Thus concludes Cleveland’s obligation to the Republican National Convention. As I write this, the grounds crews are packing up cement dividers and retaining walls, trucking away sound systems and stage displays. Somewhere on the outskirts of Cuyahoga County, Black Bloc Communists, Westboro Baptists and Black Lives Matter activists are huddling over a crinkled road map tracing their route to Philadelphia for next week’s Democratic National Convention while maintaining their stock of urine-filled jars for the next public display of outrage.
Inside the arena, scant hours ago, the last leg of speakers took to the stage to deliver their eleventh hour reasoning to why Donald Trump would make a good Commander-in-Chief. For the most part, the theme of the convention has been how off-theme they’ve been the entire convention. Event coordinators within the campaign are the ones who decided to dub each night, “Make America Safe Again”, “Make America Work Again”, “Make America First Again”, and “Make America Great Again” in that order. Regardless of their specialized focus, the one perceivable theme for any of the nights has been a vitriolic scorn for the Democratic competitor, Hillary Clinton.
Very little outside of the abstract was mentioned about Donald Trump, while much more hay was made in all the ways that the public should not trust Clinton. While a convention is a good, perhaps best, place to make the case against an opponent. The fact that Republicans do not trust Clinton is pretty well-trod ground at this point. What is not clear, are the specifics to any of Trump’s grandiose plans. Nor were we given a glimpse of the softer side of the would-be Emperor. His children proved able to read off of a teleprompter but their words offered little salve to Trump’s bellicosity.
With the final night leaving many in the crowd running on fumes, much of the final night’s speakers breezed past with little notoriety. A pastor screamed really, really loudly. A gay billionaire insisted that the “new and improved” GOP should not worry about distraction issues such as bathroom rights and be that fabled open tent they’ve talked about for the past forty years. While receiving applause, the GOP’s actual track record when it comes to legislation protecting or in the interest of the LGBTQ community is deficient to antagonistic.
But when you’re through the looking glass, up truly is the new down.
Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, introduced him to a rather under-stated entrance. What happened to the fog machine, green lights, and rock music? What followed was the longest acceptance speech in over thirty years. It takes a really focused narcissist to read off a teleprompter and still fall into long, winding, self-referential tirades. Much of Trump’s speech focused on what was wrong with America, how scary and dangerous the rest of the world was, and how great a job he would do running the country. Never once did the nominee offer how he would right America’s wrongs, how he help to make the world less aggressive, or how he would implement greatness-inducing promises. Trump make a critical error in his acceptance speech and it has be a familiar hiccup of the campaign. He is distracted by shiny objects. Once the supportive crowd hit their fifth or so chant, Trump could not help but to circle the drain with his greatest hits.
As it stands now, the election will be decided by a sliver of undecided voters and independents that are dodgy on Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. To this end, Trump has a critical need of extending an olive branch to that camp. He cannot do so when he is hopelessly tied to his own Base and the adulation they give him unreservedly. To those not already swayed by the orange tycoon, Trump made no argument to convince them that he understands foreign policy, that he has a sliver of humility or reflection. He cynically namedropped disaffected Sanders supporters but nothing to actually court their interests through an economic policy stance. This is because, outside of cutting taxes on the rich, he has none. While he managed not to shoot himself in the foot, Trump had four days to hit a bulls-eye and has misfired critically. Rather than rewrite his own perceived flaws, Trump has doubled-down on them and attempted to make a franchise from his own belligerence.
Having failed to establish his own best version of himself to a wider audience of potential voters, the Democrats now have the opportunity to do just that as they gear up for their convention next week in Philadelphia. While I can guarantee they will spend ample time massaging the “trustworthiness” of Clinton through warm inspirational anecdotes and clip packages, they will also pick up the slack from where the GOP forgot to finish writing their own narrative and tell the American people who they think Trump really is. If the Democratic spin takes root (with much of it already established in our cultural zeitgeist for the past thirty years) then it will be at the permission of the GOP who were to focused on a meritless witch hunt against Hillary than to bother to sell their own candidate. The obvious conclusion for this is that hatred for Clinton is a much more tangible and galvanizing element to the GOP than admiration and support for Trump is at this point. While that’s been enough to keep them in the game thus far, it remains to be see if scorn alone can win Trump the highest office in the world.