Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's a put on

I've been reading a lot of C level sandbox punditry about the RNC this week. The general consensus there seems to be that we've been watching an unprecedented crazy fest. I think it's certainly been wacky. But I don't think it's too far outside of the mold from what we've seen every 4 years. Trump's WWE entrance on Monday didn't look too different than stunts previous conventions have pulled. Remember Bill Clinton's long walk in 2000? Al and Tipper's icky kiss? Rudy's scary shout-speech, meet 1992 Pat Buchanan.  Even Obama's 2008 appearance at on outdoor football stadium was a pretty Hollywood move. There are countless other examples. These conventions are terrible things.

Substantively, there is no difference between this and any nominating convention in recent memory. Which is to say, no actual news was made. This was not the mythical "open convention" the bored pundit class lusts for cycle after cycle. There was no real floor debate to speak of. The little dust up during the rules adoption was a big nothing. There was no revolt against the presumed nominee. Basically we've just watched another tightly scripted product launch.

And yeah I mean tightly scripted. Take Wednesday night's Ted Cruz speech, for instance. Even that  thing happened because the Trump people allowed it.. probably even encouraged it.. to happen
Mr. Trump had invited Mr. Cruz to speak even though he had doubts that peace was possible after their brutal race, during which Mr. Trump repeatedly called him “Lyin’ Ted” and suggested Mr. Cruz’s father had a role in President Kennedy’s assassination.

Mr. Trump called Mr. Cruz on Monday and asked for his endorsement, according to a senior aide to Mr. Cruz who requested anonymity to relay private conversations. Mr. Cruz indicated to Mr. Trump that he would not offer an endorsement, the aide said.

Trump advisers said on Wednesday night that Mr. Trump had been unhappy with the text of Mr. Cruz’s speech but held out for the remote possibility that Mr. Cruz would make a last-minute endorsement.
Whatever with that "last-minute endorsement" misdirect. The Trump people knew exactly what was going to happen. They saw and vetted Cruz's speech ahead of time and understood he had no plan to "endorse" Trump. Their plan for handling that was instructing their delegates to boo and cause a scene. The result was exactly the little drama they wanted people to see and talk about. It makes good copy as long as the reporters buy into the premise.

And on cue, most commentators are breathless in their description of the convention as an unprecedented, unhinged shit show. But I think there's far more intent behind what we're seeing than they're allowing for.  It looks absurd. But it's a controlled absurdity.

I've begun to think of it as a normal convention if it were put on by hipsters being ironic. For all practical purposes it's the same old crap but rebranded with just the right kind of wink in order to sell it to idiots for three times what it's actually worth.  Consider Melania's RickRoll for example.  Consider, again, the Cruz choreography.  Remember, faithful pro wrestling fans saw that whole thing coming well in advance. Or consider this more understated signal. Toward the end of the program Wednesday night, the house band played a rendition of The Who's "Eminence Front."  Maybe they chose that song for the line, "Come and join the party dressed to kill."  But it's just possible what they were really trying to tell us about this entire convention was.. "It's a put on!"

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