“WE WANT TRUMP! WE WANT TRUMP!”

“COUNT THE VOTES! COUNT THE VOTES!”

“WE WANT TRUMP! WE WANT TRUMP! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

In the broad belly of Quicken Loans Arena, all in red, white and blue, men and women were getting to their feet, shaking their fists and setting up a chant stomp. “Count the votes.” Goold ole boys, 300 pounds in beige blazers, brown cords and sky blue shoes, women in perms of 1967 and summer dresses with elephant patterns running across them, standing, shouting. Sprog conservatives, young men in blue suits, red ties and white shirts, standing, banging signs on the metal steps.

About a quarter, a fifth of the arena raising a clamour. Another quarter trying to drown them out. “Trump! Trump! Trump!” “U-S-A! U-S-A!” There was elbowing, there was jostling. Huddled around the signs bearing their delegation names — “ARIZONA”, “TEXAS”, “GUAM” — people were arguing furiously. I was jammed in behind the Texas delegation, all in matching white cowboy hats, having grabbed a floor pass about 20 minutes earlier. Beside me, an Asian TV crew looked a little bewildered.

“Um, what is happening?” It’s a floor fight! It’s an actual floor flight! “Um …” What were you expecting? “Well, nothing.”

“They’re trying to have the rules suspended — so they can open the roll call!” I had very little idea what I was saying, but that was OK because these guys had none at all. They’d clearly been sent to get vision.

On stage, presiding officer Steve Womack was “calming it down”: “There have been withdrawals and that means that there are only nine states …”

The yelling erupted ever louder. People were tearing their IDs from around their necks, throwing them on the floor. TV crews were then filming them — torn lanyards on red carpet. The Colorado delegation turned on its heel and stormed out. Could there be a mass walkout?

“Ayes?” “AYEEEEEEEEEE!”

“Noes?” “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

It was a noise melange. No way one could pick it.

“I think the ‘ayes’ have it.” Further roars. “Roll call.” By now I had no idea what was going on.

The TV crew’s producer looked at me imploringly. “Sorry guys …”

Could be a walkout,” said a guy beside me. Really? “I have no idea.”

For about 15 minutes it looked as if the convention was teetering on a split. Could it be?

[Razer: we need President Trump, to ignite a real and fiery revolution]

No, of course not. But for an hour or so there, remarkably, something almost happened at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Wowie, wowie. Well, they said they’d try, and they did. Last week, the anti-Trump forces had tried a smooth move in the rules committee (which meets prior to the convention) and attempted to insert a clause which would loosen the degree to which delegates in some states were bound to a vote for Trump by their state’s primary vote (it’s actually more complicated than that, but anyway …). That vote was lost, which meant Trump had the nomination wrapped up. He had it anyway, but “unbinding” some delegates would force a floor vote — and give the anti-Trump forces a chance to record their dissent.

The vote would have run into the hundreds, out of 2000-plus delegates — a huge blow against the nominee. Did they imagine they could overturn Trump’s nomination? It’s complicated …

Lord almighty, the madness of this place. Six times in my life I have been to Cleveland. That is a terrible thing to say about your own life. This utterly unremarkable midwestern city has so little going for it that it created a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame based solely on the fact that a local DJ — Alan Freed — “invented” the genre, giving it to the new, fast R&B music emerging in the early 1950s. It has no other role in modern music.

There is a good stock of art deco buildings, the country’s first shopping arcade, and oh, OK, Superman was invented here. The vast deco tower that The Daily Planet is allegedly based on is so phallic in loving detail it may as well have a vein running up the side.

Staid, somewhat well-preserved, somewhat revived, the place looks like a fucking prison camp this week. Four miles of black cyclone fencing have been run through the streets of the city, creating lanes for limos to snark from one hotel parking entrance to the next. Cops in their thousands are on patrol, dozens of them on bikes, black-armoured semi-cyborgs appearing out of nowhere in long flying columns, phalanxes of brown-clad patrolmen and women marching through the streets.

Half the people in the city have passes on; no one is bothering to take them off between venues. Company town. You choose your convention city as a way of shoring up your vote. The Republicans have to win Ohio, to win the presidency, so a massive show of force was ordered up: Trump appearing with the state governor and senators, the full Republican phalanx.

It hasn’t turned out that way. Ohio Governor John Kasich has declined to appear, along with the Bushes, John McCain and a host of others. Trump has nominated Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, as his VP choice, and then, during a joint interview, proceeded to answer all the questions put to Pence, like as observed by, well, everyone, “an overbearing husband”. It’s an … interesting choice, of which more later in the week.

[Rundle: Trump’s fear and loathing in Las Vegas]

Meanwhile, the program for the convention has been filled out with the Trump family, giving it a Ceacesquesque air — which will be added to by tonight’s keynote by Melania Trump, in her sinister East European accent. Melania’s on in about two hours as I write. In the meantime — the floor fight out of the way — we’re getting the bottom-of-the-ticket bums: Phil Robertson, the bearded, bandanna’ed star of Duck Dynasty, and then, godhelpus, Scott Baio, star of ’70s sitcoms, who urges us to “make America America again”, the mother of one of the four men killed in Benghazi, in an angry, barely rational tirade against Hillary Clinton, which is followed by a wholly hysterical film on the topic booming from the arena’s risers, done in the style of a banking conspiracy video on YouTube, all CGI back projection and talking heads.

“Well, strong stuff there,” says CBS, cutting away from this orgy of recrimination and hurt, this deep emphasis on victimhood and resentment. Tonight’s theme is “making America safe again”, part of a wider theme of Big Fear, playing through the whole week. The main network news bulletins had story upon story of the robocops keeping everyone “safe” — From what? From each other? — and nothing on the actual politics of the convention, which saw a full court press to overturn the incumbent.

Two days before it started, the cops were begging Governor John Kasich to declare a “state of emergency” so he could suspend the “open carry” law allowing people to bring their guns to protests. He refused. So you can’t bring toy guns (or tennis balls) into the city centre, but you can bring assault rifles, which one or two people have done.

Madness inside, madness without. The auditorium hushed, waiting for Melania, trembling in fear that they’ll be further tortured by the on-stage smooth jazz band, whose last contribution was a half-finished rendition of Happy Together, which has left it ringing in everyone’s head as — on deadline, I’ll project forward a little — the cry begins:

“We want Trump! We want Trump!”

Peter Fray

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