Steven Biel: So, should we chat today, or in honor of the Trump convention should we just copy and paste an old Strimling-Harriman chat?
Just kidding. Day 1 of the Republican National Convention is in the books, and like most Republicans who want to retain a modicum of dignity after this election, you’re not there. What’d you think from your vantage point watching from home?
Lance Dutson: I have to say it lived down to expectations. This Trump campaign is a circus, and virtually every aspect of the operation is a disaster on wheels. Where to start? I mean, Scott Baio actually spoke at the convention of a national political party! Nothing is real anymore.
Steven: Personally, I found the horror show tone of the thing really off-putting. Rudy Giuliani’s speech felt unhinged. Cheering for the acquittal of a police officer whose negligence caused Freddie Gray’s spine to be broken was just ghoulish. And I had trouble even watching Patricia Smith, the heartbroken mother of the officer killed in Benghazi. Her pain is obviously so raw and personal–putting her on that stage and exploiting her grief for political gain just seemed cruel and unusual.
Then again, I know I’m not the intended audience, and I suspect all that red meat played great for the base. Plus, I think a lot of the law and order/Blue Lives Matter rhetoric has appeal to white working class Democrats.
Lance: It played to an increasingly bigoted and irrational base that has overwhelmed traditional Republicans and has essentially destroyed the party. We’ve seen this happen in Maine first-hand, and the parallels are downright eerie. An unqualified, bigoted boob, propped up by a team of angry incompetents who can’t handle the most rote tasks without screwing them up royally.
Take Mrs. Trump’s speech as a perfect example–an intern could have Googled passages from that speech and found that it was plagiarized from Mrs. Obama’s 2008 convention speech. But the Trump people, just like the LePage people, have a classic combination of hubris and incompetence that makes functioning in the daily world a cavalcade of disaster. Not a real good sign for a team that wants to run the country.
Steven: You must have at least taken some solace in seeing Maine delegates like Ashley Ryan and Eric Brakey raising hell by demanding a floor vote on the rules. I’m not sure their protests were heard by the broad swath of the American public, but to people paying attention, it’s clear that much of the party is a long way from falling in line behind Trump.
Lance: I’m glad to see some resistance to this nightmare, but the Maine opposition had little to do with Trump. Both Brakey and Ryan were in the same situation last time around, and they are making a point about the rules and not the candidates. But overall, there is major resistance to turning our party over to the Trump machine, and I think the floor chaos yesterday shows that pretty clearly. Again, not a good sign for a presidential race heading into full swing.
Steven: I’ll be honest–I went to bed last night thinking that under the circumstances it was a pretty successful first night. The Never Trump disruptions were kept out of prime time. Scaremongering over terrorism is proven to work for the GOP. Scott Baio is a weird choice, but I think it’s smart to add celebrities and “real people” like Marcus Luttrell and Sheriff David Clark to the usual lineup of politicians no one has heard of.
If not for the plagiarism debacle, the headline today would have been that Melania Trump delivered a fine speech and Rudy brought down the house. Instead all anyone’s talking about is the jaw-dropping incompetence of the Trump speechwriters.
Do you have a theory on how that happened? Did the Trump kids sabotage their stepmom? Maybe Melania really did write, um, copy and paste, the speech herself?
Lance: We all have things in our heads that we forget came from stuff we’ve read. That’s why anyone who writes for the public shares the same fear of accidental plagiarism. And that’s why speech-writing teams have protocols in place–to check for this kind of thing. But Team Trump thinks they’re smarter than everyone else, so they don’t bother with such trivial things. It’s reflected at all levels of the campaign.
But to me the plagiarism isn’t the real problem with yesterday. The real sad thing about this convention so far is the gross and obvious racial schism that is being widened right now, courtesy of this populist Republicanism. Take GOP Congressman Steve King’s explanation on live television yesterday that white culture is literally superior to other “subgroups” who haven’t accomplished as much as white people have. He made these horrendous comments against the backdrop of a convention hall where only 18 of 2,472 delegates are African-American. On the same day, The American Prospect published an interview with our own Paul LePage in which he told the African-American reporter, “I will tell you that your president is not in tune with my culture … Donald Trump is in tune with my culture; maybe not your culture.”
These things aren’t anecdotal–they are examples of an endemic cancer within the Republican Party that is causing this collapse into satire. This convention so far has only stoked this unacceptable racist populism.
Steven: Obviously I agree, and while most Republicans aren’t speaking out against Trump’s racism as forcefully as you are, the fact that so many Republicans are skipping the convention speaks volumes. The only silver lining is that all this open racial animosity prevents your party from convincing African-Americans and Latinos to support awful economic and foreign policy positions they might otherwise be open to.
So tonight the headliner is Donald Trump, Jr. He’s got a lot of pressure on him, because two bad nights in a row will really bring out the vultures. Chris Christie is also speaking–but is he still enthusiastically on board after getting passed over for VP? The other big names are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and I can’t imagine they’re going to do Trump any favors. My prediction is that neither of them even mention Trump by name. What do you expect?
Lance: I’ve seen articles previewing both GOP congressional leaders’ speeches, and they seem to indicate full-throated Trump support. Paul Ryan has been one of the GOP’s most sane voices lately, but his acquiescence to this madness now is really depressing. Despite Ryan and McConnell donning the Trump yoke, there is clearly a fracture in this party. But how that manifests itself going forward is unclear. Redstate blogger Ben Howe summed up the general feeling of many traditional Republicans in an interview with 538.com: “Where do you go when the only people who seem to agree with you on taxes hate Black people?” It’s a sad state of affairs.
Steven: Pardon me for not feeling sad today. I just hope Clinton doesn’t blow it with any more unforced errors.