Foul morning on Monday, with heavy rain coming in at the porch, the first day of the convention cancelled. Morning Joe, the MSNBC morning show hosted by a former Republican congressman, and the dimwit daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, kicked things off early, featuring Chris Matthews a populist left old-school afternoon presenter accusing the RNC chairman of basically running a racist dog-whistle campaign, with Romney’s cutesy references to Obama’s birth certificate and to catering welfare payments to “his base”.
There was shock horror all round, especially from the RNC chairman, the bizarrely named — but not for America — Reince Priebus. Priebus was the replacement for the hapless Michael Steele, the first black RNC chair, a man now so on the outer that he has not been invited to the convention. Priebus is a lot more effective as a comeback speaker than Steele, but only through an arch, preening style that suggests he would be better placed as one of Carrie’s GBFs on S-x and the City, than as a major role in America’s right-wing party. Don’t believe me, go to the video, check out the head tilt. Somewhere a red carpet is missing its E! pre-show presenter.
(Incidentally, quick tip: want to enjoy S-x and the City, the Movie? Get a US DVD version, switch on the Spanish language dub and the English subtitles, and pretend it’s a Pedro Almodóvar movie about four drag queens facing ageing gracefully. Great stuff. This is irrelevant, but I don’t know anywhere else to put this in.)
By 8am, I’d cancelled the cab, because everything else had been cancelled. The convention was going to “gavel in and gavel out” at 2pm, and resume tomorrow, just in case Isaac hit the city full force. The chief worry was security — if there was serious disruption, the security forces would not be able to defend the perimeters established to protect the GOP from the American people.
Not that the protesters pose much of a threat. Certain desperate friends and comrades on the left may invest some hopes in the Occupy movement and associated initiatives, but they do so only by the expedience of never leaving Australia. For the rest of us on the left, it is obvious that at the moment, protest movements of right and left have been stood down. Occupy and its various expressions have set up a camp of sorts in a former army-navy depot near the actual convention, and it is a noble and moral endeavour — people willing to stand tall, and remind us of the poor and dispossessed, which now comprise nearly a third of the US population in one form or another. But it is not a powerful endeavour, not one that presents any sort of genuine threat to the status quo, or even to a three-day meeting.
Yet any glee that the Right might take from that should be tempered with the reality that its own protest movement has been all but neutered. The Tea Party — what was that? It has been stood down, re-incorporated to the mainstream GOP right, and put in the service of a former centrist-right governor of Massachusetts. The Ron Paul movement is ending with the retirement of Ron Paul, celebrated in grand fashion yesterday at a separate event (your correspondent reported yesterday that it was subdued, compared to previous Paul events. So it was in the early stages, but your correspondent left too early; the last half hour was like Woodstock meets The Mont Pelerin Society apparently). But the very fervour of the farewell was an indication of its valedictory flavour, for we will not see his like again.
Ron Paul was a genuine leader, for better and worse — thoroughly worked out in his own ideas, courageous in relation to them, modest in his personal life, humorous and self-deprecating, while never less than serious about what he believed. He had the genius of a great politician, shared with figures as disparate as Lenin and John Howard, and that is — stick to the big idea. Be a hedgehog, in the Aristarchus/Tolstoy sense. Know your truth, and spruik it for your whole life, organise your politics around it. But here’s the hilarious thing about Ron Paul — everything he gave to US politics, came from the fact that he was in no sense a 100% American. He was born of German parents, refugees of Weimar chaos. They spoke German at home, they filled young Ron with the horror of ’20s hyperinflation, of what happens “when money dies”. Ron studied medicine, joined the air force, returned to practice in Michigan, and moved to Texas — where there was a thriving Randian/Austrian network — after the black uprisings of the mid-’60s set northern cities aflame.
Even in Texas, he was an outsider — he was known for his lack of racial discrimination in treating patients, at a time when doctors would still pick and choose. He maintained his wiry figure by cycling — cycling for chrissake — between Texas towns, 50 miles apart. You watch him talking to his addled supporters, in stadium or hotel ballroom, and you see a genuine trickster, a magus at work. He has allied with odious people, and he most likely has some deep-seated attitudes himself.
But in the past decade, and from within the heart of the imperial enemy, no one has so scarifingly insisted on one simple point — that a polity that wants to be a genuine republic, a res publica, a thing of the people, cannot be an empire. Inconveniently for those who are further left than the liberal-left, Paul is the only major figure who will denounce intervention not merely in Iraq and Afghanistan — easy peasy — but Serbia, Kosovo, Libya and Syria. I don’t have a problem with Paul, his bullshit anti-abortion shit and other stuff, but others seem to, in according him some sort of role, in shifting the debate about what sort of role the US should play in the world.
Jesus, I digress. I digress. There’s nothing to do but digress. There is nothing happening. What has occupied the news cycle is an op-ed by the veteran political correspondent Tom Brokaw, suggesting that the conventions be reduced to a single day, and then conveyed to various cities by big screen events in stadiums across the country. In other words US politics would be revived by extending spectatorship to the whole country. Effectively, 2012 is the end of the convention system. Every sad pundit on the TV is referring back to ’76 — the last contested conventions, when, in the GOP, case, Gerald Ford outmanoeuvred Reagan. To have attended that event as a contender, you would have to be 54 years old by now — late boomer, on the edge of gen X.
These past conventions have become a myth, to gird and underscore the process events of the present, where everything has been organised and nothing is at stake.
Indeed, the final act of the Ron Paul movement was to expose the fix that was in — having spent four years getting their operative into state party offices, the Paulites had a strategy — they would take over the state administrations of parties, and redirect the delegates — ostensibly committed to Romney or Santorum (remember him?) — and steering them towards Paul. The idea was that the Paul delegates would then cross a threshold, whereby they could force a floor ballot on the leadership issue. Even one ballot would have been an unprecedented event in the current political scene — but the most extreme of the Paulites thought they could force it to several ballots and get their man on the ticket. The GOP committee knocked that on the head straight off, cruelling the Paulites challenges immediately, and leaving him with insufficient candidates to force a challenge. It was a smart move to forestall an actual “floor flight” for the presidency, but it was also the death knell of the convention system. Now, there is no point to the actual event, and, combined with mygodwhatwasigoingtosayihaveforgttonen — ah yeah, that damn hurricane, the GOP is in trouble.
OK, look there’s been an interval. I’ve forgotten where I was, went out to buy spirits, scored a litre of Canadian whisky for 12 bucks. From a liquor store, in a former garage. Not good. Not bad. Not good. I dunno.
Mid-afternoon. Nothing good ever happened at mid-afternoon. De Quincy started on smack on a wet Sunday afternoon in London. Basic cable news services, abortion, the economy. New footage of Romney, saying he’s proud of what he did in Massachusetts, vis a vis health. Facepalm, deskhead for his operatives. GOP presidential candidate opens up to decency, news-shock. What is this guy doing? Who knows?
Late afternoon now. Chris Matthews “interviewing” Newt Gingrich. When I first saw Chris Matthews I thought he was a pro-Hillary blowhard, and he was. But as soon as Obama became the candidate, he got with the program. Now, he appears to be the sole street-fighter on the scene, slating the GOP for its racism, its dog-whistling, going where no one else will go. Check YouTube, Chris Matthews versus Chris Matthews, if you don’t believe me.
Occupy is over. The Tea Party is over. Every movement in America is over. There is no movement that can compete with a two-dollar happy hour, and 80 channels on basic cable. Even should Romney-Ryan win, it is unlikely that the GOP will take the Senate, so they will always be able to put the brakes on any sort of radical transformation. The muddle-on will continue.
Monday evening, still foul. Hot wind, stinging rain, what was it like when a convention was a living experience, rather than a dead charade? Who knows? No one here. News comes late. Republican Senator Tom Smith, a fierce anti-abortion candidate, was asked whether he would support abortion had his daughter been r-ped. He said he had experienced something similar. Cross-questioned, he admitted that he regarded extra-marital s-x, by his daughter, as equivalent to r-pe … and then unsurprisingly, it all went off. These people are psycho, and their supporters are neurotics, and should Obama win — no guarantee — well. No one knows what the f-ck will happen.
Foul weather, Monday evening. Nothing has changed. Tune in to Fox News, and you will get the full paranoia. It is the Democrats who are determining the agenda. On the other hand I would suggest that those in extremis suggest either tune into the Fox News stream, or YouTube Polyphonic Spree “Reach For The Sun“, which I would advise everyone to listen to in bad moments. Really I have no idea. America seems to be the place where it is all being worked out — but also the point at where nothing is being worked out.
Seems to be the deal. Anything else will be fate … stay tuned …