On Tuesday of the 2016 Republican National Convention, Plunderbund Columnist D.C. DeWitt explored the protest action in Cleveland Public Square and played witness to the shenanigans inside The Q. Here is his blog for Day 2.
9:30 a.m. I’ve spent the morning catching up with some friends who live and work in Cleveland, taking the pulse of the locals. I’m hearing that for many of the businesses, along East 4th for instance and in other areas of the town, the economic boon from the convention hasn’t been as big as it could’ve been.
This mostly has to do with the various private parties being held in bars and restaurants. There are no major sponsors, they say. So what would’ve been a $50,000 event with some major liquor company sponsoring has become a $20,000 to $25,000 event with no major sponsor. The revenue they expected has been cut in half.
The reason? It has something to do with the first name on those Trump/Pence signs everywhere. Apparently these major booze and party companies don’t want to associate themselves with the nominee.
Clevelanders are very Cleveland about this: Of course when the city gets some national exposure and hundreds of thousands of visitors, this happens. This relates to a certain nervousness that Cleveland not be inflamed into our country’s next tragedy and made infamous by anger and hate this week.
Speaking of which, this morning I’m heading into the protest zones to check out that scene.
I walked all over downtown Cleveland looking for some massive demonstration I never found. When I finally found protesters in Cleveland’s Public Square, the number of police and media present vastly outnumbered them.
But the protesters on hand certainly get points for trying. Creativity is not missing in Cleveland right now. A man named Chris was getting lots of attention for his Trump Whoopee Cushions. I watched him do three interviews in a row.
The whoopee cushions themselves feature a picture of Donald Trump’s face, lips pursed in his characteristic fashion, with the label, “The Donald Trump Gasbag,” and an invitation: “Sit on my face and I’ll give you a speech you’ll never forget.”
Chris has gotten his mileage out of the gimmick, including on his sign the rallying cry, “Make America Toot Again.” I don’t believe that’s the official theme on any day of the convention.
The pro-Trump people were out there too. The most humorous t-shirt I saw featured the two Presidential nominees as marionettes being manipulated by a body-less puppeteer presumably meant to embody “The Establishment.” While the Hillary Clinton puppet merrily played along, the Donald Trump puppet had gotten hold of a scissor, snipped his strings and was depicted gesturing to “The Establishment” with the ol’ one-finger salute.
On the other side of the square, a couple had draped themselves in sheets painted to represent a brick wall graffitied with the phrase, “Wall Off Trump.” Meanwhile, another gentleman situated underneath the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument had on display a massive painting of a very serious and patriotic Donald Trump adorned by a screeching eagle, the American flag, and a view of the Earth from space centered on North America and a rising sun in the distance.
Over by the statue of Gen. Moses Cleaveland, the founder of the city, speeches were being given during a publicly sanctioned demonstration by U.S. military veterans talking about the dangers a Trump administration would pose and holding a banner that said, “We stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers.”
(Random trivia: The city’s name of Cleaveland was changed to its current spelling without the first “a” in 1831 in order to fit the city’s name on a newspaper masthead).
Even the food carts lining the area of the square between the Cleaveland statue and the memorial for turn-of-the-20th-Century Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson were political. The Plate of the Union was serving up fare in promotion of farming and agricultural justice.
Public square was home last night to the highest pitch of confrontation between various protesters yet. The pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions met near the Key Bank building across the square from Tower City. But a wall of police officers in between them outnumbered both sides.
Police are everywhere in Cleveland, and from everywhere. I’ve seen state patrol/police from California to Florida to Indiana. They’re all walking around in clusters of five to 15, in their very own uniforms. I haven’t run into the Athens Police personnel who are on duty in Cleveland yet, but I’m keeping a keen eye out for them.
Just a few short blocks from Tower City and Cleveland Public Square is East 4th Street, which was as crazy this morning as it was at any given point yesterday. Most of the restaurants on 4th are closed for private events being held by the various state delegations honoring some person or another.
Looking over the crowd, a massive broadcast of MSNBC’s live-stream looms above the on-air talent. Walking past, I caught a bit of failed 1996 Republican Party presidential nominee Bob Dole giving advice to Trump to “focus on the issues.” Good luck with that, Bobby.
Meanwhile, the big controversy among the TeeVee people today seems to be the allegations of plagiarism against Melania Trump. Of course, I don’t know how she wrote her speech but what immediately came to my mind is when somebody has to give a toast at a wedding and simply Googles, “Wedding Toasts.” But I’ll leave it to the TeeVee people to speculate.
For now, I’m back inside The Q to use the free WiFi for a bit and check out the scene.
Most of the action on Day 2 of the Republican National Convention so far has continued to take place on the corner of East 4th Street and Prospect Avenue outside the entrance to The Q, and in the Cleveland Public Square.
Perhaps the most infamous of the “you’re all gonna burn in hell” evangelicals, the Westboro Baptist Church, demonstrated in the Square with a line of bicycle police forming a barrier between them and those who aren’t so keen on being told they’re going to burn in hell. Nothing untoward happened, aside from the general tastelessness of the Westboro Baptist Church.
For the record, Westboro is anti-Trump, though they seem to be anti-everything that isn’t Westboro when it comes down to it. There was some pushing. Some racist stuff was yelled. The police put themselves between two groups of antagonists and were able to contain the situation.
Meanwhile, over at 4th and Prospect, members of the women’s social justice organization CodePink demonstrated in, natch, pink sports bras, holding signs showing the outline of a woman’s bosom saying, “Bust Up: No War No More,” and other such anti-war slogans.
Earlier, the Revolutionary Communist Party marched through the intersection calling for – wait for it – communist revolution. They marched in line, two astride, demanding “no more oppression,” and “no more exploitation,” and an end of “the system.”
I’ve heard tell of a TrumpHut making its way around the city. Apparently this is a “livable wigwam modeled after Donald Trump’s hair.” I can’t imagine what type of person would want to live in a wigwam modeled after Donald Trump’s absurd pompadour, but the world takes all types, nay?
Also, apparently a Black Lives Matter protest ended up being changed into a cook-out with the cops, which is heartening. Less finger-pointing and more listening, please.
(If you all will allow me a digression: Occasionally I’m asked to fill out on some form or another my “race.” I always check “other” and write in “human.” This is because there is only one race of people on this planet, the human race. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we give up these arbitrary divisions and see each other – all of us – as brothers and sisters, the less we will allow fear to control us and compel our worst instincts, and the better we can work together for a brighter future for all of humanity. Fear is the enemy. Love is the answer. OK, hippie rant over.)
Inside The Q, the Dump Trump movement is preparing for one last ride, apparently. They failed yesterday afternoon to get the rules changed and have their role call vote, so the actual nomination process this afternoon will be mere formality.
Nevertheless, some of the delegates with whom I’ve spoke on the convention floor say they intend to make their voices heard in protest. I’m unsure what form that will take but we’ll see when this thing starts kicking in a couple hours. Meanwhile, I’m going to take a stroll around the arena and see if I might run into Tom Brokaw again.
Our political system is not working and we operate like the trench warfare battles of World War I. So says U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, of Alabama. Americans want the political games, the posturing and the showboating to end.
Donald J. Trump is the singular leader who can get this country back on track, with the strength, the courage and the will to get it done, Sessions says, and together we’ll make America great again. At that, the crowd broke out into, “USA, USA, USA,” chants, and Sessions makes the nomination.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan returns to the podium and declares Tuesday’s convention session “off to a good start.” Then U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, of New York, comes up and notes he was the first to support Trump in his effort toward the presidency.
Under President Obama, we are losing, he says. The federal government tramples our rights, he says. Our president hates the U.S. Constitution. Our country “has no borders,” and “China and Mexico continue to steal our jobs,” so “it’s time to take back our country.”
President Trump is going to build a wall and secure our borders, he says. President Trump is going to defeat terrorism and make our country safe again, and bring back our stolen jobs, Collins promises. Trump is not a candidate, he’s a movement, Collins says, as he seconds the nomination.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster comes to the stage next, references Pearl Harbor, says that the American sleeping giant has been reawakened, and bafflingly references the Buffalo Springfield protest song, “For what it’s worth,” as he says, “There’s something happening here and what it is is precisely clear: We’re going to make America great again!”
Crowd goes wild; states vote. Donald J. Trump becomes the 2016 Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.
That’s how it goes. That’s all it takes. I don’t know if I can properly articulate how I’m feeling right now, even though that’s kind of my job. I feel punch drunk. I’m used to political rallies and the mindless enthusiasm of crowds, but there is a cognitive dissonance here that I just can’t process.
Trump will unite America, they say, even though he’s had the most divisive candidacy in my professional memory. Trump not only understands the U.S. Constitution better than the current president, who was a constitutional law professor, but also he’s the best person to defend it, they say, despite explicit campaign promises to violate it. Donald Trump is going to “defeat terrorism,” they say, whatever that means, and as though that’s possible. We don’t have any borders right now, apparently – an assertion I also don’t understand – but Donald Trump’s wall will establish them.
Let me take the generous view. Maybe the 15,000 people in front of me enthusiastically cheering this stuff are infinitely smarter than I am. Maybe I’m the idiot. Maybe I’m a horrible hack from the lame-stream media and that’s why I don’t get it. Maybe we really don’t have borders right now. Maybe U.S. Customs agents are a figment of my imagination. Maybe filling in a couple gaps in the walls that already exist along the Mexican border will re-establish our somehow now non-existent borders. (Did they exist when George W. Bush was in office? Bill Clinton? George H.W. Bush?)
Maybe making laws discriminating specifically against one religious group and banning them from entering the country is not a blatant violation of the First Amendment, but instead displays a tremendous respect for the U.S. Constitution.
Maybe, somehow, in some universe… maybe. But I gotta say, it all sounds so damn ridiculous – and they’re all so damn happy about it – that again, I really just don’t know how to feel anymore. Sad, I guess.
UFC President Dana White opens his speech Tuesday evening by acknowledging that people may be wondering why he’s speaking. As far as I can tell, he’s the first random celebrity on the RNC speakers list to do so. He says that he knows Donald Trump personally, they’ve been friends for years, and Trump’s the type of guy who will roll up his sleeves and work with people to get things done.
He says that Donald Trump is the type of guy who is happy for other people’s success. He encourages us to vote for Trump. The speech is mercifully quick and to the point.
He’s followed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson who tells us that if we liked the last eight years, “Hillary Clinton will give you double for your trouble.” He tackles Hillary’s boasting of experience by claiming she’s only gotten poor results and that the proposed Hillarycare of the ’90s would’ve been much worse than the Obamacare we have now. Donald Trump and Mike Pence are the right leaders for our time, he says.
Delegates are meandering around the convention floor, and we can see we’re still in the undercard of tonight’s speakers as Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge takes the stage to attack Hillary Clinton for allegedly being duplicitous with her accents. Meanwhile, Rutledge tells us, she’s got a real Arkansas accent and she’s a “Christian, pro-life, gun-carrying Republican.”
I enjoyed Chris Cox’ pivot to make the 2016 Election about the Supreme Court of the United States. I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more of this as November approaches from both sides. Honestly, it’s a question that looms large. The next president could well select two or more justices for SCOTUS. That should give just about everyone on every side of every aisle pause to think.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not the most popular man in The Q. For the second time tonight he was introduced, and for the second time tonight he was booed. McConnell is spending most of his speech going after Hillary, which is a safe move amongst this crowd.
Paul Ryan promised us that he’s not salty over 2012 because no matter what Barack Obama and Joe Biden are doing during the next administration’s state of the union, he’ll be front and center sitting next to Mike Pence and listening to Donald Trump inform the country on its condition.
Then the crowd in The Q started chanting, “Lock her up,” as Chris Christie – speaking not as governor of New Jersey but as friend to Donald Trump (and occasional McDonalds errand boy) – threw out the red meat against Hillary.
Tiffany Trump told us about her father’s contagious desire for excellence, and Donald Trump Jr. assured us that for the Family Trump patriarch, “impossible is just the starting point.”
Right as Ben Carson was finishing his speech, another CodePink protestor made herself known before the crowd was able to get her covered from the cameras with their bodies.
The final speaker of the night was a soap opera actress of whom I’ve never heard named Kimberlin Brown, but my favorite part was the night ending with a nearly-empty Q and “Love Train” by The O’Jays playing. Way to be weird, Republicans. Way to be weird.
As I left the convention center, the evangelicals were bull-horning rants against “whoredom” on East 4th. I stopped by the Cleveland Public Square on my way to my car and things were relatively peaceful.
Apparently an Anonymous protestor had made some noise, but arrests were avoided.
Also, some police officers had surrounded one individual who was apparently carrying a gun, but he had his concealed carry permit so there wasn’t much to be done. That didn’t stop the crowd from gathering and gawking.
I overheard one Cleveland police captain wearing a yarmulke asking another (sans yarmulke) how things had been going. “Pretty quiet,” was his answer, though I had heard earlier that The O’Reilly Factor’s Jesse Waters had some sort of run-in with Dr. Cornel West, but I’m short on the steamy deets.
Anyway, I’m fleeing the Cleve for now to get back to my parent’s house to get some rest and write up a whole mess of stuff for our Thursday edition in the morning, which means that I likely won’t be back in downtown Cleveland until Wednesday evening.
Until that time, play nice, my lovelies, or I’m sending the evangelicals after you!