In three of four nights, the Republican National Convention has gone almost exactly the way the Democrats would have scripted it.
In the past, people have suggested that Donald Trump is actually a Manchurian Candidate working to get Hillary Clinton elected. If that’s true, there could be no greater evidence than the first three-fourths of #RNCinCLE.
Many, including the estimable David Gergen this week on CNN, called Trump’s ascension to the official nomination a “hostile takeover” of the party. Certainly, the speakers and delegates have appeared taken over and hostile.
My liberal friends are horrified. I’m not sure why they’re not gleeful.
Perhaps it’s because they realize that even this catastrophe of a dumpster-fire of a train-wreck has a 50%ish chance of landing in the White House. They like to rely on Nate Silver promising them 75%-range odds, but instead he warns them that Clinton’s lead is as safe as John Kerry’s in 2004.
Perhaps the horror comes from knowing that the GOP will still control the House of Representatives no matter what, and that American maintains at least 10,000 (!) elected Republican officials helping to run courthouses and statehouses and basically every lever of power outside the White House and the Supreme Court, and this convention is their public face.
Still, liberal Democrats should take some kind of comfort in seeing this party they hate take such a massive belly flop in three of its first four nights. Frank Bruni summarized it well: “the nonsensical order of speakers, the shaky adherence to themes, the unintended disruptions, the self-inflicted distractions, the empty seats in the arena, the hollow emotion on the stage.” And Bruni wrote this before Ted Cruz’s smackdown and Trump’s upstaging of him, a tactic Trump pulled directly from his days at the WWE.
Do liberals remember being afraid that Donald Trump could more effectively pivot to the center than Ted Cruz or even Marco Rubio? That Trump was nailing down the base in the primaries, but that eventually he would play up his decades of Democrat-supporting, centrist bona fides with some Reagan-esque “the party left me” rhetoric?
At the moment I write this, that pivot could still happen during Trump’s big speech tonight. But wow, did he ever blow the chance to do it during the first 75% of his convention.
As a college professor, I see what happened here, and the blame lies squarely on Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, and whoever else organized this fever nightmare. As a teacher I used to be frustrated at some of the in-class presentations of my students, until I realized that I had not personally challenged them enough, I had not given them the tools to be successful. It’s one thing to toss off a few pithy remarks (I’m good at that!), but it’s quite another thing to set up a series of substantive presentations. You really can’t expect the students to invent everything themselves; you have to show them how to say what they should say. And when you don’t, the lack of nurturing becomes glaringly, painfully obvious as the presentations go on and on and on.
If Trump did execute a hostile takeover of the GOP, he wasn’t hostile enough. Last week, in meetings, when Ryan and Priebus presented a radical right-wing platform, did Trump just shrug his shoulders? Did he do the same for most of the speakers? Did Trump make less of an effort in organizing this thing than you make when you buy a sofa?
If the platform is radical, the speeches weirdly haven’t been. There’s some blinkered awareness from most speakers that they’re not addressing CPAC or Sean Hannity, and yet they seem constitutionally incapable of saying anything that might attract a swing voter. They don’t go center and yet they also don’t go right (until Ted Cruz), and they wind up sounding mushy, or vapid, or ill-informed (have any of them read even two webpages of Trump’s website?), or prejudiced. Perhaps they’re simply echoing Trump and statements like his tweet today, to wit, “if the Dems win the Presidency, the new JUSTICES appointed will destroy us all!” Hyperbole has its place, but not in place of supporting facts.
Did he think his kids would make up the difference? Did he realize we haven’t heard of them? They joined the cavalcade of E-list-level celebrities, which really wasn’t helping; perhaps A-listers are A-listers for a reason. Or maybe you’re hearing the sound of a big squish of capitulation from a party unable to protect its traditions and principles. Most of the convention’s speakers do seem taken over and hostile, and unsure of how to find common ground with Trump, which seems to be why most of them either wrap up in less than five minutes or go on and on about ISIS and/or Hillary Clinton. Most of Trump’s campaign wasn’t really about either, but to quote the great sage, oh well, whatever, nevermind.
The post-mortem on this convention will make Mitt Romney’s 2012 convention look like the 2012 London Olympics.
According to the news yesterday, Trump actually offered John Kasich a job as “the most powerful V.P. in history,” supposedly in charge of domestic and foreign policy. Something tells me that if Katich had taken the gig, instead of ceding it to the evangelical-bot Mike Pence, this convention would have gone slightly differently.
I still don’t feel liberals realize what a bullet they just dodged. In the spirit of Dylan Matthews at Vox, then, who just published a saucy alternate-history where Marco Rubio became the GOP nominee, let me remind not-relieved-enough liberals just what GOP speakers might have said during a better-organized Trump-coronation:
My fellow Americans, the establishment has failed. Both parties have failed. But Donald J. Trump, who’s not a politician, will lead a reformed Republican party that has heard your voice and refuses to make the same mistakes. No more endless wars. No more government shutdowns. No tax cuts with one hand and tax-and-spending with the other. But Democrats will also be taken to task for their failures, like Obamacare, the debt, overbaked political correctness, and a war on police. Both parties resist common-sense solutions to obvious problems like campaign-finance and out-of-control prisons and globalization and pork-barrel spending. Donald Trump isn’t a politician and that’s why he can cut the Gordian knot of the special interests and solve all of these problems.
One of the biggest is quote-unquote free trade, which has failed. NAFTA has failed. The TPP is a failure waiting to happen. We need better negotiations and that’s what Trump promises.
Working people are getting ripped off. Their jobs are being given to robots or outsourced to other countries. Trump will stop this. Corporations are moving not just jobs but their operations overseas to avoid paying taxes. Trump will stop this.
And what will happen to the savings from more competitive deals overseas and more corporations paying taxes at home? Tax cuts. In fact, Trump’s tax cut will return more money to working people than any tax cut in the history of America. Working people making less than $50k will pay no tax at all, whatsoever. Find the details on Trump’s website.
Paying fewer taxes means more money in your pocket, it means respecting your liberty and personal freedom to spend the way you want. Personal choice means we will preserve the range of Obamacare coverage while repealing and replacing the mandate.
We will put America back to work by building the Keystone pipeline and more generally rebuilding America’s infrastructure. A Democrat can’t pass this kind of legislation, but it can be done by a Republican who has employed thousands of builders and construction crews.
Now, a few statements that aren’t going to be popular with everyone in this hall. The Second Amendment needs to be protected and that means one or two sensible reforms. We already can’t walk down the street with rocket launchers. It doesn’t hurt anyone’s rights to put certain types of assault weapons in the same category as bazookas. We already have enough background-check laws, but they need a financial incentive to be properly enforced. A Democrat can’t pass that. A Republican can.
Same-sex marriage is here to stay. (sounds of boos) That ship has sailed. Pregnant women whose lives are in danger, or who are victims of rape or incest, can’t be forced to give birth. We can’t turn the clock back to the sixties.
Two-thirds of Americans feel that race relations in America are worse than they were eight years ago. That has to change. Donald Trump will be the President for all people and will have a Cabinet that looks like America. On the next level, Trump will recruit community leaders of every race and ethnicity to help our police.
Now hear this: we will destroy ISIS. We will declare full-scale war on them. However, we will draw down our drones in other parts of the world. The Bushes and the Obamas seem to think we need to be at war in 20 different parts of the world at once. That doesn’t make us strong, that doesn’t keep us strong. We will stop bombing random weddings and Doctors Without Borders as Obama did. Instead we will gather our forces, destroy ISIS, and then strengthen our forces by bringing most of them home. Our veterans are our most precious resource. We will reform the V.A. which fell apart under Obama. We will retrain our veterans, we will get them jobs, and they will join community leaders in helping our police and together we will be safe and strong again in the manner that many of us remember from our childhoods.
This is how we will make America great again! Vote for Donald Trump!
But they forgot to say all that, so breathe easy, liberal Democrats. As Mary Jane once told Spider-Man (well, she said it a little more than once): Face it, tiger, you just hit the jackpot.