the rooster was confiscated by the Treasury Department. Many had accepted gold confiscation quietly for the 35 or so years that Roosevelt's gold confiscation act had been in place. Not John Ascuaga.
A drawn out legal battle ensued and ultimately, two years later, the ten men and two women on the jury agreed that the confiscation was unjust. The hard fought battle over the rooster made headlines across the country – as Ascuaga and a jury of his peers told the U.S. government victoriously to mind its own business.
There, near the front door of the Ascuaga Nugget today is the golden rooster, a reminder of the lengths one may go to in order to protect individual liberty from the tyranny of government.
On Saturday, in a vast room in Ascuaga's Nugget, Nevada Republicans will convene a state convention in which Ron Paul supporters will be the majority. That convention will decide 25 of Nevada's 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention. These Ron Paul supporters are battle-hardened warriors who have been through much political fighting over the last five years and have largely come out the victor.
Wednesday, a cranky RNC attorney sent a letter calling for these Ron Paul supporters to be brought in line. In legalese, this letter screamed, "How dare they think an autonomous state party can make its own rules?" The author of the letter, John R. Phillippe, Jr., didn't like hearing that Ron Paul supporters might vote to unbind Nevada's delegates – essentially allowing each national delegate to vote according to his or her conscience.
Maybe the assembly will vote Saturday to unbind the delegates bound by the results of the February 4 caucus. Maybe they won't. Whatever happens, it is very likely that Ron Paul will have a decisive majority from Nevada and from at least four other states.
Under party rules, that is the minimum required to conduct business at the RNC. His name will be brought as a nominee before the assembly. His group can conduct business. Even Fox News predicts that happening.
Forty years in the political wilderness, and Ron Paul will finally be able to conduct business. This is the man who the Huffington Post just called "the most successful presidential candidate in the last couple of decades."
Minnesota and Louisiana look like Paul victories, along with other states from Colorado to possibly even Mitt Romney's home of Massachusetts, but what happens in Nevada on Saturday will be a guide for how many other state conventions will go this year. Nevada will be a guiding light. If Nevada votes to unbind, then other states will follow. If Nevada gets scared, then we should not expect gutsy moves from the less tenacious states. What state is the most important state in the union? California? New York? Texas? The non-state of DC?
Saturday it will be Nevada. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns know the polling data and know that success for Ron Paul, even the slightest, means potential failure for the two of them. Most media sources will not report what happens – they've already erroneously and repeatedly proclaimed that the GOP nominating process is finished. However, many eyes will be watching Nevada. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be watching Nevada nervously as will their highest level campaign advisors.
But more importantly, every aspiring Ron Paul delegate in the country will be watching Nevada. Call it pioneering, venturing out, or leadership. Whatever name you call it, Nevada Republicans have one of those infrequent opportunities one gets in life to take a risk and show others the way.
On Saturday morning, some 2,000 Nevada Republicans will walk in the door past that golden rooster and few will know the battle fought between a man and his government over that rooster. Some who walk through that door will have no fight at all in them. But a few will understand. A few will look to that 14-pound piece of gold and be reminded of how important the task at hand is.
Will Nevada Republicans bow to the threats of some DC attorney? Or will they laugh at those threats for the feeble last minute efforts that they are. Where was John R. Phillippe, Jr. four years ago when GOP rules were being violated here in Nevada? Cajoled by the Romney campaign, John R. Phillippe, Jr. doesn't care about GOP rules. He cares about seeing his patron get the nomination. The battles of four years ago set the stage for this weekend's victory – the culmination of the takeover of the Nevada GOP by the grassroots of the party. Four years ago, the John R. Phillippe, Jrs., could have stopped this from happening, but not today, not days before the inevitable.
Will Nevada Republicans courteously follow the rules of the RNC, the rules of the old guard and insiders? Or will they recognize that their state and its state convention are empowered to make its own rules? I don't know. Whatever they do, other states will follow.
Three hours after they make those decisions, a special guest will come through those doors, passing that same golden rooster. Ron Paul himself will address the Nevada Republican Convention. And no matter how successful his delegates are, he will praise them for being successful. He will praise them and show gratitude because he is grateful. He thought he would spend that entire 40 years wandering in the wilderness alone. But he isn't alone. And what used to be the political wilderness has become mainstream.
But everyone reading this knows that not all results out of Nevada are the same. That gracious man will praise his Nevada supporters either way, but that tenacious fighter in him that kept at it those 40 years wants a win. He wants those 25 unbound delegates from Nevada, followed by 43 unbound delegates from Louisiana, and 37 unbound delegates from Minnesota. After just one vote, the RNC will be a gathering of unbound delegates that no amount of posturing from John R. Phillippe, Jr. will be able to control.
Brokered conventions can be unpredictable – Herbert Hoover walked into the 1920 RNC with only 7% of the delegates on his side before winning the nomination on the tenth ballot and becoming the President five months later. The John R. Phillippe, Jrs. don't like Ron Paul getting a foothold in this process because they fear the will of the Republican national delegates.
If given a choice between two candidates, Mitt Romney might not be the choice of those 2,286 dedicated Republicans gathered in Tampa in late August. If his latest threatening letter is any indication, then John R. Phillippe, Jr. wants to see no choice, wants to see only one nominee when the "nominating convention" meets. The highest levels of the GOP recognize the unpredictability of brokered conventions. What they don't realize is that it's too late for them to effectively intervene to stop Ron Paul's movement.
Where was John R. Phillippe, Jr. four years ago? I didn't see him phone banking in New Hampshire, writing letters into Iowa, or knocking on doors in Nevada. I don't remember hearing his vocal displeasure in the media when state-after-state told Ron Paul supporters they were unwelcome in 2008 and again in 2012. But today, four years too late, in May 2012, John R. Phillippe, Jr., steps forward to insist that everyone play nice.
Ron Paul's supporters will force their way through the door of the RNC. Not with battering rams, but by cleverly using the rules written by the insiders. They will force the issues that matter to them. They will be heard, and they will win. No matter how much I'm told that the John R. Phillippe, Jrs. of the world matter, that message won't sink in. The John R. Phillippe, Jrs. don't matter. The John R. Phillippe, Jrs. can be bought.
Saturday we reach a point of no return. Nevada Republicans will step forward and lead. Will the rest of Ron Paul's supporters follow or leave them to dangle in the wind? Louisiana, Minnesota, Iowa, are next. How many states can John R. Phillippe, Jr. threaten before the rest of the country realizes that the threats of John R. Phillippe, Jr. are as impotent and feeble as I realize him to be.
As a wise man once wrote, "All things splendid have been achieved by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance."
Do these men and women fight today for their freedom or to placate John R. Phillippe, Jr.? The golden rooster, Ascuaga's hotel that I'll sleep in tonight, the whole city of Sparks, the whole state of Nevada -- none of those would exist if bold men and women decided it important to placate the John R. Phillippe, Jrs., of the world.