Friday, July 22, 2016
Ranting On...the Republican National Convention
First off, I'm realizing that I never did an article about Mike Pence being added to the ticket, so why not start with that? Pence's decision was, in my opinion, something of a miscalculation by Trump but also could prove relatively savvy. The reality is that no person was going to be added to Trump's ticket that would affect actual voters; Trump is too polarizing for someone to latch on due to the bottom of the ticket. Pence being on the ticket in some respects is good for congressional Republicans. Were he to be elected, they would have a connection at the table, someone in the White House they could go to to discuss issues with Trump. Democrats seem to like the guy at least personally (certainly not politically), which would also help in terms of negotiations. In some ways this is similar to Joe Biden-President Obama dislikes glad-handing and the rigmarole of schmoozing Congress, while it's something that Biden clearly relishes and considering his strong relationship with people like Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch, is something he's tailor-made for. It's not hard to imagine Pence going out and trying to strike a deal with Steny Hoyer or Dick Durbin to whip up votes, and he fulfills the idea of "first-do-no-harm" in a major way, since he's relatively bland.
The problem here is that Donald Trump is not a rational human being. He is not Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. He's not someone that is going to give a fig about bringing Congress to his side-he is clearly a man who has almost never heard the word no before and isn't going to be afraid to dismiss that word in office. Therefore, it's become more and more obvious that Trump does not care about Congress, or what their role is in a future Trump administration, so I do question whether Pence was the right choice from a purely political perspective. In some ways, Pence is a loose cannon compared to the likes of Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie. Pence, it seems plausible, could at some point abandon Trump politically-while it's hard to see it now, it's difficult to see Pence continuing to back the idea of NATO being something to be so casually dismissed. Chris Christie, in particular, was someone who has clearly shown absolutely no internal compass that would discourage Trump-he's a yes man for a man that probably needs one, as few other surrogates are willing to say "yes" about Trump. Even Gingrich has dismissed some of Trump's comments in the past, but Christie hasn't since his endorsement. Having Christie as the VP candidate (the more important role between now and November) would have helped Trump out even if theoretically a Vice President Pence would be better for him when he gets behind the Resolute Desk.
So I am not impressed with the step that Pence took with his career, even if some people (has Chris Cillizza always been this annoyingly partisan or did I just start noticing in the last year?), are convinced this was the right move and he will emerge unscathed, but it's not the worst decision Trump could have made (you have to assume Reince Priebus was saying a constant prayer that Sarah Palin or Ben Carson wouldn't show up on that stage next to Trump in New York). But as for the rest of the RNC? It was a circus act.
Yes, it could have been worse as several pundits have pointed out, but it wasn't business-as-usual, and not having massive violence or the delegate frontrunner go to a second ballot is hardly anyone's idea of a high bar. There were some bright moments (Ivanka Trump clearly has a future in politics if her father doesn't screw it up for her, but she'd have to run as a Democrat with the platform she was espousing), but most of it was pretty staid, off-point, and ran-the-gamut from boring and tacky (I still can't believe Scott Baio spoke), to scary (does anyone else have the feeling that in twenty years we're going to find out that Rudy Giuliani had early-set dementia-how could the man who was a relatively strong mayor have turned into this ugly, race-baiting man?), to politically risky (Ted Cruz...we'll discuss him later this week) to truly terrifying. Trump's speech, overlong but spoken largely without interruption or cringe-worthy tangent, was a difficult moment to grasp because of the dog whistle politics that he espoused on a national stage, with thousands of people cheering it on. It's horrifying to think this man could be president, and even worse that the media set such an impossibly low bar for him that he was able to cross it.
Where do we go from here? Well, the Democrats get their chance next week, and provided the Bernie supporters don't cause a national headache for the DNC, it should be considerably better (their prime-time speaker lineup is surely a better-known slate than one that lists Antonio Sabato, Jr.) than the RNC, but now is crunch time. A few weeks after the convention bumps have settled, it's likely we'll know who the true frontrunner is, and whether Hillary Clinton can maintain her lead. Trump clearly has an audience, so turnout will be crucial, though Clinton has the advantage. It will also be telling, because both Trump and Clinton are going to have to debate (provided Trump agrees to debate-I'm still not convinced he'll do all three), and it'll be the first time that Trump isn't against someone that is clearly in need of his supporters. All-in-all, it was a wake-up call that this is really happening (#NeverTrump only has one choice in November, and her name is Hillary Clinton), but it also lined up a cliche long on the books but rarely true: this is the most important election of your lifetime.