Modern conventions are highly choreographed and scripted for media consumption. The speakers are carefully chosen, their speeches are reviewed and vetted numerous times to keep speakers on the “theme” of the night they are speaking, and on the approved talking points. The speakers are given a specified amount of time to speak, and if they are going over their time, a stage manager will signal the speaker to wrap it up now or you will get the hook.
None of this professional convention management has been evident at the 2016 RNC Convention. This convention was clearly thrown together haphazardly by Team Trump, which has no experience in convention management. All the pros would agree, Day One a Debacle for Team Trump:
[T]hink about all of the campaign-related errors over the last five days. The botched VP rollout. The awkward “60 Minutes” interview. The fact that Trump and Mike Pence never hit the campaign trail to capitalize on the VP announcement. And then last night [Melania Trump’s speech]. What you are seeing is the culmination of a campaign put together by gum and shoestrings.
As GOP strategist Steve Schmidt observed on MSNBC last night, the incident underscored “incompetence” and was a “disservice” to Melania Trump. Bottom line: If you can’t get a political convention right, it’s hard to see how you can get work at the White House right. After all, this is the easy stuff compared with being president.
Day two was no improvement. The Melania Trump plagiarism scandal was the bright shiny object that consumed the media all day. Convention Chair Paul Ryan could not get the roll call of the states completed in the afternoon business session before running over into prime time coverage for almost a half hour, because the Alaska delegation demanded a recount after their proportional votes were changed by the RNC to all go to Trump. Delegates Say Their Votes Were Changed Against Their Will To Nominate Trump.
While “The Donald” likes to repeat that he received more popular votes in the GOP primary than any Republican candidate in history, it is delegates that actually nominate the GOP nominee. Trump had the support of 1,725 delegates out of the 2,472 assigned by the party. That’s 69.8 percent of the total, meaning that Trump failed to garner 30.2 percent of the vote. This is “the highest percentage of the delegate total to oppose the nominee since the contested convention of 1976. It’s also the second-highest in a century and the eighth-highest in the history of the Republican party.” Donald Trump was nominated with the eighth-lowest delegate percentage in Republican history.
Even so, just having selected their nominee and vice president nominee, one would think that the delegates would have been in a festive and celebratory mood ready to sing the praises of their ticket. They were not. Trump captures GOP nomination as convention speakers focus their fire on Clinton.
The theme of Tuesday night was “Make America work again,” but Team Trump presented only friends, employees and blood relatives to say how great he is, not to explain how Trump will “make America work again.” The Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin asks, We were supposed to learn about Trump’s economic plans, right?
The formula is the same: Demonize Hillary Clinton; claim Trump is a great businessman (but how do we know when he refuses to release his tax returns); and say Trump will solve our problems. This is how tin-pot dictators and others who rely on a cult of personality behave. The Great Leader is magnificent. He’ll solve it all.
This insults our intelligence and doesn’t do anything to persuade Americans Trump knows what to do as president. To the contrary, the virtual absence of anything resembling an economic agenda suggests Trump has no clue what he will do.
Ah, but in the Post-Policy Nihilism of the GOP, Tea-Puiblicans do not care about policy, Ms. Rubin.
All Tea-Publicans want is the “red meat” that they listen to on conservative hate talk radio and the fact-free world of FAUX News every day. They wallow in fear and hatred of “others,” especially bloodlust hatred of Hillary Clinton. And that is what Tuesday night’s lineup of speakers gave them.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reports, The GOP’s rousing chant on a night about the economy: “Lock her up!”:
Donald Trump completed his [hostile] takeover of the GOP last night, officially securing the nomination — on an evening, fittingly enough, that was ostensibly about the economy but devolved at times into angry chants about throwing Hillary Clinton in prison.
Such talk is common among Republicans and GOP-aligned media elites, of course. Much of the time it’s mainly about supplying care and feeding to a GOP base. But this time, the chants of “lock her up” hinted at something more. Tellingly, they came amid increasing signs that Republicans think they are going to lose this election, which suggests that this might also represent an effort — perhaps only intended at this point in the dimmest of ways — to delegitimize Clinton’s presidency in advance, should she win.
Here’s Chris Christie, a man who once functioned as a real prosecutor, whipping up the audience into a frenzy by leading them in chants about how Clinton has been “guilty” of a whole litany of offenses as Secretary of State, most of them involving international [policy] decisions.
Remember when the GOP accused Democrats of trying to “criminalize policy decisions”during the George W. Bush administration? (Those were actual war crimes by the way. Big difference.)
Note that as the chants of “lock her up” intensified, Christie nodded along. He then concluded with: “Oh, believe me, we’re not done yet. The indictment is hardly complete.” Christie was probably referring there to the rest of his speech. But this came after Republicans spent the first two nights of their convention accusing Clinton of a variety of heinous offenses, on her emails, on Benghazi, and so forth. Last night, this also led last to chants of “lock her up,” as speakers assented from the stage.
A variety of investigations have failed to produce evidence of criminal behavior on Clinton’s part. In the context of these “lock her up” chants, then, this sort of assent from the convention speakers (seen in a more subtle form from Christie last night) comes across as an effort to keep hope alive — hope that, if necessary, can be sustained into a Clinton presidency.
All of this prompted Senator Jeff Flake, who has not endorsed Trump, to dissent:
But the rub here is that Republicans might not be able to make the case that Clinton shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark. The New York Times reports today that leading GOP stars are already eying the 2020 election, and are using the convention to position themselves for it to an unusual extent. Why? Because party leaders are “openly skeptical” that Trump can beat Clinton.
As Brian Beutler argues, you can draw a line directly from Trump’s birtherism about Obama to the “lock her up” chants about Clinton. Both are about denying the fundamental legitimacy of the opposition’s electoral victories, or electoral viability, or even political aspirations. In this case, though, the de-legitimization is taking place in advance of a Clinton victory that many Republicans themselves now believe is likely.
I don’t know if this is an intentional effort to lay the groundwork to undermine a Clinton presidency, or just a kind of coping mechanism that is evolving to soften the blow of a Clinton win — the idea being that even if she wins the presidency, she should not have, so on some level it doesn’t really represent a legitimate decision on the part of the American people. But either way, it already seems plausible that a sizable bloc of hard core GOP base voters will not accept a Clinton presidency as legitimate. … [I]t’s remarkable how viscerally and visibly this is already on display at a convention that is supposed to be about making a proactive case for the GOP nominee that broadens his appeal among undecided voters.
Steve Benen adds, Chris Christie turns convention into Kangaroo Court:
By any fair measure, no major-party presidential nominee has ever gone quite this far in offering public praise for dictatorships, and it’s one of the more unsettling elements of Trump’s candidacy. [See the latest, Just how far do Trump’s ties to Putin go?]
But this dynamic is made vastly more serious when the signature phrase of Trump’s nominating convention is “Lock her up!” being chanted by an arena full of enraged Republicans.
The toxicity of the combination matters. As we talked about yesterday, the United States is not some banana republic, where one party vows to lock up the leaders of the other. And yet, against the backdrop of a GOP nominee who has a creepy affinity for authoritarian politics, we’re witnessing a national convention in which Republicans appear eager to grab some pitchforks and make a citizens’ arrest.
And as of last night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) positioned himself as the mob’s ringleader.
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July 19, 2016 [is] the day the Republican National Convention became a Kangaroo Court.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but this isn’t how politics is supposed to work in an advanced democracy. There’s nothing in the American tradition that offers parallels to tactics like these.
Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist, had this to say on MSNBC last night after Christie’s remarks: “It seems a little banana republican to me. It’s something that you’re not use to hearing in this country. We don’t lock up our political opponents.”
It’s often hard to predict how a mainstream audience watching at home will respond to developments. Maybe there are millions of American voters, unsure who’ll they support, who are moved by witch-trial chants and a party that’s desperate to incarcerate its presidential rival.
Or maybe the American mainstream will recoil. We’ll find out soon enough.
I still want to believe, however, that fair-minded observers, regardless of party or ideology, will appreciate the dangers of such a radical display.
For Republicans, defeating Hillary Clinton is a legitimate goal; imprisoning her is not. Rejecting Democratic priorities is valid; criminalizing routine political disagreements is not.
Vox.com’s Andrew Prokop picked up on the GOP messaging from the first night of the Republican National Convention that goes much further than anything Americans are accustomed to.
One of the most striking recurring suggestions of the Republican convention’s first day was that Hillary Clinton should be sent to prison.
Steve Benen added more on this topic. The GOP’s preoccupation with imprisoning Clinton isn’t normal.
No it’s not normal. But an increasingly authoritarian GOP has just nominated a crypto-fascist as its standard bearer. And there is nothing normal about that, either. Americans should be deeply disturbed and recoiling from what they are seeing at the RNC Convention.