The Nevada state Republican Party recently elected its delegates to go to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. Criticisms of the caucuses and convention process have been leveled by almost every candidate, and to their credit, the party and several GOP elected officials made a strong attempt at the last session of the Legislature to change to a primary.
Unfortunately, Democrats were able to block the move with help from some of the GOP’s extreme elements.
By going with a caucus, selecting delegates through an exclusive and time-intensive convention and not allowing same-day registration, GOP officials are disenfranchising the majority of Republicans and amplifying the party’s most radical voices.
At the 2008 and 2012 conventions, Ron Paul — despite losing big in the caucuses — was able to get more delegates to the national convention by rallying his activist supporters to attend the state conventions. This mayhem was an embarrassment to the party, and under different circumstances could undermine the integrity of the nomination process.
The current process gives candidates a skewed view of voter opinion, increases special-interest influence, and impacts the positions the party adopts in its platform at the convention, state or national.
Extremist elements in the party seek to limit participation by rank-and-file Republicans in order to bolster their own outsized influence. They then push radical policies based on a faulty understanding of the U.S. Constitution. This not only damages the Republican brand, it also prevents conservatives from constructively addressing our most pressing problems.
For example, Republicans in Nevada depend on our public lands to hunt, fish, go off-roading, hike, camp, bike and ski. For many, their livelihood is also tied to the open ranges, spectacular national parks, forests and monuments across the state.
And while polling shows that a majority of Nevada Republicans support safeguarding our public lands, the process bolsters the influence of a radical minority that wants to gut protections and sell off our public lands.
A recent outdoor industry poll, conducted by a GOP pollster, found that more than 90 percent of Nevada Republicans believe it is important to protect national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and other public lands for future generations.
The same poll found that 75 percent of Nevadans believe that these national public lands have a positive impact on opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
These surveys show that Nevada Republicans take enormous pride in their public lands and place a high priority on protecting them. Unfortunately, such values — which are genuinely conservative — are not well represented at the state convention. Which is one reason we end up with candidates parroting radical anti-conservation rhetoric and sounding more like Cliven Bundy.
Being associated with that kind of anti-American, anti-public land, anti-law and order radicalism does the party no favors and plays into the hands of Democrats.
Nevada Republicans should be putting forward candidates who want to protect Nevada’s outdoor way of life.
Months before leaving office in 1988, President Ronald Reagan explained the connection between protected public lands and our conservative values of freedom, liberty and self-reliance: “The preservation of parks, wilderness and wildlife has also aided liberty by keeping alive the 19th century sense of adventure and awe with which our forefathers greeted the American West. … In our own time, the nearly universal appreciation of these preserved landscapes … through outdoor recreation is a modern expression of our freedom.”
We need GOP candidates who sound more like Ronald Reagan and less like Cliven Bundy. Then the party will not only be respecting the values of its own members and winning more elections, it will also be fulfilling our moral obligation to conserve the outdoors for future generations to enjoy.
David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship.