I can’t subject myself to Republican talking points for very long, and just 9 years ago, I was a registered Republican. In 2000, I volunteered for John McCain. I saw him as the last gasp of rational Republicanism against the Christianist conservative movement embodied by George W. Bush. The reasons why I can’t bring myself to watch or pay attention to gavel-to-gavel Republican convention coverage now are not dissimilar from the reasons why I don’t watch cable news anymore; we have a Democratic Party and a Batsh*t Crazy Party.
But I watched Ann Romney’s and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s speeches yesterday.
1. Both speakers worked from a TelePrompTer. When Obama uses one, Republicans mock it and imply that it is bad or inauthentic. What gives?
2. Ann Romney seems like a nice lady. I have no doubt that she loves her husband very much, and that she’s very supportive of him. How odd it is, however, that in lieu of humanizing Mitt Romney, they sent Ann out to explain how human and relatable he is. She also rushed through her speech so quickly that it was as if she was allergic to words.
3. Sarah Palin is completely absent from this shindig, and Romney’s choice to wear red – a color Palin also prefers – served almost as a subliminal message that the party will pander to the tea party – but only so much. Gone are the days when Palin would be a marquee speaker.
4. Make no mistake: Mitt and Ann Romney never wanted for anything. They never had no money, and they never had to worry about how they would make ends meet. While Romney started her speech by talking about “love”, she quickly segued into a soliloquy about the travails of the American bourgeoisie – a class to which she hasn’t belonged since meeting the candidate, her husband. She told us how she could relate to problems lots of mothers throughout American have – but for one. Money (or “resources”, if you prefer). These people have no idea.
5. What I mean by the “no idea” quip above is this: Romney spoke about how humbly she and Mitt lived while together in college. I mean, they had a makeshift desk made out of sawhorses and a piece of wood! The difference, of course, is that the Romneys chose to live humbly, all the while cashing in Mitt’s stocks when money was needed. Choosing to live humbly is wildly different from having no choice but to be poor or worrying about money and jobs.
6. A big applause line: Ann and Mitt have a “real marriage”. What’s the implication there? That the Obamas don’t? Was it a swipe at marriage equality/same-sex marriage? I have no idea, but it was a surprisingly passive-aggressive, accusatory thing to say in response to no suggestion that they didn’t. This was, as far as I can tell, nothing more than hatred. Perhaps we should start questioning this, and demanding to see the long-form marriage certificate.
7. Ann Romney said that Mitt didn’t have success handed to him. No, but I’d suggest that a guy whose father was governor, and the influential millionaire CEO of an auto manufacturer – a guy who attended the exclusive Cranbrook School (where he hilariously bullied the gay kids), and attended Stanford, Harvard, and BYU and went on to partner with consultant colleagues who raised millions to start Bain Capital had extraordinary opportunity – he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Was that handed to him? Perhaps not directly, but he was born into money and privilege, and his path to wealth and prominence was hardly steep.
8. I happen to respect Chris Christie. I like his brash attitude, and I like the fact that he’s a bit of an asshole. I think most politicians are assholes anyway – it’s nice that he doesn’t try to hide that fact. You know where you stand with him, and you know where he stands.
9. While Ann Romney had talked about love, Christie said we need to “choose respect over love”. That was awkward.
10. Christie talked about how his mom had to the take the bus to various jobs – municipal bus. His dad worked at the Breyers plant – was it a union shop? Perhaps the Milk Drivers & Dairy Employees Union? Shame that people like Christie apparently came up from a working-class household that benefited from union wages, benefits, and collective bargaining, and would deny that for future generations. Unions for me, but not for thee. I think Democrats do a lousy job pushing back against union busting. If we’ve learned anything during the employment crisis of the current economic shocks, it’s that a job is certainly important, but there’s more to it than that – we’ve seemingly jettisoned any notion that the employee should have certain rights and privileges in addition to just getting a paycheck. What about a wage you can live off of? Why shouldn’t unions be allowed to represent workers to guarantee fair working conditions and labor practices? I don’t get why politicians are so proud of jobs, jobs, jobs without regard to how people are treated at those jobs.
11. Christie talked about wild spending. Ok, most federal spending overwhelmingly goes to the military. Let’s cut that in half. No administration in the last 30 years has been more spendthrift, more fiscally irresponsible, growing more government than those led by Republican chief executives.
12. Christie criticized Democrats for dividing Americans. No, this Republican Party can’t do that with a straight face and get away with it. Their entire platform is founded on class warfare, fear, and hatred.
13. The speech Christie gave made no mention of Mitt Romney until the end. It was Christie’s opening to his 2016 run for President.
14. Christie said America has/d the best health care system in the world. It doesn’t. Not even remotely, under any metric, and we spend wildly more than any other system on Earth.
15. Obama leads by polls, Christie said. That sort of negates the talking point about how Obamacare is wildly unpopular, no? Cognitive dissonance and disingenuousness were everywhere last night.
16. Shorter GOP: oh, my God, this European Kenyan usurper N0bama has destroyed America. Let’s quickly go back to the policies that led to the 2008 worldwide economic catastrophe from which the world is still hungover.
Tonight, Mitt Romney will give his speech. Horserace-obsessed journos will breathlessly report on how big of a “bounce” Romney gets in the polls in the coming days. I will be listening to his tone, and the content of his speech. This is 1996 all over again – the Democratic President is quite vulnerable against an energized Republican base, and the GOP just picked Bob Dole 2.0 – the begrudgingly selected guy whom no one likes, but will say the right things to the right people and whose time it simply is to run.
I’ll leave you with this scene from the season finale of Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic new series, “The Newsroom”. This illustrates the problem within the Republican Party. While the Democrats have fringe whackjobs, too, the party establishment hasn’t let them take over the show: