Next week’s GOP convention in Cleveland has raised all the anticipatory angst of a condemned man being led to the gallows.
Many GOP regulars are skipping Cleveland entirely. (“I would rather attend the public hanging of a good friend,” says Will Ritter, an up-and-coming Republican digital strategist who worked on the three previous conventions.) And among those who are making the trek, there’s an overwhelming sense it won’t be fun at all. At a time when many Republicans are deeply dissatisfied with their nominee, pessimistic about their prospects for victory in the fall and alarmed about the direction of their party, there’s a reluctance about attending the convention more typically reserved for going to the DMV, being summoned for jury duty or undergoing a root canal.
See what I mean? Will Ritter and I are totally on the same page with this. The Trump train has all the makings of a major disaster, and whether it be out of professional concern or disgust, nobody rational wants to be a part of it.
“This is the first year in the past two decades that Republicans aren’t excited about attending the convention. Normally, we’re all jazzed up about getting together and celebrating our nominee,” said Chris Perkins, a GOP pollster who has attended every Republican convention since 1996. “There’s nothing to celebrate this cycle. I’m going because I have to, not because I want to.”
Those who are going often say they’re doing so out of a sense of obligation — to meet with clients or to hold meetings before making a beeline back to the airport. As the Republican Party prepares to nominate a figure who is registering historically high disapproval ratings, some don’t want to advertise their presence in Cleveland. “Don’t use my name,” said one senior party strategist. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m there.” (A few days after the interview, the strategist got back in touch, having decided not to go, after all.)
Another major (and well-founded) concern revolves around safety. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has made for some of the more violent and disturbing campaign events in recent history. Protests and counter-protests outside of the events mirror the volatile nature of public discourse in America, and Trump has no interest in healing rifts.
Neo-Nazis have pledged to provide security for Trump’s appearance in Cleveland, at a time when I’m about 99.9% positive that the Black Lives Matter crowd will seek to take their protests to an even higher profile.
Something about Altamont and the Hell’s Angels comes to mind.
Law enforcement officials have provided relatively few details about the security measures they’re taking. The Cleveland Police Department has said that about a third of its 1,700-person force will be devoted to the convention and that it would also be relying on local, state and federal authorities for assistance.
Yet not everyone is at ease. In an email, one senior Republican National Committee official wrote that he is “concerned as heck about the potential for some homegrown violence/native ISIS type threat. If you want to make a statement in America, what better place to do it?”
Many of the major voices with the GOP, such as the two Bush presidents, Senator Marco Rubio, and others, are declining to attend, though none are saying outright that they don’t want to be part of the fiasco to come.
Rising star, Senator Ben Sasse has given the most hilarious reason for not attending, however, when he said he was taking his children to watch some dumpster fires, that day.
Rep. Trey Gowdy cites a family vacation, far from Cleveland.
Sponsors are also pulling out of the event. To date, Wells Fargo, Ford, and Apple are among those who have pulled their sponsorship.
It’s hard to get excited about a funeral, and a Trump nomination could very well spell the death of the Republican party, as well as our nation, as we know it.