Cowboy Hats, Peanuts, and Regret: The 2012 Republican National Convention Recap

This week the nation witnessed the power and the glory of the 2012 Republican National Convention, a four-day long event at which delegates from all 50 states attend rounds of group meetings and social events ranging from casual (jeans and an RNC t-shirt) to high formal (heels, pearls, red power suit) in order to be vetted by more senior members of the party for potential membership. They sang songs, performed skits, and shared with the group what sisterhood means to them, while explaining why they feel that they deserve to wear the letters GOP. This year’s theme was “Welcome to Paradise,” with beach umbrellas set up around the convention center and women serving tiki-themed mocktails while making sure to avoid eye contact with men. Hazing is rumored to have occurred, but RNC spokespeople have denied this.

Just kidding! Actually it’s a fashion show for ten-gallon hats.

Via Associated Pressj

In all seriousness, the Republican National Convention is an event that occurs in order to facilitate:

+ the nomination of the party’s candidates for president and vice president;
+ the formulation and adoption of the party’s statement of principles – its  platform; and
+ the formulation and adoption of rules and procedures governing party activities, including the process for selecting the presidential candidates in the next election cycle.

For a full description of what the Republican Party thinks the RNC is for, you can check out this helpful handout, which has one of the lowest information-to-words rations of any document I’ve ever seen. In practical terms, the RNC is for the GOP candidate for President (Mitt Romney) to officially accept his (let’s be real, it’s “his”) nomination, and for viewers both at home and at the convention to either revel in or reel from the party’s platform and philosophy. The opportunities in that regard were, to put it delicately, plentiful.

Via Associated Press

I did not watch the vast majority of the RNC, due to a combination of not having a TV and also not wanting to waste my one wild and precious life staring at that many old white men in American flag suspenders. But C-SPAN has video of virtually every event, from “Politico Playbook Breakfast with Karl Rove” to Clint Eastwood’s surprise appearance, which, hahahahaha ohmygod what! But we’ll get to that. To fully enjoy this event from your own home, yell out “We built it!” occasionally while you scroll through.

Monday, August 27

Imagine the longest day of your life, and then imagine that you knew you had to do the same thing for the next three days, and then also imagine that Chris Christie and Ron Paul were both there. That’s what being at the first day of the RNC was apparently like! Also though, Hurricane Isaac. Remember that, you guys? In deference to the hurricane and also so that the majority of the Republican party could go into media blackout and therefore avoid reference to how badly they failed New Orleans during Katrina, much of Monday’s scheduled programming was postponed. Still though, long day regardless.

Clearly some other people also felt the same way, like all of the protesters outside the convention center in Tampa. Here is a lady who looks exactly like my daycare provider circa ages 7-11 to tell you about it. What’s your favorite chant? I think for me it’s a tie between “The people/united/will never be divided” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!”

Also, there was a Ron Paul campaign rally held at the University of South Florida Sun Dome during the first day of the convention, which is neat. This is sort of like the queers and losers holding an anti-prom on the same night as prom, except that the Sun Dome is a much more impressive venue than Denny’s. I am hesitant to say too much about it because Ron Paul supporters will pull some J. Edgar Hoover shit on you if you are too mean to their Ronbear on the internet, but I will say that his opening song is so pathetic that even the ASL interpreter can’t pretend that she’s excited about it. I would embed the video and/or actually watch it so that I could comment upon it, but it’s an hour and 38 minutes long and also it’s of Ron Paul, so.

Tuesday, August 28

Lots of super magical things happened on Tuesday! Tuesday, day of kings. And offensive speeches. Also, sidenote, reading the RNC schedule with everyone’s official title makes you feel like you’re in a sequel to National Treasure. Did you know that John Boehner not only spoke, but was “Convention Permanent Chairman Speaker John Boehner, Presiding?” Do you think he had a sceptre? Or at least a really weird rider? Like eight roast chickens, Nyquil and a bottle of cherry whiskey? Other names to note included Scott Walker (see above w/r/t union busting being disgusting), Rick Santorum, and the 2008 winner of America’s Got Talent, Neal Boyd. That sounds like I was making a joke but I wasn’t. Here he is. The worst part is all the people waving their Mitt signs above their heads because (I am assuming?) they did not have lighters on them.

But even with Boyd’s operatic talents the real star of the show was Ann Romney, Mitt’s partner in crime. (Usually in life when I say “partner in crime” it’s a cute way to refer to my or another’s significant other without gendered pronouns or whatever but in this case Mitt’s a proponent of business practices that are so irresponsible it seems fair to call them criminal, making this term very technically accurate!) And you know what Ann Romney wanted to talk to you about, guys? Ann Romney wanted to talk about LOVE.

I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago. And the profound love I have, and I know we share, for this country. I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it — the love we have for our children and our children’s children. And I want us to think tonight about the love we all share for those Americans, our brothers and sisters, who are going through difficult times, whose days are never easy, nights are always long, and whose work never seems done.

You guys, I don’t know if you picked up on this, but Ann Romney is a LADY, with LADYPARTS. You can tell because she just LOVES things so MUCH, which you know all about because you’re a lady too! You have lady concerns, right? Like all those other “working moms who love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids, but that’s just out of the question with this economy. Or that couple who would like to have another child, but wonder how will they afford it.” Hahaha, having a uterus and growing children in it, right? Have you gotten the point about what Ann Romney’s job here is, or should I beat this horse a little more?

It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters. You know it’s true, don’t you? You’re the ones who always have to do a little more.

Via Zumapress

Yes, we do. Like sometimes you just want to make a giant non-alcoholic Manhattan and lay on the sofa in one of your living rooms in one of your many homes and pet your own professionally maintained hair like it’s a Shih Tzu while you watch a slideshow of pictures of yourself that you’ve made one of your servants compile like you do every night to fall asleep, but instead your dumb husband makes you give a speech to try to convince women to vote for him! Life is so much harder for women, especially women like Ann Romney! She would be delighted to explain the difficulty of her own life in greater detail:

I am the granddaughter of a Welsh coal miner who was determined that his kids get out of the mines. My dad got his first job when he was six years old, in a little village in Wales called Nantyffyllon, cleaning bottles at the Colliers Arms. When he was 15, dad came to America. In our country, he saw hope and an opportunity to escape from poverty. He moved to a small town in the great state of Michigan. There, he started a business — one he built himself, by the way.

But that’s nothing compared to how hard she had it when she got married to Mittsy!

We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold-down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.

Little does she know how many dolphins she killed during those heady tuna days! Seriously though, if you were even slightly endeared to her and Mitt by this living-in-poverty (in-an-extremely-generous-sense-of-the-word-poverty) montage, it’s gone by the next few sentences, where she mentions that when their first son was born, Mitt was enrolled in both business school and law school at the same time. Which a) betrays that her “special days” were perhaps more along the lines of “scrimping and financial austerity” than “poverty” or “lack of access to money, education, and socially privileged spaces” and b) that she doesn’t even realize that. This, I think is what kills me about the Republican party and the Romneys in particular, and we’ll talk about it again. But they’re so disconnected from the experiences of actual underprivileged people in America that I think they genuinely think they’re in the same boat. Like, not the same part of the same boat — they know they’re in the fancy cabins on the Titanic while the rest of us are in steerage, getting bedsores and sharing one single potato between six people. But they think that if we hit an iceberg they’d go down with us, and that’s just not true. They’re trying to appeal to the working-class vote, the working poor vote, the un- and underemployed vote, the votes of people of color and single parents and small business owners and they think this is a relatable anecdote? “I had to be a mom while my husband was in business AND law school!” Someone call Sapphire; there’s a story that needs to be told here.

Speaking of telling stories (it’s a weak segue just go with it) you know who else talked, is Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey!

Aside from a silly name and being homophobic, Chris Christie is also someone to keep an eye on with regards to the future of the Republican party. There was a lot of talk about the possibility of his running for president in 2012, and when he announced that he was not running, it was with the knowledge that there were many people out there who were hoping he would. So this speech isn’t just a window into what a bunch of old rich white people wanted to hear said about other old rich white people and also ~*~America~*~, but also a window into a guy who probably wants to be your next President. So, eyes peeled and ears open, kittens! It’s not pretty. (Also, quick question: are there any other contexts besides national political conventions and mediocre free basement indie shows in which it is socially acceptable to have like eight introducers/openers for one headliner?)

This will come as a shock, but Christie also came from a supremely marginalized background, to hear him tell it. “Dad grew up in poverty,” and “Mom also came from nothing.” Christie lets us know the gravity of this situation by referencing “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” (Fun sidenote about Chris Christie — he loves Bruce Springsteen. LOOOOOVES him. “Born in the USA” is a song about a disaffected vet being abandoned by his country, you guys. It’s not like a patriotic rallying cry. Just saying.)

Essentially, Christie talked for a long time about how the key is to look for being respected over being loved, which I believe is code for “It’s okay that a significant portion of the country hates us for our policies that specifically target them and their personal liberties; sometimes that’s just what it takes, and that’s how you know you’re doing it right!” Also: elderly people only think social security is a good thing because they’ve been lied to by Democrats, and also “real leaders don’t follow polls, leaders change polls,” despite obeying the mandate of the voting public being more or less how a republic works. Perhaps my favorite part was when Christie called Romney someone who “will tell us the hard truths we need to hear.” Which, just, like, guys, have you read this? You should read this.

Via Associated Press

But while picking apart the things in Christie’s speech that were misleading, untrue or overblown is more fun, there is a less fun thing to be acknowledged: Christie is a good speaker! And he managed to weave all of these ideas into a coherent narrative that was designed to assuage and validate the feelings of Republican voters in a way that will secure a pitbull-like loyalty from them. He’s a talented speaker, and lines like “There is doubt and fear for our future in every corner of our country. These feelings are real. This moment is real” are like trained-hypnotist/controlling-high-school-boyfriend/CIA-interrogator levels of effective at getting an emotional connection, and helping a listener feel like this person is on their side regardless of what their policy says. SO that’s an important thing to know about the man who will likely run for president in 2016, barring… actually I just tried to think of an event which could change that course of events and I’ve got nothing. Stay tuned for that one in four years, kids!

But it would be foolhardy to take away from the RNC only what its attendees want you to via their rehearsed words. It’s important to also take into account whether or not attendees also, say, hurl peanuts at media presence and call them animals because they’re black! This event has made Contributing Editor Carmen Rios’s official Top Five Worst Moments of the RNC. It is unclear who the attendee was that threw peanuts at a camerawoman and yelled “This is how we feed animals” was; all that is known is that she was escorted out and the incident was hushed by the GOP as much as possible. But just to be clear, when we say that it’s not clear who the attendee is, what that means is that it is unclear whether she was a GOP delegate or not. Do you feel comfortable saying “no, it couldn’t have been a delegate, it must have been someone else, some total nutjob with no real affiliation to the party whatsoever!” Yeah, that’s what I thought. Although, as Wonkette points out, there are literally thousands of people at the convention who managed to avoid throwing things at people of color, so really, we should count this as a win! God bless America.

Next: Romney and Ryan’s High School Reunion!

Wednesday, August 29

A bunch of things happened on Wednesday! We’re not going to talk about most of them. This is in part due to the fact that I can’t psychologically and emotionally handle covering McCain, Pawlenty, Huckabee, Condoleezza Rice, Jindal, and Rand Paul all at the same time. Just write yourself some Mad Libs and fill in “family,” “economy,” “the little man,” “Jesus,” and “personhood” and I think we’re largely done here. Because also we’re already at like 2500 words and we haven’t even talked about Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney. I know! Make yourself a snack and let’s buckle down and talk about Ryan.

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? There are a lot of factual errors in this speech. There are any number of people on the internet who have taken up the task of explaining these errors (and by errors I mean, less generously, “lies”) but sure, this is a fine place to start. If you are even vaguely familiar with Paul Ryan’s impressive oeuvre of attempted radical Republican restructurings of the American experience, this should tip you off:

The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it. In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with Mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my Mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.

You guys? You guys. Paul Ryan wants to end Medicare.  Like, for every moment up until and almost including this very moment, Paul Ryan’s whole thing has been replacing Medicare with a bizarre voucher system because he believes (as does his party! That is why he is nominated for VP!) that the cost of healthcare should be shouldered by citizens, not the government. Like this is not just a lie, it is some straight up Magical Fantasy Unicorn Land Opposite Day shit. If Medicare looked the way Paul Ryan wanted it to look, his granny on Garfield Street in Janesville would be selling her doilies on Etsy to try to keep her home and also pay for her Alzheimer’s medication, and invoking her memory in such a blatantly dishonest way is honestly horrifying. Not to mention Ryan’s self-serious pretense at solidarity with un- or underemployed college graduates who are “in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life” when Ryan wants to eliminate over 1 million Pell Grants. Really! This is a thing he feels comfortable saying in front of thousands of people!

Look at his weird rubbery face that looks sort of like a Nixon Halloween mask that someone left in their attic and was nested inside of by a squirrel, and know that this is a person who feels totally at ease lying to a group of people who have gathered here because they already support him, as well as the entire rest of the nation. The people at the Republican National Convention have been following Ryan’s career for years as he’s grown up as a sort of half-crazed well-coiffed Republican ideologue wunderkind — and he expects that even they will swallow a total reversal of several of his positions with pleasure?

are you there, god? it’s me, paul ryan. can i have more money

Allow me to backtrack a little and also wallow in some conspiracy-theory thinking (that I think is totally justified). Almost exactly a year ago in 2011, a Republican staffer named Mike Lofgren left the party because while he still believed in the tenets of conservatism, he had grown so disgusted with the party’s tactics that he couldn’t take it anymore. Upon leaving, he wrote an essay which exposed some of his more shocking observations about Republican strategy to anyone who was willing to listen (we were, and wrote about it). Here’s what he had to say about the Republican feeling on voters’ knowledge, or “low-information voters:”

There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

If it seems like the Republican strategy is to lie through their teeth and hope that no one notices, that’s because it is. And it’s not just for the election — it’s a real, concrete plan that they’ve been working on for literally years. If voters’ ideas about who to vote for are based not upon any kind of real understanding of an issue and are instead based on emotional connection and trust of a candidate’s personality and purported background, then you can win them over by spouting a bunch of bullshit about how poor your parents were and how you had to figure out how to make Hamburger Helper once, while glibly pointing to the other guy and claiming he’s responsible for everything you did, confident that no one will even head to Wikipedia to get the full story. Then you can remind voters that no one has ever asked you for your birth certificate, and trust that that will count more than the fact that your policies hurt and endanger women, a full 50% of the voting public.  Because hey, you know what? As Ryan said, “The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable… not only a fine businessman, he’s a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.” Aw, what a stand-up guy. Who needs to waste the time necessary to look up his platform or voting record? After all, I have to rush if I’m going to get to my second job on time. Now that we can’t unionize anymore, they’ve been firing people for the smallest things. I sure wish someone would come along and do something about this economy!

I’ll let this go, and we can move on and talk about things other than how awful Ryan is and how neatly he exemplifies so much of what is awful about his party, but it just seems important to say — the voters aren’t stupid. Americans aren’t stupid. This isn’t even about turning up a nose at people who are voting Republican. This is about classic strategies for manipulation – convincing your victim that you’re the only one who can be trusted, and then telling them whatever is necessary to get what you need out of them. We should be angry, yes, that there are so many people willing to not only buy into and perpetuate this rhetoric, but we should also feel angry about the lies that have been told to them well before this speech in order for that to happen. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a pretty perfect example of everything that’s wrong with everything, but also, they didn’t start the fire, yannow? They were just given a heads up to leave the building while the rest of us burn.

Thursday, August 30

If the RNC were a video game, Thursday would feature the final boss battle: Romney’s speech. (Taking suggestions for who the princess in the castle should be. Nancy Pelosi? Rachel Maddow? All the women in Arizona who now have pregnancy legally defined as beginning retroactively at their last period?) Both Callista and Newt Gingrich also spoke on Thursday, along with Jeb Bush (remember him?) and also there was a color guard. I know! They all told you your ability to twirl a flag around your head was useless in the real world; little did they know that you could one day rub shoulders with such greats as former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey; Olympians Michael Eruzione, Derek Parra and Kim Rhode; and “Reagan Legacy Video.” Again, we are not going to recap those things, although I’m sure the color guard was stunning.

Before the convention, there was a certain amount of buzz about a surprise celebrity speaker. Who could it be??? Rumors included Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or even Tim Tebow, the quarterback that baby Jesus loves most in the whole wide world. (This is where, had I started this recap three days ago, I would have made Grace create some who’s-at-the-door graphics. REGRETS.) Instead, it was announced that the mystery speaker was in fact Clint Eastwood, Professional Old White Man.

If you have somehow, by some chance, not yet heard about Clint’s bizarre performance, I’m not really sure what to tell you. Well, I mean, I can tell you that Eastwood pulled an empty chair next to it and pretended Obama was sitting in it, and performed a routine of lambasting and also fending off silent interruptions from Pretend Obama in a scene that would probably almost definitely have earned him a passing grade in an improv class for geriatric patients in the local community center. Really though you should just watch it. (Note the helpful stills of Clint Eastwood in his films, in case attendees were unsure of his identity and were tempted to throw peanuts at him in a panic until he produced a birth certificate or proof of European ancestry.) (Also, I think my favorite part of this entire Clint Eastwood Experience is that “Clint Eastwood” wasn’t trending on Twitter, but “Gran Turino” was for some reason? #racistoldwhitemen)

Reactions to this performance have been varied. Actually, just kidding, they’ve been totally unanimous:

Rachel Maddow calls it “the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a political convention in my entire life … and it will be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen if I live to be a hundred.”

I honestly don’t have much to add. Mostly I hope that there isn’t an announcement on Monday that Clint Eastwood actually has dementia, because I don’t think I’d be able to forgive myself for making fun of him.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the #1 living human who looks most like a Ken doll, took the stage immediately after Eastwood, and had the unlucky task of trying to make a funny opening remark that would smooth over how insane that was while also transitioning back into America Talk. Unfortunately for Rubio, he is one of the less naturally gifted speakers at the convention, and so the best he could come up with was “I think I just drank Clint Eastwood’s water. Thank you.” Was this a joke about there being something in the water? Was this a weird fanboy thing about how now he’ll never wash his esophagus again? Perhaps worst of all, was it just a panicked attempt to change the subject by making the first observation that came to mind, like when you run into your ex and find yourself saying “I accidentally fell asleep on the couch without doing my laundry last night so today I had to turn a pair of dirty underwear inside out?” We may never know. But let’s all take a moment and really bask in how smooth and silky Marco Rubio’s face looks. Do you think he uses baby oil?

Here’s the thing about Marco Rubio and what he has to say: America is really special, you guys. And we’re special for being a part of it. Or as you would say in Spanish, “especial.” Because take that, all you people who thought the GOP was essentially a country club! Rubio is Latino! Obviously Rubio’s ethnicity in no way legitimizes or delegitimizes his work as a legislator, but the fact that the GOP is so clearly trotting him out to try to make a point about how despite their horrendous stance on immigration, and being the party that’s responsible for Arizona’s SB-1070 and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the perennial English Only campaigns and oh everything else awful in the world, the GOP still cares about Latinos, and the party is a good place for them. The Latino vote is growing very fast and the Republican party needs to figure out a way to tap it if they’re going to continue to exist, so please wait patiently while we pause briefly for everyone in the convention center to change their pants after hearing Rubio tell us about how his dad used to say “En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos.” Congratulations, GOP, you did it. What racism and xenophobia? Those problems can be solved by just Loving America Enough!

For real though, Rubio’s speech is one of the saddest moments for me of the whole RNC, because it’s not particularly well-written and he’s not a speaker like Christie, who seems so convincing in believing what he’s saying that you want to believe it too. Rubio’s speech just comes off as clumsy rhetoric, because it is. He says the word “special” 11 times in about 15 minutes. Some highlights:

+ “For those of us who were born and raised in this country, it’s easy to forget how special America is.”
+ “But instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes us special, [Obama] divides us against each other.”
+ “As we prepare to make this choice, we should remember what made us special.”
+ “We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We’re bound together by common values.”
+ “Special, because we’ve never made the mistake of believing that we are so smart that we can rely solely on our leaders or our government.” (Ed. note: He means God. He means that we also rely on God for our government.)
+ “We’re special because dreams that are impossible anywhere else, come true here.”
+ “We chose a special man to lead us in a special time.”

Yes, Rubio, we did. He was a top pick to potentially be Romney’s running mate, so I imagine he was thinking that it could have stood to be even a little more special, but he closed it out with class and grace, including a reference to the “American Miracle” (the third movie in the trilogy, after American Identity and American Supremacy). Which brings us to the main event! It’s Romney O’Clock!

ugh, this guy

The thing about Romney’s speech is that I actually watched it when it occurred. I found a TV and everything! But I don’t remember any of it? And I wasn’t even drinking? (My self-destructive consumption this election cycle appears to be centered around stress eating instead.) Which I think means I repressed it, which doesn’t bode well for the last 1000 words of this.

So, first of all, the context for Romney’s speech is technically that he’s accepting the GOP’s nomination for presidential candidate. This is a little contrived because it’s been clear for months now that Romney is going to be the candidate, it’s kind of like Regina George accepting the homecoming crown and exclaiming “Really, you picked meeeeeee?”, but it’s how these things go. (Sidenote, which Mean Girl do you think Romney is? I think he’s a Gretchen Wiener all the way. Stop trying to make “I’m relatable because I’m sort of from Michigan and was ‘poor’ once” happen.)

But when you get past the acceptance stuff and move into the spin he’s going for, it really is essentially like a big boss version of what everyone else has said up until now. The plan, it would seem, is to acknowledge all of the struggles that Americans have been facing for years — unemployment, job loss, lack of access to affordable healthcare, a drought of even entry-level and minimum wage jobs for college graduates — but pretend that they are someone else’s fault! It’s insane to think that the credit crisis or the housing bubble bursting or joblessness are solely Obama’s responsibility. All of them — as are most major economic trends! — are the result of years and even decades of economic decisions, many of which are attributable to the Bush presidency and even Reagan. Saying this is Obama’s fault is like having the entire party run out the back door as soon as they hear the garage door opening and just leaving one poor shmuck holding a Solo cup in the middle of the trashed living room to take the heat for it. Yes, that guy did in fact attend the party, and Obama has been part of our nation’s government while these now-clearly-disastrous decisions took place, but come on, guys. You don’t have to be dicks about it. Also, Obama has in fact created on the whole more jobs than Bush did, the auto industry is seeing major improvements, and he’s at least working on ways to keep loans from being even more unmanageable for students. Way to be a giant jerk to the guy cleaning up after you and all your friends!

Regardless, though, have to give the man some bonus points for managing to work Neil Armstrong’s recent death in there. Very classy! Also, somebody send an Edible Arrangement to the speechwriter who thought up “The soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche.” They sure deserve… something. Actually though, I have some questions about this speechwriter, because this speech is all over the place. Some of my best friends are women, look how many I’ve worked with! God bless Neil Armstrong! Did I mention how much I love my wife! Also I love cars! (That wasn’t a joke. That part is really in there.)


The thing is, there’s nothing really here. No recommendations for policy, no explanations of what he thinks is wrong and how he’ll fix it. There’s some weird personal stuff about Mitt that’s designed to make us feel like he’s not a space robot (including but not limited to the embarrassing dad jokes about what he and Paul Ryan respectively have on their iPods), but mostly a lot of rhetoric about how this isn’t what “you deserve.”

This was the hope and change America voted for. 

It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.

It’s what Americans deserved.

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do. But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.

I mean… well. Okay. Yes! Sure! I mostly think that we do all deserve to have healthcare benefits at work and to be able to take care of our families and to live in shelters with roofs and running water. So that’s a good place to start! But that’s not really what Mittsy is talking about. He’s talking about being comfortably middle class and having disposable income as a right; as something that is correlated to human worth. There are a number of problems with this. The thing is, what most of the speeches at this convention have ignored is that poverty is not something Barack Obama invented. Even before the recession, people were still poor! They were disproportionately people of color and single parents and people without access to the level of education they might like to acquire in an ideal world, just like they are now. What’s happened as a result of the recession is that people who were formerly ‘middle class’ — who are more likely to be white, married, and highly educated than their poor counterparts — are now also experiencing economic hardship.

So when Romney and his friends talk about how unfair and undeserved it is that someone might now have to work a job that doesn’t give them benefits, they’re really saying that it’s not fair that formerly privileged people should have to now be less privileged in one specific respect. Because that’s what (racial, educational, class) privilege really means, right? That you don’t deserve to have anything bad happen to you or to ever struggle? Which means that, by the same token, people who are underprivileged do deserve those things. What about the people who have always been filling their gas tanks up halfway because spending more than $15 at one go isn’t feasible, and who have always been working two or more  jobs if they can get work at all, and for whom it always just hasn’t been right? It seems like they can expect to keep on keepin’ on. Patting someone on the back for “just not quitting” is hilarious, because only someone who’s privileged enough to think quitting, either literally or metaphorically, is an option would think it makes sense to say that. Did you know that Romney has zero percent of the black vote in the polls? Just throwing it out there, that might be because black and Hispanic workers are the most underemployed demographics in America, and Romney genuinely thinks he’s speaking to the working class by talking about having a full time job at $22.50/hr and then dropping down to two jobs that pay $9/hr as a real hardship. He sounds like a fucking idiot, because Romney has specially trained staff who are paid to tackle anyone who makes under $55,000/yr and attempts to make eye contact with him, and has no concept whatsoever of what working, being poor, or being the working poor is actually like. Just a friendly reminder!


But as dumb and insulting as this is, it’s also classic GOP, and for many Americans, this speech was probably very appealing. Meritocracy tells us that good things come to us if we are hardworking and good people, and while a dizzying array of intersecting patterns of marginalization and institutionalized oppression make that hard to swallow, there are many people to whom it is a very meaningful idea. Not because they’re dumb or bad — mostly just because they really are hardworking and really are pretty good people, and accepting that terrible things can happen to you in spite of that is really scary. And ultimately, that’s what we can take away from both Romney’s speech and the convention as a whole — that more than anything else, the GOP is still building their platform around fear. The fear of not being able to take care of your family, of not having enough, of having the little that you have taken away from you, the fear of other groups and communities, the fear of change, the fear of not being able to guarantee stability for yourself or your loved ones. And yeah, honestly, those are all things that are worth being afraid of (minus #4). But the fact of the matter is that the people in charge of this party and this campaign are never going to have to be afraid of those things in the same way that 90% of the voting public is, because they have pool noodles and swimmies made of privilege to carry them over whatever tides of change may come.

This won’t be the last we hear from any of these people, but especially from Ryan and Romney, right up until November. The Democratic National Convention will run from September 3rd to September 6th in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will probably feature less patriotism chic and among the attendees. Stay tuned for that, and also debate season, when Community Managerette Lemon and I are going to drink and gchat about the debates.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I just love your recaps of all this… You’re like our own little mini Maddow. Funny, endearing, and informative. Four for you!

  2. Another highlight from Rubio’s speech: “Faith in our creator is the most important American value of all.”

    I honestly can’t believe that came out of a politician’s mouth, on a public platform, in 2012.

    • Oh god, same. He said that right after talking about how “the family” is the most important thing. “The Family” of course being a codeword for the Heterosexual Family Unit, which is almost always used as an attack on gay people.

  3. Rachel, will you be my internet girlfriend?

    Seriously, you are just always so funny while informative, and I couldn’t pick a favorite part of this article if I tried. You make me swing more towards the love side of my love/hate relationship with politics, even while reading about the fucking RNC. And that is seriously incredible.

    • I lied, this is totes my favorite part:
      “Look at his weird rubbery face that looks sort of like a Nixon Halloween mask that someone left in their attic and was nested inside of by a squirrel…”
      It’s funny cause it’s true!

      • Does anybody understand why so many people think this guy is good-looking? Seriously you guys, I’m bi and everything and I just. don’t. see it. He looks like a Hallowe’en mask. And not a nice, friendly one, either.

        • I think it’s just in comparison to everyone else in politics. Like, if it gets to dinner time and you’ve only got kidney beans in the cupboard, that out-of-date can of rice pudding in the fridge is going to start looking kind of appetising, you know?

  4. I only made it halfway through this and then felt the need to immediately stop reading and go register to vote.

  5. You are officially my favorite internet political analyst, please keep doing this because it is amazing.

  6. Clint Eastwood stole the show with invisible angry President Obama. Chris was actually throwing Romney under the bus and that was funny to me. But most of the convention was just full of lies, sexism, homophobia, no love for the troops, and racism.

    I enjoyed reading your take on things.

  7. Excellent post, Rachel! I really like how you framed the rhetoric/lies in the bigger picture – so many voters focus on the current moment in politics without considering policy over time. This Republican ticket’s plan for America seems to be to trample the backs of everyone who is not like them so they and their peers can continue to hoard American wealth, use it to buy power (elections), and use that power to systematically codify their privilege.

    The ongoing, brazen misrepresentation and manipulation shows an infuriating contempt for the American public. That so much of the public willingly embraces this mistreatment breaks my heart as a citizen.

  8. I have trouble believing that the Romney’s have any idea what it’s like to be poor since in their version of poor when they needed money they could sell off some stock options.

  9. My thoughts about Ann Romney’s speech:

    -If I hadn’t been told what this was going to be about before hearing it, I would have thought, with that nice red outfit and you talking about hearts at the beginning, that this was going to be a PSA about heart disease.

    -Thank you for implying that if you’re a woman and not a mother, your experience as a woman is invalid and/or less important. I appreciate that so much

    -Um, also thanks for pointing out that if you’re a woman, you’re probs also a mom, grandmother, wife, sister, and/or daughter. Also thanks for the only shout-out to the women who are not wives and/or mothers are going to get this whole speech.

    -“I love you women!” Ann, I don’t know if you know this, but there are probs more supportive times and places to come out of the closet than the RNC. Just a FYI.

    -Do you really have to stereotype women as the only ones involved with child care?

    -People like you aren’t helping women’s situation in this country

    -“we’re too smart to know that there aren’t easy answers, but we’re not dumb enough to accept that there aren’t better answers.” I’m sorry Ann, and I’mma let you finish…but you lost me there. You’re not even making sense anymore

    -Thanks, but I’d rather not get to know Mittens even more than we alsready did in Massachusetts.

    -You know, he makes me laugh too!, but only in a way that makes me want to curl up and cry in a corner at the idea that he is actually for reals running for public office again.

    -The days living in a basement apartment were the best days? really? Something tells me you like your standard of living much more now. Most of us will never know what that’s like. Also if the two of you could afford an apartment with just the two of you and no other roommates, while you were in college, you couldn’t have been doing that badly.

    -“We have a REAL marriage” ok, now can the rest of us have an opportunity for that too? kthanks

    -You really call everything he’s done a success? Were you there and conscious the last time he held public office?

    -Ok, this is starting to make me feel physically ill now.

    -“Dreams fulfilled help others launch new dreams!” um…actually when the income equality gap is as big as it is, the richest achieving their dreams is usually at the expense of us poor folks. But you wouldn’t know about that, now would you?

    -“This man will not let us down…will lift up America.” You know, I’m actually starting to feel bad for you, if you actually believe this is true. Maybe you have Stockholm syndrome? Is someone forcing you to do this? There is help out there, Ann. You can still escape!

    And now that that’s done, I don’t know if I have the patience or a strong enough stomach to watch the rest of these videos.

  10. Dear Autostraddle,

    I live in New Jersey and have seen the Chris Christie experience first hand.

    The gifted and talented program at my elementary school used to build a society on Mars in our gymnasium. They ran a mock stock exchange. I knew what it was like to have a piece in an art show before I left fifth grade, and could talk articulately about my process.

    Now, they do worksheets because the gutted budget allows them nothing more. This is the future for the brightest children in our country should the Republican party, and Christie, have their way. Tell them no now with Mittsy, and tell them no in the future when my fat-head governor runs for office. Or your off-spring will be robots.

    Love, Ali

    • Amen. McDonnell (in VA) similarly has cut funding for schools and it sucks so hard. Our kids are apparently not our future anymore.

    • I grew up in Jersey and went to a high-ranking public school there; while I do think Christie has no skin in the game, since his kids go to private school, I have mixed feelings about how he’s dealt with teachers’ unions. I clearly remember how debilitating the power of teachers’ unions were; my high school teachers were paid upwards of $60K-90K, and once they got tenure, they could not be sacked for any reason other than abusing a student. The union would go on strike every single year, cutting after-school help and extracurricular clubs. So I can see why he gets support for fighting teachers’ unions.

      But anyway, have you guys seen the NYPost exclusive that Christie declined to be considered for veep because he thought Mittens was doomed? ( Ouch.

    • I loathe that nitwit. Within his first year of office, Chris Christie killed the largest mass transit project in the country (the commuter train under the Hudson to Manhattan), a project that had been 20 years in the making. He is incredibly short-sighted and arrogant.

      Keep that man as far away from more power as possible.

  11. Also also Rachel this is a brilliant article, autostraddle is always great but then there are posts that just really stick out. This is one of them :)

  12. This the best and most articulate critique of the Republican Party that I have ever read. I want everyone everywhere to read it.

    Sidenote, when people talk about ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ without saying ‘my Mom’ or ‘my Dad’ (eg, “Dad grew up in poverty, and Mom also came from nothing”) that makes me want to rip my ears off. They are not MY parents, idiot!

  13. wait but this is actually the first time i am seeing the clint eastwood / chair situation (i dunno how i missed it all week) and just…what?!?! what the actual fuck.

  14. My friend and I played a drinking game while playing this: “Drink everytime you see a minority on the screen”

    After awhile we were still sober and it was boring so we amended the definition of minority to include women who didn’t have blonde hair.

    • omg I was literally about to make this exact same comment about how you could play a drinking game for seeing minorities and you would end up sad and sober. GREAT MINDS yo.

  15. Thanks for writing this–it makes me feel just a little bit better about this election, and it gives me hope that things will come out okay. (Go Obama.) Every time I hear/listen about the RNC (or anything that makes Romney, Ryan and the GOP sound like they’re saints?) I kinda want to tear out my hair and throw my shoes at people and cry…but this actually made me laugh. Thanks for that.

  16. I’ve been marathoning the entirety of Pretty Little Liars in lieu of writing my dissertation for the past two weeks, and this just hit me last night as I was watching Aria Montgomery trying not to fall off a ladder due to the weight of her dictionary-sized earrings:

    Paul Ryan is like the Noel Kahn of the GOP.

    That smarmy ass.

  17. There are so many words in my head right now. But mainly this: Homosexuals do NOT let their loved ones vote republican!!! And this: Get out the vote 2012. Spread the word.

  18. Side note: Did anyone else notice that GOP fashion seems to be a disturbing throwback to the early 90’s?? (1989-1993 called and they want their hair, shoulder pads, and political ideology back, please cooperate…) I wonder if this is a metaphor for havng a desire to go back in time and undo all we have done in the name of human rights…

  19. rnc=racist national convention. i wish someone WOULD try and throw peanuts at me and call me an animal for have the temerity to be a black woman in public, doing my motherfucking JOB. whoever that was, had to know they were in a safe place to pull that shit and not face any real consequences ( like the ass kicking they so richly deserve). this is why my blood boils anyone tries to claim the repugnicant party is not racist and doesn’t use dog whistle racist political tactics and language to attract stupid ignorant racists to it’s agenda. so tired of these asswipes.

  20. I heard that some straight guy proposed to his straight girlfriend at the RNC. I’m sorry, but does that make anyone else want to kick things?

  21. While this was hilarious, and while I am a proud Democrat, I’ve appreciated the articles on this site that were less partisan – or partisan in the other direction. Next time, can you guys have a Republican recap the convention? This was funny, but I want a representation of what actually happened.

  22. Pingback: Gulf Coast Rising News | Cowboy Hats, Peanuts, and Regret: The 2012 Republican National Convention … – Autostraddle

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