Maine and South Carolina Are the Next Frontiers of Anti-NSA Republican Sentiment

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 22 2013 12:02 PM

Maine and South Carolina are the Next Frontiers of Anti-NSA Republican Sentiment

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Maine delegates chanted, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation" after they staged a walkout during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on August 29, 2012.

Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages

Twelve members of the Maine Republican party are binning their membership cards after a year of internal strife with the state and national GOP. Let's travel in the Way-Back Machine to August 2012 at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Twenty delegates from Maine—many of them Ron Paul supporters—were supposed to cast their ballots at the national convention. But when they arrived and RNC organizers sussed out the Mainers' plan to vote for Paul instead of Mitt Romney, the organizers made some last-minute rules changes and replaced the Paul supporters with other delegates.

Here's Dave's dispatch from the ensuing walkout:

The Maine delegates were not seated—which led to more controlled chaos, when the angry ousted delegates and their friends marched from the cheap seats to the convention’s halls, holding a furious impromptu press conference. Some of them wore lobster-decorated safety pins on their noses. That looked as good as it sounds.
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For Sam Canders, one of the Maine delegates who was refused a seat, this was strike one against the GOP. Strike two came when he tried to run for the Maine state legislature and was told by his state GOP chair that the GOP wouldn't support him, even though they didn't have an alternate candidate to offer. Instead, the chair asked Canders to run as a placeholder candidate and drop out when the GOP found another candidate to their liking. Strike three came for Canders after the RNC's national meeting in Boston last week, when members upheld three rules that allowed the party to keep upstart delegates from participating in the convention.

So earlier this week, Canders and 11 other libertarian-leaning members left the Maine Republican party. Canders says his main reason for leaving the party was the internal politicking, but in a grievance-airing letter the group also listed Republican support for the National Security Agency's snooping programs as a reason for their defection. Down in the Palmetto State, businesswoman Nancy Mace is challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham in a primary for similar reasons. Mace been outspokenly critical of Graham's milquetoast response to the NSA leaks. Here's a column she wrote about the NSA leaks for RedState in June:

In Senator Graham’s world, government should always be trusted but never the American citizen.
In Senator Graham’s world, the Constitution doesn’t exist.
In Senator Graham’s world, the entire Bill of Rights is negotiable.
In Senator Graham’s world, our constitutional rights seem constantly up for debate.

The difference between these two states is, of course, their partisan tint: Maine voted for Barack Obama over Romney 56-41 percent; South Carolina voted Romney 54-44. But the room for discontent with the GOP has no partisan bounds.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.