Sometimes, you have to come together to realize how far apart you are.
For political junkies like me, the past two weeks were anything but dull. Fireworks and sparks were the order of the day, and none of them was of the celebratory variety. Now that the convention dust has settled, it seems that a quick review is in order.
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Republican Party Disunity
First up: The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Tempers flared almost immediately, thanks to the “Never Trump” movement and an equally committed faction of die-hard Ted Cruz supporters.
First, there was the stunning display of party disunity on the convention floor as a small but persistent group led by Mike Lee and Ken Cuccinelli made a bold move to rewrite the convention rules–presumably, to make the ground more favorable for a Ted Cruz 2020 presidential do-over. Of course, that is looking less likely given Cruz’s performance the following Wednesday evening. More on that in a moment.
Next there was the so-called “Melania-gate” when an out-of-work journalist discovered that a couple of phrases from Mrs. Trump’s speech were similar to sentiments previously expressed by none other than Michelle Obama. Tellingly, one of Melania’s most vocal critics was not a liberal Democrat or even an Independent. He is not a Clinton or Sanders supporter. Rather, Melania’s most vocal critic was none other than Erick Erickson, self-proclaimed überconservative and founder of Red State. Equally tellingly, it turns out that the long-time Trump speechwriter responsible for the gaffe is herself a registered Democrat.
The following evening, Donald Trump, Jr. received the same treatment. He had barely finished speaking when Erickson was again lobbing into the Webosphere accusations of plagiarism. Soon, it became obvious that the younger Donald had plagiarized nothing. As it turns out, the same man who helped write his speech was the original creator of the phrases in question. The speechwriter thus had borrowed the phrases from himself–hardly plagiarism. Did Erickson apologize? Did he back off? Of course not. He doubled down while keeping the Trump criticism going. Clearly, Erickson was on a roll and determined to prove himself right. To Erickson, everyone with the last name Trump was a plagiarist–because, presumably, Erickson had nothing else.
Then there were the stunning events of Wednesday evening. Ted Cruz started out well. He delivered a polished and well-received speech about constitutional conservatism and the imperative that we follow our consciences. Then the train went off the tracks when he refused to honor his pledge to support the party’s nominee. Cruz remained unmoved even as he was loudly booed off the stage. Suddenly, all eyes were on Donald Trump, who appeared in the wings, thumb jutting confidently into the air in his signature gesture. The message was clear: Trump was the bigger man. Trump was presidential. Cruz was neither. Yet again, the lifetime politician had been outmaneuvered by the political newcomer. Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer characterized Cruz’s performance as “the longest suicide note in American political history.” Time will tell.
On Thursday night, Ivanka Trump introduced her father. In the process, she stated, “With my father, all things are possible.” The crowd applauded as she smiled broadly. The following day, an increasingly delusional Glenn Beck accused Ivanka of plagiarizing the Bible. And Jesus. I kid you not. Beck even made it sound spooky.
Clearly, things were getting out of hand. Thankfully, the convention ended and everyone went home. Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson kept talking, but most folks at home had moved on. A big week lay ahead as the DNC got underway. All eyes turned to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia and the DNC would not disappoint.
Democratic Party Disunity
Needless to say, the Republicans did not corner the market on party disunity. Not by a long shot.
Before the Democratic National Convention even got underway, an initial, devastating email dump was dropped in the party’s lap courtesy of WikiLeaks. As many had long suspected, and as Bernie Sanders had claimed for months, it turns out that the Democratic National Committee had colluded with Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to assure Hillary Clinton the party’s nomination–by tanking Sanders’ campaign. To make matters worse, Wasserman Schultz had no sooner stepped down as DNC Chair than she was hired by the Clinton campaign. Obviously, there was nothing to see there.
Tempers flared, as the demonstrations–both outside and inside the convention hall–grew. Sensing an opportunity to escalate a civil unrest that was not theirs but convenient, Black Lives Matter protestors crashed the party. So did a few shadowy figures dressed in black and referred to–at least by the media–as “anarchists.” Eventually, they were joined by representatives of Code Pink and various individuals toting signs expressing positions like “No TPP,” “No More War,” and “Walk the Walk.” While the protestors were both committed and colorful, position statements were hard to come by. So were plans about what to do about their leaderless dilemma.
Thankfully, the protests remained for the most part peaceful. But anger persisted. Those still “feeling the Bern” felt misled and abused, and rightly so. Their idealistic, grandfatherly leader had not only abandoned the movement he started; he was now telling them to vote for Hillary Clinton. Many angrily refused even to consider such a thing. They looked for a new candidate, and found that in physician and potential Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Even so, on the eve of the official delegate vote count, Sanders and his closest supporters awkwardly invited the delegates to cast their votes for him, despite the fact that he had already publicly endorsed Clinton. Things were getting interesting as the convention took on the appearance of a free-for-all. It was a political brawl playing out on television screens across the country.
Of course, Sanders lost handily to Clinton. After all, as we already knew, he had, months before, been sandbagged by his own party. No last-minute protests could stop the so-called “Clinton Coronation.” Whenever the cameras panned over to Sanders, he looked both ill at ease and angry. His expression did not change for the remainder of the convention. In fact, he wore the same stoically angry expression as Clinton, in her Thursday evening acceptance speech, praised him for bringing ostensibly serious social and economic concerns to light as only an avowed Socialist can do. His discomfort was palpable. He had been sandbagged. More importantly, he had sold out. It was an awkward moment with more than enough shame to go around, with no one accepting the blame. It reminded us at home why we dislike politics and politicians of every stripe.
And that was before we knew that prior to the Thursday evening finale and Clinton’s speech, the DNC powers that be blocked off entire sections of seats where Sanders supporters were expected to sit, installed white noise machines overhead to neutralize any protests, and delayed allowing Sanders supporters to enter the convention hall until there was nowhere to sit. Clearly, they had been silenced. While we may disagree with their politics, at that moment, Trump supporters everywhere were cheering for the disenfranchised Sanders supporters. In that moment, the two groups on either end of the political spectrum had more than a little in common. Of course, that tells you all you need to know about the political middle.
DNC headliner speeches were for the most part well done but, in my opinion, dishonest. And while we’re on the topic of plagiarism (weren’t we?), the DNC had its share. One such incident occurred when Hillary Clinton dramatically declared that we Americans “are great because we are good”–apparently unaware that Alexis de Toqueville beat her to the punch–or the punchline, as it were–by some 180 years. At least she didn’t plagiarize the Bible. Or Jesus. Or not that I noticed. I’m sure that Glenn Beck was relieved.
As the week progressed, more WikiLeaks revelations came to light. This time, the forces-that-shall-not-be-named released new information further demonstrating the tone deafness, bigotry, disingenuousness, and hypocrisy of the Democratic Party and its nominee. Out of respect for Clinton’s big night on Thursday, discussion of that new information was for the most part restrained. No doubt, there is much more to come. I, for one, cannot wait.
For his part, Trump grabbed the media spotlight from the DNC when he made a statement, at a press conference, to the effect that if Vladimir Putin had Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails, he might consider releasing them. This sent the liberal media into a frenzy of anti-Trump vitriol. They accused Trump of inviting a foreign government to commit espionage and to interfere with a United States election. They accused Trump of compromising United States security. Apparently, they forgot that Clinton–not Trump–had already done that.
Most importantly for Trump, he managed to dominate the news cycle even at the peak of the DNC. It was typical Trump.
All’s well that ends well . . . or something like that.
And so this fortnight of political theater ended much as it began: with Trump brashly speaking out of turn and dominating the news cycle, Wasserman Schultz colluding with Hillary Clinton and the DNC, and Sanders’ tearful followers, in their Peter Pan felt hats and Birkenstocks, taking to the streets, where they were joined by the ultimate agitators, members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Anarchists and the generally disenfranchised quickly joined the parade. The news media sensationalized what they wished, even as they ignored what did not fit their agenda. Everyone bashed Trump, even as he continually stole the spotlight. In the end, tens of millions of dollars were spent, but nothing was accomplished or decided. Everyone, as far as I could tell, stuck to their political guns and rarely strayed from their carefully crafted talking points.
All was not for nothing, however. The American public was treated to one helluva show.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It promises to be a long fall. November 8 cannot get here soon enough.
Please let me know your thoughts.