The Republican National Convention— Thoughts from a Canadian Observer
I watched the Republican National Convention last week. Not all of it. But I caught the high points for three of the four evenings and some of the daytime coverage on CNN. And I spent a lot of time trying to get down exactly what I wanted to say about it.
And then Jon Stewart came onto Late Night with Stephen Colbert last Thursday night and in less than 30 seconds he (pardon my language) fucking nailed it.
“The Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America…they articulated it throughout the Convention:
- One, jail your political opponent.
- Two, inject Rudy Guiliani with a speedball-Redbull enema.
- Three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejeezus out of everybody.”
And he went even further, and it was glorious, and you can see it here. But I want to talk about the Republican National Convention.
My Third Republican National Convention.
Why put myself through this ordeal when I can’t even vote in the US election?
That’s a good question, with ultimately a simple answer (as it has been other years, for the most part). I follow US elections from the outset. America, I am addicted to your politics, including your tortuously protracted election cycle. Sometimes staying engaged makes me as frustrated as all-get-out. Sometimes it makes me (again, pardon my language) fucking furious. And the odd time it’s made me absolutely inspired. But it’s never been anything less than thoroughly entertaining.
“It’s some of the best entertainment going,” I’ve told friends who ask me why I follow American politics so closely.
The stories like Elliot Spitzer in the elevator and Anthony Weiner all over Twitter? I didn’t *know* until I started following American politics that politicians did such stupid things.
And with this Republican National Convention, I was promised a show…Clint Eastwood and the empty chair times twenty said one media person the week before it all started. And I can’t say that I didn’t get it — a line-up of endorsers including Scott Baio and underwear model Antonio Sabato Junior, Rudy Giuliani screaming “All Lives Matter!” like his life depended on it, Melania cribbing part of her speech, Ted Cruz (starting his 2020 campaign early, apparently) using his invite to speak at the Convention to *not* endorse the guy who invited him…great material. It should have been fabulous.
But the most fabulous part of the Republican National Convention was watching Stephen Colbert skewer the day’s proceedings each night. The proceedings themselves? I’m not even going to apologize for swearing anymore. Fucking scary. Not entertaining. Not annoying. Not even infuriating. Just downright terrifying.
And I think to make my case for why, I need to talk about what I saw…so apologies to those of you who lived through it with me.
“One, Jail Your Political Opponent”
As I was tweeting while I was watching the first night of the Republican National Convention (the theme of which was “Making America Safe Again”) someone posted on my timeline about how disgusting it was that Patricia Smith’s grief over the death of her son Sean in Benghazi was being used for totally political purposes by making her a speaker — she said that she blamed Hillary Clinton directly for her son’s death and called for her arrest, a commonly-held position within the GOP despite the fact that none of the party’s investigations into Benghazi have found Clinton indictable for what happened.
But Smith’s speech set the stage for the real theme of the entire Republican National Convention — what a crook Clinton is, how she needs to be stopped, and how she (or Obama, as the one who made her Secretary of State) can be directly blamed be a myriad of things, including the rise of ISIS. The tools that Trump used to forge party unity during the Republican National Convention (and he needed it; the GOP is still clearly divided on whether he’s an appropriate candidate, with party notables including the entire Bush family, Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Kasich electing to miss the Republican Party Convention rather than indicate even implicit support by showing up) are not just Clinton’s unsuitability for President, but her criminal culpability for acts for which she hasn’t been found guilty. Both Lt. Gen Michael Flynn and Chris Christie encouraged the crowd to chant “Lock her up! Lock her up!” during their speeches.
That any candidate would sanction hatred (and I don’t believe that “hatred” is too strong a word) of another candidate as a way to “rally the troops” scares me. It’s not Presidential. It’s not classy. It’s the perfect example of “divisive”.
You deserve better, America.
“Two, Inject Rudy Giuliani with a Speedball-Redbull Enema”
This one is kind of self-explanatory. You won’t need to watch the whole video if you’d rather not. It doesn’t take long to see why Jon Stewart made this observation.
“Three, Spend the Rest of the Time Scaring the Holy Bejeezus Out of Everybody.”
Where to begin with this one?
Let’s start with this observation (and I’m far from the only one saying this): If you were dropped into last week’s Republican National Convention with no prior knowledge of what American life is like, I’m quite confident that you’d have come away with a picture of a lawless, dystopian landscape, with its entire body of citizens under constant threat from people that were never their allies; people that once were their allies, but are no more; and countries who claim that they are American allies, but just aren’t pulling their weight. You’d think that America is in a war that permeates the lives of every one of its citizens at a visceral, everyday level, with an enemy that the current administration refuses to even acknowledge, let alone protect its citizens from. And you’d think that the only way to continue to protect American citizens as this war is fought is to get a bunch of folks out of the country and seal the borders off so tightly that they and and other dangerous folks like them will never, ever get back in.
The message was that protection of American citizens is the primary goal — and that all lives matter in America, whether they are Black lives, White lives, Hispanic lives, Asian lives, Muslim lives, Male lives, Female lives, Gay lives, Straight lives…all lives matter because you, my American friends, are ALL AMERICANS, Giuliani said (loudly.) And Donald Trump said in his speech on Thursday night, where he accepted the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency, that he will be the one to protect all American lives from the people out in the rest of the world that want to take down America and that are inherently bad…the people that he’ll keep out with his wall and his strict policies on immigration and his focus on law and order.
You know…bad guys like Hispanics, Muslims, the Serbians that “my opponent” (not “Crooked Hillary” for once, but we’ll see how long that last) wants to bring into the US, and the people that shoot law enforcement officers in the street. That will stop the day that he becomes President, Trump assured Americans. Because you are all Americans, my American friends, and you need to be protected from bad guys…like you…lest you become one of the “victims of illegal immigrants” (those are the words used in the official Republican National Convention schedule of speakers) that spoke on the first night of the Convention. Because despite the fact that Republicans don’t like “victim mentality” or politicizing tragedy, they apparently won’t hesitate to take political advantage of people who’d experienced a crushing loss at the hands of people who, as a group, are no more or less likely to be violent than anyone else in society.
Donald Trump would likely dispute that, given the statistics on crime and immigration that he used in his speech. Fact-checkers disputed many of those statistics.
Members of the CNN panel that convened immediately after Trump’s speech were divided about it, mostly along racial lines. White pundits thought that the speech was realistic and representative of what America is facing; Trump apologist-to-the-end Geoffrey Lord was prepared to go out swinging about this. Van Jones and Ana Navarra were appalled at the speech’s dark tone, and at what a terrible speech it was for people of colour (as they both are.)
And rightly fucking so. This discussion really is interesting — it starts 4 minutes into the video.
And despite the fact that disabled people were only explicitly mentioned during the Republican National Convention once that I heard, in a promise made by Trump’s son Eric that Trump will increase support to to families with disabled children, I wouldn’t recommend that disabled people rest easy should Trump win the election (even white disabled people.) I’d be willing to bet money that the only reason that disabled people didn’t come up in Trump’s speech as a “subgroup” of America (Representative Peter King) with whom the rest America should regard with fear is that he’s given them so little thought as a group that he hasn’t considered the ways in which he could perceive them as as threat to either America’s national security or economic well-being. But that might not last:
- Don’t forget that one of the Republican concerns to ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was that it gave the United Nations too much power over the lives of everyday Americans.
- Bear in mind that Canada recently tried to kick out an immigrant family because of a perception that support for a child with Down Syndrome was going to cost the taxpayers too much money.
Disabled people have nothing to gain from a Trump presidency, where the repeal of Obamacare is a campaign promise, and that may just be some of what they lose. So to my disabled American friends especially, you get out there and vote and make sure you get the right person in! #CripTheVote
Hillary Clinton was not my first choice.
I’m impressed by Tim Kaine, but I’ve heard some stuff that gives me pause. I’d rather have seen Hillary choose Elizabeth Warren as running mate.
I know that, as in the past, there will be things about the Democratic National Convention that I won’t like and that may even make me angry.
But the stakes are high for this election. I feel it here in Canada, right down to my bones. There’s not a thing about this election that’s entertaining for me this time around. It’s deadly serious, and I have loved ones in America for whom I’m very afraid.
And I have two beautiful nieces and a gorgeous nephew here in Canada, and I’ll be damned if they live up to eight years of their young lives in world where Donald Trump is leader of the free world without me doing whatever I can to stop it.
It really comes down to this for me now:
#I’mWithHer. Won’t you join me?