Fear and Loathing (and Incompetence) in Cleveland

2011_09_07_Emmanuel GoldsteinThe plagiarism charge is really not a big deal, nobody expects that someone like Melania (or even Michelle) would actually write their convention speech. The larger observation is that the campaign should not look slipshod and half-assed, but it does—and is. The campaign and the convention are supposed to be evidence that the candidate has the chops to organize a team, to head up a large group of people with various functions, and to keep them all on task and on message (and that includes the candidate himself). It’s an application for the job of president. It is the candidate’s and the party’s one shot to seriously address issues that people outside their angry white working class base care about (i.e. issues other than Hillary’s ties to Lucifer Prince of Darkness).

They have blown that chance to broaden their appeal in favor of a series of ad hominem attacks and open fear/hate-mongering, with WWE theatrics thrown in for effect. Whatever you want to call them, the GOP campaign and convention are not serious or grounded in reality. No organizational rigor or collective messaging, no coordinated message at all except “Lock her up”. (Yes, the frenzied delegates eat up the hate and fear and Clinton revenge fantasies – but there won’t be millions of hand-picked convention delegates available to vote in the general.) No serious discussion of real domestic and international issues, just “terrorists want to kill you and Democrats want to let them” nonsense. No serious foreign policy positions on trade, Syria, Russia, Israel, China, Iraq, Iran, Europe, NATO or anything else. No serious domestic policy positions on race relations, policing, women’s rights, immigration (except the fantasy “wall”), fiscal policies/taxes, corporate malfeasance, federal regulations, states’ rights, climate change, or anything else.

The speech by Ted Cruz was one of the most telling moments. The candidate’s team knew Cruz would not endorse, knew he would generate the kind of frenzied hate-filled chaos that in fact did characterize his self-serving “see you in 2020” speech. Campaign operatives were seen to be whipping up the ‘boos’ from the back of the hall, trying to fan the flames. Ted Cruz is, obviously, the campaign stand in for “The Undertaker” (or take your pick of WWE villains), his role to be the evil contrast to the candidate’s “Macho Man Randy Savage” goodness. You know, in the ring.

The Cleveland event is shaping up to be what we should have expected – a transparently amateurish reality show based on crass Hulk Hogan-style fake pageantry and cartoonish good vs. evil fantasy. A megalomaniacal, narcissistic, willfully ignorant display of white tribal hegemony, combined with a nearly fact-free hate-in against the evil “other”. A denial of this country’s growing diversity and pluralism, and a denial of the complex realities that shape the rest of the world in favor of the tired populist mantra of “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it all because I’m so strong”. A WWE-scripted make-believe machismo devoid of seriousness, evidence-based truth, analysis, insight, logic or even basic human decency.

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