Doctor, the conversion therapy is not working. I said, THE CONVERSION THERAPY IS NOT WORKING!!!* For eleven hours yesterday, I talked with, observed, photographed, and commiserated with hundreds of Trump supporters. I talked with people I might have grown up with in the Kansas delegation. I remembered. At the end of the day, I sat amongst Florida delegates, listening to Rudy Giuliani and Melania Trump, while the old guy sitting behind me dressed in a baggy full-length U.S. flag suit and a red “Make America Great Again” hat punctuated every bullet point by Rudy and Mel by whistling shrilly in my ear, and the woman sitting next to me screamed at the top of her lungs and shouted “Hillary for Prison,” “USA, USA, USA,” and “Trump, Trump, Trump.” As we exited the Q, I felt like I’d been assaulted by an ugly mob of ducks.
As I recall, Prime Time began with the Duck Dynasty guy, wearing his signature flag headband and talking about how Trump would be good for his business and God bless that. Some time later came the woman whose son was killed in Benghazi, soldiers who fought in Benghazi, culminating in a film about Benghazi. Then there were a number of women and Black men whose sons and daughters had been killed by illegal immigrants. It turns out that one person is responsible for all of these deaths: Crooked Hillary. And Obama, of whom Hillary is a clone. I don’t know why people whose loved ones have been cruelly killed by Obamacare were not included. Perhaps tomorrow.
Politics is partly about grievances, and being aggrieved, and the litany of these last night was long and heartfelt. Late in the day, but before the switch to Prime Time, an internally aggrieved group, the Dump Trump, Never Trump forces, staged a last-ditch effort to get a roll-call vote, to try to make it possible for pledged delegates to “vote their conscience” rather than honor their pledge to vote for Trump. I don’t know if this ever had a real chance, but the protest lasted only a few minutes and was quickly and decidedly quashed. In the hours after the “uprising” all of the Dump Trump t-shirts, hats, and signs I’d seen earlier vanished, replaced by the uniform Trump Pence red, white, and blue. Republicans have made their bloody bed, and now they’re going to have to lie in it.
Among the speakers this first night, there were a few at the beginning who tried to get a little rhetorical distance from the nominee by concluding their remarks with something like “We’ll see you down-ballot in November,” but those were washed away in the blood of later lambs.
Whatever else happens, this is a fight to the finish. Either he’ll win, or she’ll win.
* The Republican Platform this year is further to the Right than previous years. It includes a wholehearted embrace of “conversion therapy.”
Power 2016 is a hybrid art-journalism project that is sending a team on site to document and provide commentary on the Republican and Democratic parties’ national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. In addition to the power2016.net, you can track their progress at The Brooklyn Rail, The Public, and Little Village (Iowa City, Iowa).