Republican Convention Day 2: All you need is love (according to Ann Romney)
“Tonight, I want to talk to you about love,” Ann Romney told the crowd at the beginning of her post-10 pm speech. It was going to be a tough sell for a crowd far more likely to get exercised by hate.
It was an odd counterpoint to a night — and day — obsessively dedicated to celebrating and countering the out-of-context Obama quote, “You didn’t build that. Over and over again, speakers and videos slammed the President’s quote, with small businesspeople brought on stage in between party officials to underscore the point to applause from the relatively low energy audience.
The biggest problem, of course, is that most of the businesses highlighted by the RNC actually underscore the president’s larger point: that government infrastructure, research funds, contracts, loans and, at a minimum, public education contributed to various people’s successes. Take, for instance, the speakers at Newt U’s “We Built It” class in the morning, who built their successful businesses based on: knowledge gained from government research grants; a perceived need for help to companies who are trying to navigate government drug approval processes; and government sales. The speakers at the convention themselves were no better: from Delaware Lt. Gov. Sher Valenzuela, whose partner bragged about the federal loans and contracts they got to start their business, to Jim Gilchrist, whose business benefited from tax-exempt bonds and government contracts, to farmers that received federal subsidies, to DC-area business owner Bev Gray, whose company Exhibit Edge almost certainly has government clients and to Jack Archuletta, whose reliance on government contracts is so significant that he used his stage time to complain about new procurement rules that increased competition (and decreased government spending by up to $40 billion), the business owners highlighted might not have liked taxes or regulation, but they certainly benefited from governmental largesse.
But while reporters were puzzling about the cognitive dissonance of a government contractor declaring he’d gotten no help from the government in his or her business, it wasn’t exactly a love fest on the floor before Ann Romney took the stage. From Ron Paul delegates chanting “USA! USA!” to drown out a Puerto Rican delegate to RNC delegates tossed for throwing nuts at an African-American camerawoman with CNN to loud applause for Senate candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) declaring that immigrants ought not be allowed or encouraged to speak their first languages, a nativist streak among some attendees was apparent for anyone who wanted to see.
And although Obama came in for plenty of criticism from the podium, (with the notable exception of former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis), speakers from the podium doubled down on Joe Biden cracks — which is the second time since Sunday that I’ve heard that particular line of thought come up. Is Biden the new whipping boy because of the backlash to Romney’s birther joke? Or is there an undercurrent of visceral anti-Biden sentiment that few outside of the Republican universe have noticed?
But whatever the feeling was on the floor last night, it wasn’t love of Romney that motivated the speakers or the audience: anti-Obamacare sentiments, pro-life sentiments, complaints about the National Labor Relations Board case against Boeing, anti-union screeds and especially pro-voter ID sentiments inspired most spontaneous responses. Not even one lone heckler during Santorum’s speech, whose shouts about corporate greed were lost in the drone of ongoing conversations from the crowd, could inspire the audience to boo her (or security to drag her out of the arena particularly quickly). Ann wanted to talk about love, but most of the expressions of love for country were mediated through hatred for things designated anti-country.
Even Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) acknowledged that Romney wasn’t the most-loved man in the room in his fist-pumping, barn-burner of a closing speech in which he informed the audience that his mother believed love required — and would flow from — mutual respect. But given how much Christie’s speech focused on his own accomplishments and how little it focused on the party’s actual nominee, maybe Ann was right: she did need to talk about love. The folks there are more in-like with her husband than anything, and he does need their love, more than their hatred for Obama, to win in November.