Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Appetite for Destruction

[ed. Sorry, I have to say I generally find nominating conventions pretty boring, despite their attempts at soaring rhetoric. Too scripted... like watching the Academy Awards. The GOP convention was certainly different in that respect (and not in a good way) - a slow motion, hallucinatory train wreck, made worse (and more frightening) the longer it went on, capped off finally by The Donald himself in full apocalyptic mode. It makes the Democratic convention seem almost too polite by comparison: too careful, too introspective, almost too logical (maybe we should call it the Spock Party). Both have blood on their hands if we're talking about corporate manipulation and influence (but at least the Dems try to balance that out with support, if not lip service, for the beleaguered lower and middle classes and marginalized racial and social groups). Btw... I didn't see a single red, white and blue piece of clothing all night, sequined or otherwise. Bunch of communists.]

Hell, yes, it was crazy. You rubbed your eyes at the sight of it, as in, "Did that really just happen?"

It wasn't what we expected. We thought Donald Trump's version of the Republican National Convention would be a brilliantly bawdy exercise in Nazistic excess.

We expected thousand-foot light columns, a 400-piece horn section where the delegates usually sit (they would be in cages out back with guns to their heads). Onstage, a chorus line of pageant girls in gold bikinis would be twerking furiously to a techno version of "New York, New York" while an army of Broadway dancers spent all four days building a Big Beautiful Wall that read winning, the ceremonial last brick timed to the start of Donald's acceptance speech...

But nah. What happened instead was just sad and weird, very weird. The lineup for the 2016 Republican National Convention to nominate Trump felt like a fallback list of speakers for some ancient UHF telethon, on behalf of a cause like plantar-wart research. (...)

The Republican Party under Trump has become the laughingstock of the world, and it happened in front of an invading force of thousands of mocking reporters who made sure that not one single excruciating moment was left uncovered.

So, yes, it was weird, and pathetic, but it was also disturbing, and not just for the reasons you might think. Trump's implosion left the Republican Party in schism, but it also created an unprecedented chattering-class consensus and a dangerous political situation.

Everyone piled on the Republicans, with pundits from George Will to David Brooks to Dan Savage all on the same side now, and nobody anywhere seeming to worry about the obvious subtext to Trump's dumpster-fire convention: In a two-party state, when one collapses, doesn't that mean only one is left? And isn't that a bad thing?

Day two of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a little after 6:30 p.m. Roll has been called, states are announcing their support for the Donald, and the floor is filled with TV crews breathlessly looking for sexy backdrops for the evolving train wreck that is the Republican Party.

Virtually every major publication in America has run with some version of the "Man, has this convention been one giant face-plant, or what?" story, often citing the sanitized, zero-debate conventions of the past as a paradise now lost to the GOP.

"The miscues, mistakes [and] mishandled dissent," wrote Elizabeth Sullivan in Cleveland's Plain Dealer, "did not augur well for the sort of smoothly scripted, expertly choreographed nominating conventions our mainstream political parties prefer."

The odd thing is that once upon a time, conventions were a site of fierce debates, not only over the content of the party platform but even the choice of candidates themselves. And this was regarded as the healthy exercise of democracy.

It wasn't until the television era, when conventions became intolerably dull pro-forma infomercials stage-managed for the networks to consume as fake shows of unity, that we started to measure the success of conventions by their lack of activity, debate and new ideas.

A Wyoming delegate named Rick Shanor shakes his head as he leans against a wall, staying out of the way of the crews zooming to and fro. He insists dissent is always part of the process, and maybe it's just that nobody cared before.

"It's beautiful," he says. "You've got to have the discourse. You've got to have arguments about this and that. That's the way we work in the Republican Party. We yak and yak, but we coalesce."

The Republican Convention in Cleveland was supposed to be the site of revolts and unprecedented hijinks on the part of delegates. But on the floor of Chez LeBron, a.k.a. the Quicken Loans Arena, a.k.a. the "Q," it's the journalists who are acting like fanatics, buttonholing every delegate in sight for embarrassed quotes about things like Melania's plagiarism flap.

"The only safe place to stand is, like, in the middle row of your delegation," one delegate says, eyeing the media circling the edges of the floor like a school of sharks. "If you go out to get nachos or take a leak, they come after you."

A two-person crew, a camera and a coiffed on-air hack, blows through a portion of the Washington state delegation, a bunch of princely old gentlemen in zany foam tree-hats. The trees separate briefly, then return to formation.

Meanwhile, the TV crew has set up and immediately begun babbling still more about last night's story, Melania Trump's plagiarism, which Esquire's Charlie Pierce correctly quipped was a four-hour story now stretching toward multiple days.

Nearby, watching the reporters, one delegate from a Midwestern state turns to another.

"This is like a NAMBLA convention," he says with a sigh. "And we're the kiddies."

Outside, it's not much better.

The vast demilitarized zone set up between the Q and anywhere in the city that contains people is an inert, creepy place to visit. Towering metal barricades line streets cleansed of people, with the only movement being the wind blowing the occasional discarded napkin or pamphlet excerpt of The Conservative Heart (the president of the American Enterprise Institute's hilarious text about tough-love cures for poverty first littered the floor of the Q, then the grounds outside it).

Thus the area around the convention feels like some other infamous de-peopled landscapes, like Hitler's paintings, or downtown New Orleans after Katrina. You have to walk a long way, sometimes climbing barriers and zigzagging through the multiple absurd metal mazes of the DMZ, to even catch a glimpse of anyone lacking the credentials to get into this most exclusive of clubs: American democracy.

by Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone |  Read more:
Image:Victor Juhasz