“God, actually everyone is kinda bored,” says Ty, a strapping, tall, toothy guy propping up the bar of the Honey Pot, a bar in Tampa’s Ybor City, an old radical hotbed of Cubans and other Caribbeans, now hipster central. It’s 1am, and we’re at the delightfully named Homocon ’12, the party of GOProud, the more racy GLBT Republican group (the other, Log Cabin Republicans, is more your sort of sherry and opera thing).
Homocon has DJs, go-go dancers of both genders, albeit tastefully dressed, and four dollar daiquiri pitchers, and is far and away the best party of the convention. Half the crowd there are journalists, half of the rest are groovers and fag hags — actual GLBT conservatives are thin on the ground, unsurprisingly.
“We’re locked out of the party process, the committee rules have been tightened to keep out the Paul crazies, there’s zero scope to get anything done.”
“So why are you here?” He was already looking over my shoulder
“Man I wouldn’t miss the party… ‘scuse me.” He sailed off in pursuit of the late cuts. The New York Times blogger was scribbling in a corner. The Jezebel flack was looking for right-wing lesbians.
Nothing this week has been half as much fun, including anything on the protest side, and that is a pretty stinging denunciation of the left, to be out-partied by Republicans — even gay ones.
A couple of hours earlier, the Republican campaign to make Mitt Romney President had been launched by speeches from Ann Romney and New Jersey governor Chris Christie. On the original schedule, they would have been on separate nights, which would have been a good idea, as Romney’s speech was about “love” and why it matters, and how the country would fall in love with Mitt the “way that I did when I was 15” — gaaack — while Christie came out swinging and said “we don’t need love, we need to talk about respect”.
Weird. Christie was aimed squarely at Obama and the perception of touchy-feelyness, but it turned into a side-swipe against Ann. Her speech was soft, personal and OK as far as it went — it was hugely overrated by the pundits — while Christie addressed the convention like he was asking it to step outside and settle this like men.
What all pundits noted was the absence of any warm endorsement of Romney from all Tuesday’s speakers, Ann, of course, excepted. Christie mentioned himself more than 20 times in his speech; Romney only a handful of times. Even at the heart of the convention, there was a lukewarm quality, a near lackadaisicalness.
Today, we had another protest of sorts, with planned parenthood holding a gathering in a park near the protest zone. But it was an assembly rather than a march. “March on the RNC”, the blog, hasn’t been updated since Monday; it’s tweeted once a day since then. To be fair, it’s tricky to protest a party that isn’t in power, and the weather is not a trivial consideration, the humidity packing the city in a thick heat which drains you after half an hour outside.
Nevertheless, this is a party that one would think demands an angry response, a contestation. With the selection of Paul Ryan as VP candidate, the religious and economic wings of the party have fully met — it is a fundamentalist theocratic party, but the fundamentalism is that of the market and the individual.
Each is seen in terms of the other — God ordains a society in which every human relationship, save biological family, is a contract, and such a society then acquires collective meaning only by being refracted through God. The more atomised such a society becomes, the more literal the idea of God must be.
Eventually, both conceptions — Heaven and Earth — require an underpinning, lest life collapse into an anomie of exurbs and cable TV. Hence, the return of the gold standard, the original commodity fetishism. Go(l)d becomes the ground of American life — and “life” itself becomes an abstract substance, separated from actual persons, to be “protected” in its every manifestation.
Hence the focus on abortion, which has an autonomous quality about it, an unstoppable mania. To admit that establishing a moral-legal framework for managing fertility is a supremely human and political act, is to acknowledge that it is, by its very nature, philosophically intractable and incommensurable — there is nothing it can be compared to, nothing it can be reduced or generalised to.
But to admit that it is a supremely existential act, is to admit that nothing underpins us, that there is no Go(l)d standard, and we just have to work it out ourselves. To admit that would be to admit all. So whereas some religious traditions that remain, on balance, anti-abortion, can admit the complex nature of the issue, it is the one thing that a Go(l)d standard position can’t admit — because everything else would fall apart.
The issue won’t go away — Mike Huckabee will kick it back into play tonight — but nor can it be dissolved by the party either. Currently Mitt Romney is running behind Obama with women voters by anywhere around 12-15%. That is a big gender gap, and much of Romney’s speech last night was dedicated to selling Mitt to the ladies. “Women! I’m talking to you!” she yelled, with the vague air of barking an order.
Tonight — again post-Crikey deadline –Ryan will speak, and that’s going to set the agenda. There is far more excitement about what Ryan will say than about that Romney guy who’s speaking tomorrow.
An Ayn Rand fanatic, a fitness junkie, a CRONy (one of those types who practise calorie reduction for longer life), he has the gaunt relentlessness of a skeletor terminator, sent from the future to enforce an Objectivist regime.
Rand herself was an atheist, which she saw as a corollary of her philosophy. Ryan cleaves to the Go(l)d standard, in which the Randian philosophy is applied to social and economic arrangements — but underscored by a literal-minded and sentimental Christianity, which avoids any courageous and existentially challenging content that Rand’s ideas turn on the self. It is an intellectual/philosophical slum, one that legitimises a dystopia — one where the society is indifferent to whether you live or die, but vitally concerned with what you read, see, ingest or do with your body otherwise.
Failing to recognise this, the belief that the Republican Party could get back to its political-economic roots, is the pious hopes of people such as GOProud, who will not recognise that the party now actively hates them, and sees their appeal to human freedom, not as a variation on political themes, but as the ultimate danger.
Waiting for Huckabee to speak. Bored journos in the press centre watching a repeat of The Big Bang Theory on a monitor … no Huckabee’s on. Steers clear of abortion stuff, goes after Obama in familiar terms — never run a business, doesn’t recognise what an exceptional nation, etc … Condi Rice after this then Ryan, and the hope somewhere of a party or a protest worth having. GOProud, y’all.