When Sarah Palin, during the post Iowa media spin fest, warned GOP leaders to not "marginalize" the Ron Paul supporters, she was looking ahead to the greatest challenge faced by whoever captures the nomination.
The Republican leaders in DC loathe Ron Paul, and they loathe the thousands of mostly young activists he is bringing into the GOP. Like similar waves of activists in the past the insiders' goal is to see their tide of enthusiasm break and dissipate like foam on a beach.
The insiders that actually run the GOP look nothing like the membership of the GOP. Walk the halls of the Republican National Committee in DC and you will find preppy ladder climbers that shift political philosophy to accommodate whichever boss will bid to pay the most.
These are the shock troops of the K Street lobby crowd more interested in Thursday night's cocktail circuit than a jobless Iowa worker or a small businessman struggling in Nashua, New Hampshire. And the thought of Washington's budget being cut by one trillion dollars as Ron Paul has envisioned chills them to the core.
If government contractors aren't scoring fat contracts, then who will they lobby for? And if whole agencies are shuttered, how will they get a posting as a schedule C government employee with those awesome health, vacation and pension benefits?
For the crowd in DC, the battle for the presidency is more a battle for booty and perks than it is about changing the course of the nation's future. As conservative pundit, Stan Evans famously said, "We came to DC seeing a cesspool and now we have come to understand it is really a hot tub." And DC-based Republicans enjoy the steak dinners, Super Bowl tickets, and foreign trips as much as any Democrats.
They feel threatened by Ron Paul, just as in the past they have felt threatened by Pat Robertson and his unruly evangelicals, Pat Buchannan and his brigades, or even Mike Huckabee and his Christian cohort. As a result of these earlier insurgencies, quietly the GOP has rewritten the delegate selection rules to empower the ruling elite.
Prime example is our own home state of Washington. This was the only state carried by Pat Robertson in 1988. This deeply embarrassed the moderate GOP senators and congressmen from Washington. Traditionally Washington had a caucus which elected delegates to a state convention and that convention controlled the national convention delegates and even elected the GOP state chairman. No more. After the Robertson troops denied coveted delegate spots for the DC-based crowd and ruined their chances to party in New Orleans that summer, the rules were changed.
Today, Washington State is buttoned up for whoever is the "mainstream" candidate. And even the state party chairman is now elected by the much more controllable "state central committee." This body is about as democratic as the central committee of the Communist Party in China. By limiting the influence of the hoi polloi, the elites make sure it is nearly impossible for delegates committed to candidates like Ron Paul to get elected.
We give all of this history and background for the purpose of making one simple point: If the dictators that rule the GOP from DC don't watch out they will find that Ron Paul is more than an irritant. They will find that he is the candidate that if he runs, a third party could potentially keep them from beating Obama.
If they exercise the power they hold to freeze these people out, or as Sarah Palin says "marginalize," it will be a mistake the entire country could pay the price for with the re-election of Obama. Instead of trying to limit the participation of the great unwashed, in 2012, Republicans should embrace anyone that will join in the great crusade to unseat Obama. If they give the Paul activists the cold shoulder, they do so at greater risk than we think they understand.
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are bestselling authors and speakers. To comment on this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.