TAMPA, Fla.— This, like every presidential election, is the Most Important Presidential Election of your lifetime. This, like every presidential election, is a contest of unparalleled importance between candidates of previously unencountered contrasts to decide the Most Important Issues we have ever seen. Forget what has come before. The politicians, pundits, and moral leaders of the Republican Party want you to know that this election is the One That Matters The Most. Just like every other election.
Welcome. Reporting live from the current world capital of wet pussies, this is the Republican National Convention: Tampa, Florida, 2012.
The weather was not so bad on Sunday. Overcast, cloudy, sure, a little drizzly, but Isaac was nothing big and bad enough to get in the way of Business. My African dictator colleague and I claimed our credentials from the "Special" press section, where one of the operatives made a strip club joke that was rendered unremarkable when I learned he was a nonpartisan functionary, not a wilding-out Republican. We'd scored tickets for the Interminable Procession of Republican Speakers #1 event, sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization dedicated to Restoring America's Greatness through the use of vague boilerplate rhetoric and stock photos of happy Aryan families.
The Tampa Theatre was old and grand. The crowd was old and doddering. The uniforms were Tea Party Chic, all American flag shirts and bald eagle polos. The vibe was very "Grandma's less successful child takes her for a field trip from the nursing home." Journalists in the Journalist Uniform (slacks, button-down shirt, no tie, optional blue blazer, conspicuous notebook) prowled the aisles, questioning these people, who had willingly and of their own volition come to a Christian Conservative rally, for fun, about their opinions. Who gives shit, really? It takes not long at all to reach a full state of despair at the thought of having to practice this sort of paint-by-numbers, fill-in-the-quote campaign journalism. Poor bastards. They were probably so excited to get a job at the Wall Street Journal, and now look at what they have them doing.
A choir from a nearby Christian college sang songs that sounded like Queen doing particularly patriotic and obscure Christmas carols. The last and worst of these, which had me cringing in embarrassment at the young man's ridiculous ardor, drew a thunderous standing ovation. Also drawing standing ovations: the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, Ralph Reed, Mike Huckabee (still fat), Phyllis Schafly and her weird little blinking red L.E.D. brooch, Newt Gingrich, some shitty embarrassing middle aged Christian rocker who looked like Jeff Daniels in a leather jacket, Texas schmooze sack Ted Cruz's declarations that "our freedom is under attack" followed immediately by a condemnation of gay marriage rights with no mention of cognitive dissonance, all four (or was it five?) preachers who gave intermittent prayers, Wisconsin Governor and union-buster-in-chief Scott Walker, and, most vocally, the police officer who leapt up and tore down the protest banner that a group of infiltrators had unfurled from the balcony just as Scott Walker was taking the stage. "Nice vert," the crowd seemed to be saying. Police Anti-Dissent Vert 2012.
This crowd—and this convention to come, and this entire political party in general—is made up of all of the people who take extremely seriously the same things that I mock. I realize that this can be interpreted as a positive statement about their maturity and forbearance in the face of cynicism. I do not mean it that way. I mean it in the most negative way possible.
At one point, Pam Bondi, the tanned, blond, swollen Vanna White doppelganger who is, sadly, Florida's attorney general, warned the crowd that America is being dragged "down a road that I firmly believe leads to mediocracy." Well. That's for fucking sure.
Should be a fun four days. Join us, won't you? You have nothing to lose but your faith in the American experiment.