Politics & Policy

The National Trump Convention Is Gearing Up to Be a Circus Show

(Rick Wilking/Reuters)
Republicans could have had an all-star cast this year.

And when Reince Priebus looked over the RNC’s schedule he wept tears of milk and Baileys, for there were no more opportunities to blow.

The Republican party had a chance this year. It coulda had class. It coulda been a contender. It coulda taken advantage of the monumental chance that it had been accorded. Instead, it has chosen the course of farce, which is what this is, let’s face it.

If they are worth their salt, political historians will look back and wonder at the choices that the Right has made of late. Having taken over the House, the Senate, and the majority of the states — and, in so doing, having severely weakened the Democrats’ bench — the Republican party could have taken Cleveland by storm and staged a convention of stars. Instead, alas, it is set to present to the wider world a motley crew, led, for now, by a cut-rate huckster. “Who are the Republicans?” will be the viewers’ primary inquiry upon tuning in to the proceedings. “I have no idea,” will be their conclusion by the end.

In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza sums up the affair pithily. Trump’s roster of convention speakers, Cillizza notes, is less appropriate for “the Republican National Convention” and more appropriate for “the Trump National Convention,” for “the tie that binds the vast majority of the people together, particularly the non-politicians on the roster, is a connection to Trump, not to the Republican party.”


And what a disastrous shame that is. Had it played its cards right, the GOP could have presented undecided Americans with an accomplished, charismatic, and diverse collection of standard bearers, and in so doing drawn a stark contrast with the exhausted and bankrupt Democratic establishment. Instead, it will put on display a glistening mafia of acolytes, the majority of whose invitations came solely because they were loyal to the nominee. If you dare, reflect for a dispiriting moment upon the talent that will be left on the Republicans’ bench. There will be no Marco Rubio, no Tim Scott, no Cory Gardner, and no Ben Sasse. There will be no Trey Gowdy, no Kevin McCarthy, and no Mia Love. Neither Charlie Baker nor Larry Hogan — both popular Republican governors in deep-blue states — will be anywhere near the proceedings, nor will Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, Greg Abbott, or Brian Sandoval. Were the organizers determined to say “we’re a small, white rump, ignore us!” they could barely have done a better job.

Were the organizers determined to say ‘we’re a small, white rump, ignore us!’ they could barely have done a better job.

It is a peculiar thing, the GOP’s present predicament. To look around the country is to see a party that is dominant everywhere but the White House. On paper at least, it is the Republicans who have the personnel; the Republicans who have the energy; the Republicans who have the openings. And, on paper at least, it is the Democrats who are moribund. Hillary Clinton is a disaster of epic proportions — unliked and untrusted, she is more like John Kerry than like her husband — and she has been given the unenviable task of seeking the “third term” for a president who has rarely been approved of by more than half of the country. And yet, at the moment of truth, the Republican primary electorate chose to channel its inner Peter III, and to spin into anger and frustration and pathetic self-immolation. Had cooler heads prevailed, a compelling message could have been sent across the Ohio airways: “These are the people who run most of the country,” that party could have said. “Now, let’s give them a shot at the executive branch.” Instead, the convocation has elected to meditate upon Trump Steaks.

#related#And so it will be that the GOP refuses to press its advantage. As it always does, the Democratic party will cast the American Right as a dangerous collection of freaks and grifters; and, once again, the American Right will present the onlookers with evidence that this is true. In Cleveland, nobodies will be elevated well beyond their station; minorities will be represented by carnival barkers and contrarians; and the remarkable gains of the past six years will be hidden from public view. Instead of Tim Scott talking about poverty, we will see Ben Carson delivering his patented semi-comatose free-stylings. Instead of Susana Martinez outlining her vision, Ivanka Trump will regale us with an array of shimmering inanities. And, in what is perhaps the most criminal of all the mistakes being made, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will be forced to sell their worthwhile legislative agendas not in concert with their party’s nominee but in spite of him.

They coulda been contenders. Instead, they chose burlesque. Into the Cuyahoga with the lot of ’em.

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