August 1st 2020
Frank Lockwood, reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had a lede that was eye-popping, even by the lunatic standards of America in 2020. He wrote, “WASHINGTON — When Republicans renominate Donald Trump for president in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 24, journalists won’t be on hand to witness it, a convention spokesperson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week. Reporters also will be kept from the room when the Republican National Committee meets to conduct official party business. The spokesperson couldn’t say whether C-SPAN, the nonprofit public service network, would be allowed to air the proceedings.”
Granted, conventions have become snooze-fests over the past few decades, carefully planned political kabuki that, it’s hoped, are four day infomercials for each of the parties. From the days when the major networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage, coverage is pretty much limited to C-SPAN and intermittent coverage from the cable news, limited to the acceptance speeches and perhaps a few minutes of speeches from the rising stars of each party. The party bosses wanted good optics, but they forgot people watched conventions for the conflict, not the choreography. The plummeting coverage reflected the growing public apathy. The parties turned vigorous national debate and friction into a pro wrestling match, one in which no wrestler dissed any other wrestler. Even party loyalists stopped watching.
But as political ads, the conventions still had value. The party candidate could count on a 4 to 8 point “convention bounce.” It might only last a week, but it usually informed an undercurrent of political exposure where, if pressed, an average voter might come up with a specific-sounding reason to support one candidate over the other.
The coronavirus caused major dislocation and changes to the conventions just by itself. Trump turned the Republican convention into a complete clusterfuck by demanding that North Carolina have an open and maskless convention, and when NC refused, citing public health concerns, he moved the pageantry part of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida. The party was obligated to have the formal party business meeting in North Carolina, so Trump ordered the committees, including the one tasked to devise the party platform, to open, rubber-stamp whatever it was they did in 2016, and adjourn, so nobody might distract from the showy parts of the convention.
The result was unexpectedly hilarious. The official party platform condemns the sitting president as being a major disappointment, corrupt, and incapable, along with a long list of complaints about how he has failed his country, the world, and all the puppies and kittens. Parties don’t like to ever mention their opponents by name, so it’s just “the sitting president” they hate. That would be a fellow named Donald J. Trump, and not the fellow they were spitting at in 2016.
OK, it’s probably more accurate now, but even the folks over at the Lincoln Project will admit that party vitriol wasn’t meant to be aimed at Trump, no matter how deserving he may be.
Quite aside from the raging pandemic and the peculiar climate Florida enjoys in August, there was the truly horrific notion of leasing a large cruise ship to house all the delegates and others. We all know how great cruise ships are when infectious diseases show up.
The GOP are going to have a convention in NC as originally planned since the Florida idea fell through, but it’s going to be ‘way toned down. Only 336 delegates instead of the 2550 or so originally planned, no alternate delegates, and they’ll see a big reduction in vendors and other hangers-on. Despite the idiotic unofficial party disapproval of masks, I expect they will be worn, in the wake of the death of Herman Cain from coronavirus (most likely caught at Trump’s Tulsa rally), and the infection of party clown Louis Gohmert. Trump will hate that, since it’s an admission that he punted the response to the coronavirus, and remind people that at least some of that lethal non-response was calculated, partisan, and deliberate.
The Democratic convention will be mostly virtual, limited to about 300 people in total, and the DNC has been carefully eliminating any dissident voices to Biden. It’s going to be boring as hell, but it won’t be as embarrassing, given that the Democrats have always leveled with people about what the appropriate response to the pandemic is, and have led the way in trying to get the public to respond in a similar, common-sense way.
The GOP are embarrassed by their convention because it shows the idiocy of their failed policies toward the pandemic, and the idiocy of their failed followers. The Democrats can appear on Zoom and have a slightly self-satisfied air, knowing that they never put lives at risk, or let Americans die for partisan gain. They are the party of responsibility and regard for the common good.
The GOP reminds me so much of the communist party in Russia during the Stalin era. The secrecy, the ideology, the paranoia and the cruelty are all there. But even the Soviets didn’t try to ban house media along with actual journalists. I wonder if Trump will permit “reporters” from OANN and Sinclair to defend the party from attacks by the liberal/leftist Fox News.
In normal circumstances, I would be absolutely appalled at a party trying to hide its convention from public view. Now I find I don’t give a damn. Republicans quit pretending to hold any American values years ago, and if they did broadcast the show, all they would do would be to gaslight us, lie to us, and just generally blow smoke up our butts.
So screw them. Let them huddle under their rock and make their little fascist schemes. They’re no longer a part of the general American political process.