Photos and captions by Joeff Davis
The Republican convention in Cleveland is half over and, despite the Trump tweets whirling around the ticker above the hall declaring each speaker “great” and announcing that the Trump’s kids are “killing it,” the whole affair is starting to feel like a flop.
The hall was mostly empty by the time Ben Carson wrapped up his speech Tuesday night. Carson’s closing was rudely upstaged by the third Code Pink protester so far to be shouted down by angry delegates and hauled off by security. This one, dressed in a pink ball gown, unleashed a “No racism, no hate” banner in the balcony.
“Ha! It’s always a red-head,” declared a Georgia delegate who was standing near me, just below the speakers’ podium, looking on approvingly as other delegates pounced on the protester and covered her with an American flag. Much of the floor kept watching as the scuffle continued while actress/avocado farmer Kimberly Brown, who followed Carson, began her speech.
For the second night in a row, CODEPINK members attempted to disrupt the convention. Trump supporters tried to block her banner with American flags. Image by Joeff Davis.
Delegates closest to the podium seemed to find the protest spectacle more compelling than the final speeches of the night.
Can you blame them? The avocado farmer was no more inspiring than Kerry Woolard, the general manager of Trump’s Virginia winery who also got a prime speaking slot. (Politifact helpfully tweeted, during the speech, that the Virginia winery is not, as Trump claimed, the largest on the East Coast.)
A white-haired couple wearing matching Trump t-shirts and sitting high in the cheap seats screamed “Quiet!” repeatedly at a pair of Univision reporters doing their standup for the cameras on the foreign correspondents’ platform.
On stage, Chris Christie did his Queen of Hearts routine, leading the audience in chants of “Guilty!” and “Lock her up!” flanked by photos of a grimacing Hillary Clinton.
In the middle of all that hate, Tiffany Trump’s tribute to her dad seemed refreshingly normal.
Paul Ryan’s call for unity was a bit of a break, too, with its expansive, visionary tone—a far cry from the schoolyard insults, airing of grievances, racial antagonism and doom that set the mood for much of the rest of the convention. But it was a strange argument Ryan made, denouncing the Democratic Party for its racial divisiveness, and “always playing up one group against another.” Ryan and other Republicans, whose nominee has 0 percent support among African American voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, bashed the Democrats as the party of racial divisiveness.
Progressives came in for a drubbing by Ryan, whose politics are informed by a century-old philosophical argument—also a breath of fresh air in Cleveland’s anti-intellectual climate. “Progressive elites will find ways to talk down to you,” he told the convention delegates, and, in his sharpest attack:
“Progressives deliver on everything except progress.”
I asked Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman, who was hanging out in Governor Scott Walker’s chair in the state delegation at the end of the night, what he thought about Ryan’s attack on progressivism, and the Wisconsin progressive tradition.
“Insofar as progressivism means socialism, it means government control of the economy, government as most people’s employer, and government running business,” Grothman said.
“It is the polar opposite of what our forefathers wanted. I wish progressives would leave America alone.”
That’s been a mainline Republican view for decades now.
Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed summed it up at a right-to-life luncheon and tribute to the 91-year-old Phyllis Schlafly earlier in the day.
Schlafly changed the Republican Party from one “controlled by opinion elites in the North and the East to a grassroots, conservative party where the support came from the South and the West,” Reed explained.
When Schlafly helped make Barry Goldwater of Arizona the Republican nominee in 1964, she shifted the political center of gravity for Republicans. It kept on shifting when Reagan became President. The Republicans have managed to hold together their coalition of angry culture warriors and yacht club members pretty well ever since. But this year, it all may finally be cracking up.
The floor of the Republican National Convention during Chris Christie's remarks, which laid out the Republican case against Hillary Clinton being qualified to be President. During the speech the crowd repeatedly chanted "Guilty" and "Lock Her Up!" Image by Joeff Davis.
In 2016, Schlafly, a founding member of the pro-life, anti-feminist Eagle Forum, threw her support behind Trump—whose brand of populism gives many Christian conservatives heartburn.
Schlafly estranged herself from her fellow board members, including her own daughter, by backing Trump. Many other “family values” Republicans, including Paul Ryan, are obviously dying inside over the Trump nomination.
I asked Reed for his perspective. He and Schlafly both cited Trump’s support for repealing the “Johnson amendment,” so churches and their affiliates can engage in politics without jeopardizing their nonprofit tax status.
“And he’s pro-life,” Reed said, adding, with a straight face: “He’s for traditional marriage.”
Trump is also pro-Israel, Reed noted, and he supported Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor in their fight to deny birth control coverage to their female employees.
“I live by the Ronald Reagan motto that an 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy. And Donald trump is not an 80 percent friend. He’s about a 95 percent friend.”
With that, he was whisked away from the luncheon at the Cleveland Browns Stadium. Unlike Paul Ryan, the delegates, and the press, he didn’t need to stick around to suffer through the speeches in the hall.
Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-Chief of The Progressive.