Today is the beginning of the most anticipated political party convention in recent memory.
As far back as I can remember, these conventions are nothing more than showcasing coronations for the presumptive nominee where people have a general idea of what to expect; political figures talking about how great the nominee is, a showcasing of some rising party stars, showing the human and family side of the nominee, and finally an acceptance speech by the nominee themselves, followed by balloons. Lots and lots of balloons.
Some of this will certainly occur over the course of this week. But this is not some ordinary party convention. It is a party convention with Donald Trump as the headliner. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has any idea how this is going to go or what is going to happen.
It is easy to think everything will be fine and normal given the seriousness and importance of these conventions; but I am sure a lot of people said that about Trump’s VP rollout before it happened too.
Instead, we saw news of a running mate selection which was then denied by the campaign, then the news conference to announce it get postponed, then reports saying Trump tried to bail on the pick at the list minute. The following day we were treated to a bizarre introduction of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, where Trump mostly spoke about himself and actually left the stage when it was Pence’s turn to speak.
Are we in for a repeat?
One way this will not be a conventional convention is the lack of high profile elected officials attending. The Bush family, Mitt Romney, and a number of vulnerable Senate Republicans like Marco Rubio will not be making the trip to Cleveland. John Kasich will not be attending either, even though he is the Governor of the host state, Ohio. This has left Trump with a pretty thin list of speakers. The headliners for this week will be:
Monday: Melania Trump (Trump’s wife); Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst
Tuesday: Donald Trump, Jr.; West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito; Ben Carson
Wednesday: Eric Trump (Trump’s son); Newt Gingrich; Presumptive VP Nominee Mike Pence
Thursday: Ivanka Trump (Trump’s daughter); Presumptive GOP Nominee Donald Trump
The full list of speakers can be found on the RNC website.
Pretty lackluster list, right? Some of it has to do with the fear some Republicans up for reelection have about Trump’s impact on their individual races. It also speaks to a divide that still exists within the party about Trump’s candidacy.
A sizable faction within the party want nothing to do with Trump as the nominee and it will be interesting to see how much, if any, chaos they will be able to cause on the convention floor. The Never Trump movement has always been outspoken and passionate, but they have never been very organized. Or successful.
During the primary, they failed to unite behind a single candidate who may have been able to take Trump down. And just last week, the movement tried to pass an amendment through the party rules committee that would have unbound the convention delegates and allowed them to “vote their conscience;” i.e. not vote for Donald Trump. They needed 28 of the 112 rules committee members to support the amendment in order to file a minority report and bring it to the convention floor for a vote. They got 12 to support it.
Yet, even in defeat, they are vowing to press on and are considering other options on how to disrupt the convention. A divided party is the last thing any political party wants coming out of a convention. While there is virtually no chance the Never Trump movement will be able to prevent him from being the nominee, they could create enough of a scene that adds fuel to the fire and creates even deeper divisions within the GOP as they head into the general election.
Chaos inside the convention hall is not the only worry among Republicans. A lot of attention will be paid to the inevitable protests that will take place outside the Quicken Loans Arena. Protests happen at every political convention, but they rarely turn violent.
Yet violence has been a semi-consistent theme when it comes to Trump’s campaign. Protesters have been physically harmed by supporters at Trump rallies and he was even forced to cancel an event in Chicago back in March after riots broke out both inside and outside of the venue. So obviously many are wondering if we will see this year something similar to what happened outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago back in 1968 when tensions over the Vietnam War reached a boiling point.
Members of the new Black Panther Party, White Supremacist Groups, and other political organizations will descend on Cleveland this week. Add in the fact some of these protesters will be allowed to carry firearms, per Ohio’s open carry law. Given the divisiveness of Trump’s campaign, and the increasing racial tensions in the country, it is easy to see how an ordinary protest could get out of hand and downright dangerous. Like Chicago in 1968, you can bet there will be constant split screens of what is going on inside, and outside, the convention hall.
But of all the questions about this week, none is bigger than the one on everybody’s mind. What the hell Trump going to say in his acceptance speech on Thursday night?
Will this be the unscripted Trump we see at his campaign rallies? Or will we see the Trump who reads from a teleprompter and sounds like he took a handful of Xanax beforehand?
There is the possibility we see a combination of the two. We saw a version of it on Saturday morning at Pence’s introduction where Trump gave his traditional rambling speech intertwined with a handful of scripted, teleprompter assisted compliments about his VP pick.
Trump did not get this far by reading boilerplate policy prescriptions off of a screen. He got here because he was able to rile up his supporters with off the cuff rants. Does he believe he can reach the more moderate, undecided voters in the electorate and tone it down?
Or does he come to the conclusion that reaching them is a lost cause and instead try to fire up enough like minded people across the country, outside of GOP primary voters, in the hopes they head to the polls for him in November?
Or will Trump talk to an empty chair for an hour in a tribute to Clint Eastwood? Anything is possible with this guy.
Hold onto something, folks. These next four days could be one hell of a spectacle.