Wingnut Week In Review: Slouching Towards Cleveland

Terrance Heath

For four days, the Republicans convened in Cleveland, officially nominated Donald Trump for president, and wingnuttery abounded.

A Paler Shade of White

Remember when the Republican National Committee issued its post-mortem of the 2012 election? In a rare moment of clarity, Republicans told themselves some hard truths.

Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s clear that no lessons were learned. Even before the convention started, reporter Byron Tau tweeted a picture of some of the signage going up in preparation for the RNC.

Now, there were also “Red Elevators” and “Blue Elevators,” and certain routes in the convention center were color-coded with the colors of the American Flag to help delegates find their way around. Doors, stairways, and even parking lots were similarly color-coded.

What’s amazing is that it didn’t occur to anyone how this would look, especially when the GOP was set to nominate a man who has slurred, suited, and otherwise offended just about every group the GOP momentarily realized in 2012 that it needed to win over in order to survive.

How is it possible that no one in the chain of people who approved the signage said, “Guys, hold up. We cannot have signs that say ‘White Elevators’. Yeah, yeah. I know the scheme is red, white, and blue. But have you heard of Twitter?” It’s possible, because there was probably not one single person of color in the room when the decision was made.

Take a look at the selfie House Speaker Paul Ryan posted with the 2016 House Republican intern class.

I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie. #SpeakerSelfie.

A photo posted by Speaker Paul Ryan (@speakerryan) on

Notice anything? It’s almost unbroken sea of white faces. (Look closely, and you’ll spot the lone Asian intern.)

House Democrats’ interns responded with a selfie of their own.

Like Ryan’s intern selfie, the Republican convention was wall-to-wall with white faces. Out of 2,472 delegates, the number of black delegates was 18 — just 0.7 percent.

Got a problem with that? During a panel including Esquire writer Charles Pierce, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) defended his party’s homogeneity with Pierce asked about the “old white people” at the convention, asking Pierce “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization.

“This whole business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King pushed back in clear frustration. “I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

Of course, King got quite a lot wrong. Much of what he claims in the name of western civilization the way explorers once “discovered” land that already had people on it, was developed by other civilizations long before Europeans caught on. African villagers were doing sophisticated iron-working around the time of Jesus. Iraq, Iran, India, China, and Egypt had civilizations for thousands of years, when the Celts were still hunting and gathering. Our numbers came from Sanskrit, and Arabs and Iranians added the zero, and invented algebra in the bargain. Ancient Mesopotamia gave us written law with Hammurabi’s code nearly 1,800 years before Christ.

None of this stopped King from doubling down on his statement in an interview on ABC.

Deja Vu

It was the copy and paste heard around the world. Melanie Trump’s speech on the first night of the RNC got off to a weird start when she was introduced by her husband, whose ego demanded that he make an entrance worthy of a pro wrestler, despite the tradition of the nominee staying out of sight until the last night of the convention. (Without a hint of irony, despite entering to Queen’s Freddie Mercury singing “We Are The Champions,” when the GOP just unveiled an incredibly anti-LGBT platform.)

By all accounts, Mrs. Trump turned in a pretty good speech. But it turned out that was because we’d heard it somewhere before. Like, when Michelle Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Journalist Jarrett Hill picked up on the “similarities.”

Things were pretty much off and running from there with #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes.

The Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort defended Mrs. Trump’s speech, saying that it consisted of “common words and values,” and then blamed Hillary Clinton for the whole mess. Sure, these are words everybody uses, but what are the odds that we just happen to put them together in the same order that Michelle Obama did eight years ago? Her strongest defense came from New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who claimed that “93 percent of the speech is different from Michelle Obama’s.”

Maybe, but any high school English teacher would probably hand this speech back and recommend a rewrite. The this speech made it all the way to the teleprompter in the shape it was in speaks to the ineptitude of Trump’s campaign.

Cruz (Out Of) Control

If conventions are all about party unity, how does the least liked member the senate, who doesn’t even have any friends in the Republican caucus get to give a speech at an already fractious gathering? If conventions are all about rallying around the triumphant nominee, how does the candidate who came in a very distant second not only get to give a speech, but get a prime time slot — especially if the nominee has insulted his wife and repeated conspiracy theories about his family?

Well, one reason might be that Republican lawmakers were staying away from Donald Trump’s convention in droves. That’s the only logical explanation for giving Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) a prime time slot, even though Trump had almost nothing to gain by having Cruz appears.

That doesn’t explain what happened though, when Ted Cruz did what Ted Cruz can almost always be expected to do. After congratulating Trump, albeit begrudgingly, Cruz launched into the expected talking points, but towards the end he urged his audience not to stay at home in November. He exhorted them to vote, and to “vote your conscience,” but never urged them to vote for Trump. That’s when the audience realized Cruz was not going to endorse Trump.

Tipped off about Cruz’s intentions, Trump stepped on the end of Cruz’s speech, by stepping into this VIP box to greet his friends and family, pulling attention away from Cruz, That’s when the booing started. A fight broke out among the Texas delegation, and Cruz’s wife Heidi was escorted out for her own safety.

With one speech, Ted Cruz had obliterated any appearance of Republican unit, or what was left of it after the voting chicanery that effectively shut out the anti-Trump delegates. He may have also positioned himself for 2020 as the anti-Trump candidate. Cruz is probably betting that Trump will lose badly, and leave the GOP leaderless.

Cruz did something else, too, which may have been one of his goals. He got under Trump’s notoriously thin skin. Many people thought Trump wouldn’t be able to resist coming unglued and attacking Cruz in his acceptance speech, but he didn’t. No, Trump waited until a press conference the following day to really lay into Cruz, slamming him as “ruined,” swore he’d never accept Cruz’s endorsement anyway, and returned to linking Cruz’s father to the JFK assassination.

Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:

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