The decision to basically move the Republican convention from Charlotte, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida is another one of those absolutely absurd yet largely irrelevant distractions of the Trump era. But the whole episode is both illustrative of the priorities and pathologies of Trumpism and the Republican party as a whole.
Of course, the principal reason for this move was Trump’s ego and vanity. Trump was apparently angry that he would not be able to address a large and adoring crowd of MAGA faithful to accept his re-nomination because of North Carolina’s possible restrictions on large gatherings due to COVID-19. It appeared that North Carolina’s Democratic governor was not going to give Trump the flexibility he demanded for a purely political event, prompting Trump’s search for an alternate location that would.
The fact that Trump is once again walking away from his own promises and obligations for his own personal gratification is sadly typical of his bankruptcy-laden, legally-sanctioned, fraudulent career. In this case, it is the Republican National Committee (RNC), not Trump himself, that is contractually obligated to hold the convention in Charlotte, though Trump, as titular head of the Republican party, is clearly the person driving the decision to leave Charlotte.
In order to meet their contractual obligations to Charlotte while still allowing Trump his adoring crowd in Jacksonville, the RNC made a number of decisions that basically pared down the convention to nothing. Each representative state or territory will only send six delegates to Charlotte, resulting in a grand total of 336 delegates instead of the usual 2,500 or so. The delegates who are not part of the group of 336 will be able to vote to re-nominate Mike Pence and Donald Trump via proxy, but nothing more. Any other RNC business in Charlotte will only be voted on by the 336 delegates present. There will also be no votes on a Republican 2020 platform because the RNC has simply decided to use the 2016 platform, word for word, in 2020.
While the RNC may fulfill the minimum of its contractual obligations to Charlotte, it is hanging the the non-profit Charlotte 2020 Host Committee (CLT 2020), which is designed to defray the cost of the convention through donations, usually from large corporations, out to dry. CLT2020 is now left holding the bag for millions of dollars in contracts that it had already signed in anticipation of hosting the convention. According to John Lassiter, the CEO of CLT 2020, “We need to stop pretending there’s any part of the convention that will remain in Charlotte. Our good faith efforts to carry out our obligations under agreements made two years ago have been met with broken promises and disregard of the significant commitment from many partners across our region”. He declared that the RNC decision had left the Committee with “tens of millions” in liabilities, adding, “I’ve got contracts that are a couple inches thick of what people promised to do and they’ve breached them. Now we’re trying to figure out how you work through the wind-down on an effort we’ve been focused on for two years…We’d indicated publicly that we (already) raised over $50 million, a lot of that comes in over pledges. We do not have enough cash on hand to pay all current obligations”. One of those liabilities is a $5.5 million contract for the now unnecessary use of the Spectrum Center.
Charlotte originally hoped that the convention would add around $150 million to the area’s business revenues. That was probably never going to happen with the pandemic still raging. And, yes, the idea of a stripped down convention with a limited number of delegates is probably a smart thing to do as we continue to deal with COVID-19. But the pandemic is not the reason that the RNC is paring down its convention. The decision is not based on any real desire to protect Republican delegates from infection and possible death. Instead, the RNC is inviting all those 2,500 delegates who were expected to go to Charlotte to come to Jacksonville with their guests simply to please the President. And those delegates and guests will probably be forced to sign a waiver exempting the RNC from liability if they do catch the virus, just like those attending Trump’s upcoming rally in Tulsa.
Just like the Tulsa rally was originally scheduled for Juneteenth, the choice of Jacksonville creates another loud and clear racial dog whistle. Trump’s acceptance speech will be held on the 60th anniversary of what’s known as the Ax Handle Saturday in Jacksonville, where a white mob, spurred on by the KKK, brutally attacked black civil rights protestors who were trying to integrate whites-only lunch counters.
But perhaps the more revealing decision by the RNC was to simply adopt the 2016 platform word for word for 2020. This creates some real absurdities, such as demanding the US move its embassy to Jerusalem, something the President has actually done. Multiple instances of language condemning the “current administration” or “current President” still remain in the document, with the most trenchant being “The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations”. The document also declares, “the survival of the internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government”.
The abandonment of Charlotte shows the Republican party is now just a Trump personality cult. Like Trump, the words and promises of the party are meaningless, and they will abandon and endanger even their own supporters in order to follow the narcissistic demands of their dear leader. Like Trump, the RNC’s unilateral decision to eliminate over 2,000 delegates from any decision-making process and refusal to debate a platform reflects Trump’s own autocratic instincts. Yes, everyone still knows that the party still stands for enormous giveaways to the rich in the form of tax cuts and, now, direct subsidies. For everyone else, the party offers culture wars and white nationalism. But the platform decision is an admission that the Republican party is bereft of any real policy ideas for our current crises. They have nothing substantive to say about the pandemic, its associated economic crisis, police brutality, and systemic racism.
They are a reactionary party, in politics and in action. If liberals agree that wearing masks is a way to reduce the spread of the virus, Republicans will not wear them. If liberals agree that large indoor gatherings are a perfect storm for super-spreader events, Republicans will organize such a gathering. If liberals support absentee voting because of the pandemic, Republicans will burn their absentee applications.
While one can never discount the possibility of another Electoral College win for the President, the cult of personality is so deep and the propaganda so effective that many local GOP leaders believe that Trump is headed for a landslide victory, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. The brainwashing involved in this kind of thinking is displayed in one official’s comment that “The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump”. That thinking creates a rather bizarre dynamic for Republican political leadership, and a frightening one for America in general. But they have all hitched their wagon to Trump, As one Republican Senator recently said, “Our fortunes rise and fall together”.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on June 17, 2020.