Republicans blew through Tampa Florida this week for their presidential nominating convention and left a trail of ugly on the Gulf Coast. They disrespected one of their own, a Latina, by bursting into a ‘USA, USA’ chant as she tried to conduct convention business from the podium and engaged in some good old fashioned racist heckling of a Black cable television network camerawoman. Their primary speakers – Governor Chris Christie, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Senator Marc Rubio, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan and the nominee Mitt Romney – engaged in rhetorical malpractice. Lying was so ingrained in this convention, and is the glue that holds this ticket together, that the official mascot for the GOP should be comic John Lovitz’ pathological liar character Tommy Flanagan from Saturday Night Live. To heap further insult upon us Republicans trotted out a Black, Christian hand-puppet, gospel recording artist Be Be Winans, to serenade us with ‘God Bless America’ minutes after their nominee challenged the faith and citizenship of the nation’s first African-American President.
Had we not witnessed it, we would probably find it all difficult to believe. Today’s Republican Party is truly comprised of some ugly Americans – intent on restoring a disgraced era of states’ rights and white supremacy that defined the worst period of our nation’s past. For this party, the Civil War did not end; it has simply been on recess.
It is one thing to engage in a tough political battle; we expect that and deserve that in a nation that casts itself as the beacon of democracy in the world. It is quite another to willfully lie, purposely deceive and appeal to the worst character flaws of our nation by purposely reviving hateful and damaging imagery – illegal immigrants, welfare queens, lazy African-Americans and contented and genteel women – to appeal to a corner of their party that wistfully imagines a nation where Richmond Virginia is the federal capital. To hear Mitt Romney speak of the need for an “American” to do the “really big stuff” is a bit of self-righteous flag waving that can only come from the mouth of a privileged, white male who neither is aware of history or particularly invested in educating himself to the truth. Romney is not ignorant or clueless in this regard. He simply could not give a damn; he never has had to and sees no point in changing course at this point in his well-padded life.
This week Republicans did their best to cast God as a member of their team and spent considerable time alluding to faith. The irony is that while many Americans have questions regarding the tenets of the Mormon faith; few, except those who are burdened by hate, question the belief of Mr. Romney in the Creator. Yet, embedded in the speeches we heard this week in Tampa were snide asides that were meant to raise suspicions regarding President Obama’s faith while subtly raising the specter of Islam by suggesting that the nation is not safe under this President’s watch. This isn’t politics – it is pure evil. To stand before the world and claim to be aligned with God and promote policies that crush the “least of these” is an offense that we cannot judge, but we know someone who can and will.
This Republican Party is an all-white affair. No effort by the GOP to sprinkle the crowd with a few black and brown faces, trot out a self-serving and defeated former Democratic African-American member of Congress, or play to our emotions by having a gospel music icon sing a patriotic song can blind us to the fact that the GOP has shut the door on our community. The party’s rhetoric in Tampa smack of desperation on their part. The demographics of the nation, and population trends, suggest this is the last stand. Just look at the Republicans’ efforts to restrict voting rights and limit immigration, support for gun ownership in the face of bloodshed across the land, willingness to gut programs that help the poor, and its hysterical opposition to expanding health care for the poor and working class. Their only hope is in freezing the nation as it is, and limiting opportunities for emerging groups to become full participants in our democracy.
In many ways, next week’s Democratic National Convention is anti-climactic. We almost wish Democrats would cancel the event and get right to the business of the November election. Despite all of the flaws of the Republican ticket this race remains close as the GOP plays upon the fears of some and the racism of others; making it all the more important for the President’s supporters to gather every vote that they can muster. No matter how poorly conceived the Romney-Ryan ticket, we are engaged in a battle that money could alter the outcome and the speed with which technology allows lies to spread influence the behavior of voters who carry no partisan preference but are simply looking for help. The Republicans only path to victory is by exploiting desperation and we can ill afford to let that happen.