The Republican National ConventionA big Boo-Boo
The mass of people filtered out of
the Tampa Bay Times Forum, composed mostly of pasty, boozy, schlubby, male politicians and political insiders, speckled by the rare token hispanic and even rarer black. As they shielded their eyes from the sun, drunk from liquor and lie-induced delirium, America wondered, “What was the point?” Concerned citizens came out of the convention knowing exactly the same amount about Romney’s actual policies as they did going in—not much.
To be fair, the Republicans were faced with a difficult challenge to overcome. Somehow, after nearly three years of campaigning and prior Presidential campaign appearances, America still didn’t know the real Romney. They’ve heard of the Romney as portrayed by what Gingrich calls Obama’s “dirty Chicago politics.” They know about the Romney who championed the interests of the 1%, and who has devoted the greater part of his life not to the greater good of society, but to the greater good of his wallet and Swiss bank accounts.
No. Romney understood the struggles of the working poor, and his campaign went through pains to show it, much to the detriment and laughter of folks at home. As Ann brought to light in her speech that Tuesday night, they’d struggled starting out, as they were both in school. Mitt didn’t have a job. He was forced to sell GM stocks given to him by his father—stocks amounting to about $60,000 in 1969 dollars, or about $377,000 today, according to Daily Kos’ Kaili Joy Gray. That’s a little more than $75,000 a year for doing nothing, more than what my mother makes a year on a teacher’s salary. It got even worse when Ann Romney said they only ate “tuna fish and pasta” for a while. While it may not sound so tragic to all of us, I’m sure it’s a huge step down from caviar and truffles, so for the likes of Ann and Mitt, I’m sure they truly were testing times.
Nothing, however, absolutely nothing came off as cheap and as blatantly pandering as when Ann Romney, apropos of nothing, shouted “I love women!” in the middle of her speech. I thought I had slept through her speech and woken up to a rerun of Oprah. Any doubt as to whether the Romney campaign would make this campaign about policies and specifics were realized. Is this what National Conventions have become, days-long commercials for our parties, completely devoid of fact and integrity, a crock pot of meaningless nationalist platitudes captured in slogans based upon words taken out of context?
The conventions of old knew how to entertain. They had purpose. The party used to debate its platform on the convention floor. In 1880, it took thirty- six ballots to elect James Garfield, who came into the convention trailing far behind the troika of leaders. In 1956, Barry Goldwater lost the nomination, but in his concession speech outlined the objectives of the neoconservative movement which threads through the politics of today. In 1980, Reagan waited until the Republican Convention to announce his vice- president, shocking the party by arriving to the convention early and choosing George H.W. Bush instead of Gerald Ford. The conventions of today simply aren’t the same. There aren’t really any surprises. Everything runs scripted and we only get to see the part of the candidate which we’re meant to see. Modern conventions don’t help voters make informed decisions; they help candidates spread fairy tales and half-truths.
Julian Zelizer, historian and professor of history at Princeton, would disagree. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer, Zelizer said that, “These are tightly scripted commercials. But that’s still valuable. It’s a moment when more people are watching, when the parties
can explain what their candidate is about for more than thirty-second spots.” Good point, Zelizer, if you don’t notice that the convention was more devoid of fact than an hour of Rush Limbaugh. Paul Ryan’s speech has been the focus of much scrutiny lately for making many false claims, including blaming Obama for the closing of a automobile factory near his home. Of course, the factory was closed before Obama was even inaugurated.
Even more glaring than the lies, which we’ve come to expect from politicians, is that few watched. Fox’s primetime RNC coverage during Romney’s speech was surpassed in the Nielsen ratings by TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”. That’s right, viewers and voters were looking for something informative, so they changed the channel to “Honey Boo Boo.” Shouldn’t that have been expected? Viewers weren’t learning anything, and they sure weren’t being entertained. If you’re going to host a convention full of “American values” and devoid of any real thought, why not at least make sure it’s entertaining? Have Jerry Springer play the host and make Mitt Romney take a paternity test to prove he’s not Paul Ryan’s father. I couldn’t single out Paul Ryan if he was standing in a police lineup with the Romney boys.
At least there was Clint Eastwood, who spent his time rambling on the stage to an empty chair that was supposed to be President Obama, who apparently is an angry, belligerent, potty-mouthed man. Clint’s speech was a little strange, casting blame at Obama for a war he has already ended in Afghanistan and mumbling through much of the rest, but at least he was entertaining! That can’t be said of Tim Pawlenty, of Governor Bob McDonnell, or basically anyone else who spoke. I took
the time to listen to their speeches, in the interest of being an informed voter and a conscionable citizen. All I ended up with, though, was lingering boredom. Their motto was “We Built It” when it should’ve been “Nobody Cares.”