For a convention built around encouraging Republican anger at President Obama’s out-of-context remark, “You didn’t build that,” and stirring up fears about what he might do in a second term, there was no fitter metaphor than the sight of a newly-outed conservative Clint Eastwood yelling at a chair for telling Mitt Romney to go fuck himself.
After all, while there are certainly some conservatives and Republicans who undoubtedly disagree with the President — and would disagree with any Democratic president — on principles, some just see Obama as a giant “fuck you” to everything they believe is American. He might not be a Socialist Muslim who hates whitey (though polls show there are plenty of people in the Republican party who believe), but they do believe he certainly doesn’t, and can’t, love America as much as they do.
(It’s probably fair to note that the Republican reaction is just the mirror image of liberals’ reactions to Obama in 2008: after all, “Hope” and “Change” are a feeling and a concept, respectively, and not a series of concrete policy initiatives. People who liked the candidate Obama projected, in many cases, the changes they personally wanted to see him make onto the man running for office. Republicans just projected different things.)
Metaphor or not, the Eastwood moment was a red flag for anyone with a modicum of convention experience: it meant that this convention was poorly planned and poorly managed. Attendees likely realized that the first night, after the Tampa Bay Times Forum emptied out and the thousands of people on foot was herded past no less than two totally untrafficked vehicle entrance points to the sole pedestrian entrance or exit… half a mile away. The route there was poorly lit and lined by fences that only allowed those thousands of people to walk two-by-two over broken sidewalks that were nearly impossible for anyone with a wheelchair to navigate. But, the buses that shuttled attendees to and from hotels or officially-sanctioned parties weren’t handicapped accessible (which is why I witnessed early in the week a handicapped man carried onto a bus by strangers), so those with mobility issues had few choices but to try.
These are not hard things to plan for — goodness knows the parties managed to do so in Denver and St. Paul — but the lack of forethought of the conventioneers’ experiences stood in stark contrast to the heavy and heavily-coordinated law enforcement presence designed to limit interactions between protestors and conventioneers. (And, notably, the pedestrian routes served to disincentivize conventioneers and media alike from attending the protests, as one had to walk about 10 minutes west to leave the convention zone and then 10-15 minutes back east and usually north to get to any of the permitted protest sites. So perhaps it wasn’t that poorly planned after all.)
Other signs of a poorly managed convention that had nothing to do with weather were: the inexplicable nightly appearances of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a relatively junior Republican congresswoman whose regular appearances almost made her seem like the emcee except they always came in the middle; the lack of a cohesive message on each night, as “We Can Change It” night turned into “We Can Bomb It!” on Wednesday and personhood got shoehorned into speeches about what people did or did not build; and the multiple interminable appearances of Mitt Romney’s former friends and neighbors to talk about how being Mormon isn’t weird or anything that detracted from what should’ve been the momentum of the night.
Oh, and let’s not forget the music, which seemed to be chosen by people who don’t actually like country music (or think that country music is synonymous with Republicanism). I’m no connoisseur of pop country music — I prefer bluegrass and alt-country — but it only took an hour of listening to Tampa’s local country station to identify the song and the artist the RNC folks should have gotten to perform instead of Danny Gokey, Beau Davidson or Neal Boyd. Ladies and gentlemen: Jason Aldean’s “Flyover States.”
Instead, conventioneers got this.
And for a convention that chose to emphasize the belief that Obama governs based on polls — a charge first leveled at then-President Bill Clinton — the fact that more than half of the last day of the convention emphasized the fact that Mitt’s a human being who hasn’t been a dick to everyone he’s ever met just underscored the point that his campaign, too, is poll-obsessed. Polls have long showed that people don’t connect to Mitt on a personal level, so they designed a day of the convention about making him seem more likeable as a person even as most people continue to say that they are concerned about the economy shows Obama’s not the only poll-watcher on the campaign trail this summer.
And then, having built that, they let Clint Eastwood get on stage and yell at a chair for telling Mitt Romney to go fuck himself.