I Can’t Write About The Republican National Convention Anymore Because I Can’t Stomach Watching It

On Monday afternoon our senior editors were kicking around ideas about ways to cover this week’s Republican National Convention and I suggested I could recap it like it was a fictional TV show, the way I’d done with that Kentucky county court clerk, Kim Davis, who went to jail for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses and was released into the hungry arms of Mike Huckabee in front of every major news organization in America, to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” It’d be funny. We could laugh. I’d Photoshop some silly pictures and we wouldn’t take Donald Trump’s circus too seriously. But after spending two nights in front of the TV watching the Republican Party hold a political rally that would have fit right in at Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, I got sick. Not metaphorically. I got literally, physically ill.

I didn’t watch it last night. I couldn’t make myself do it.

The weirdest thing about the 2016 election is how many people didn’t see Donald Trump coming. For two decades, Fox News and conservative pundits have been engaging a zero-sum game with Republican voters by launching a full-scale propaganda initiative to other and demonize any person or group of people they felt threatened the power of the Republican party. They made heroes out of the white men who killed unarmed black teenagers, made victims out of the men who sexually assaulted women, invented wars on Christianity, painted all Muslims as terrorists and convinced millions of people that President Obama was “one of them,” blamed immigrants for economic woes, and derided scientists and mathematicians as dishonest pawns of an imaginary liberal media. Their use of classic propaganda techniques was deliberate and it was effective, particularly the ramped up fear-mongering they engaged in when America elected its first black president.

Over the last eight years, conservative pundits have amassed an army of viewers who are convinced they’re under constant attack and the very soul of their country is about to be ripped to shreds by people who are not like them. And that list of people is long. It’s anyone who’s not white, anyone who’s not straight, anyone who’s not a Christian. They are terrified and they are angry and they are operating in a reality that quite simply does not exist. There is no Santa Claus and there is no war on Christmas.

Donald Trump walked into that vortex and plainly said out loud the things Fox News has been dog-whistling — and Republican politicians have been capitalizing on — for decades. I’m not the first one to make this connection, of course, it’s been a hot topic for over a year, analyzed by outlets including Mother Jones, Media Matters, The Daily Beast and Salon.

This Republican National Convention is the final consequence of those actions. Speaker after speaker after speaker trotted out to incite the crowd with stories of Mexican immigrants raping their children, “radical Islamic terrorists” murdering their children, Black people launching a “war at home” against white people and especially police officers, gay people destroying families and the religious freedom promised by the first amendment, and of course the slaughter of millions of innocent babies through abortion every year. And behind all of it: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Him destroying America because he’s not an American. Her destroying America because she is an opportunistic, remorseless sociopath who should be, at bare minimum, jailed for the rest of her life.

The fullness of the rage and panic of the RNC finds its home in pure, white-hot hatred of Hillary Clinton, with each speaker seemingly measuring their oratorical success by how many times they can provoke the crowd to their feet with a chant of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Regardless of how anybody feels about Hillary Clinton’s record or fitness for this position, I have scarcely seen a more horrifying sight than the leaders of one of the two major political parties in the most powerful democracy in the world encouraging unhinged masses to scream for the imprisonment of their political rival.

So, yeah. Watching the Republican National Convention made me sick. Sick to see adult humans acting like an out-of-control mob, sick to see the party’s leaders goading them into doing so, sick to see the physical manifestation of the culmination of Fox News’ manipulative work, sick to see the bigotry and the hate personified. But also sick because a human brain can only fight back against a force that’s pumping perpetual fear into it for so long. Fox News works — speeches from the Republican National Convention work — because they’re not aiming for anyone’s logic center. In fact, they’re working very hard to bypass the evolved, rational, thinking brain. They are aiming their messages right for your fight-or-flight mechanism. Your way of life is in danger. You are in danger. Are you scared yet? Good, here’s who to blame for the terror in your heart.

The Republican National Convention hasn’t introduced a single Trump policy proposal, has barely even focused on their candidate at all. The Republican National Convention’s main goal has been to continue to terrorize their voters into submission with tales of imaginary monsters under the bed. It’s working. It’s been working for a long, long time.

As I was watching the RNC, and as I’m contemplating it now, I recognize that this was inevitable. Republican voters could only go so long internalizing the coded messages they were being fed until a cunning narcissist stepped in to fully exploit them. What I’d like to believe is that this is the end, that this convention is the final, fatal breath of this incarnation of the Republican party. That after they lose this presidential election in a landslide they will finally be forced to stop scapegoating women, gay and trans people, people of color, and non-Christians. That, for the first time in 30 years, they will seek their power through inclusion instead of demonization.

Judging by the comments on my day one and two recaps of the RNC, y’all also can’t force yourselves to watch or can’t force yourselves to laugh about it, but I still want this to be a safe place to talk about what’s going on, so here’s a quick roundup of links from other places about what went down last night and what it all means.

The New York Times covers the main events and what happened when Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump on stage.

New York Magazine features Andrew Sullivan’s liveblog of the night.

At Slate: The Message of the RNC Is Clear and Terrifying

+ Trump Adviser Calls For Hillary Clinton’s Execution at Think Progress

+ Ezra Klein, founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of Vox: Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1022 articles for us.

46 Comments

  1. I think the scariest thing about Donald Trump and the 2016 Republican National Convention is the the fact that they made me – even momentarily – agree with and feel respect for Ted Cruz. TED CRUZ! That really says it all. But listening to his speech last night, I couldn’t help but think that he might be the only member of the GOP who hasn’t sold his soul (not to mention his country) for the chance of a defeating Hillary Clinton. And when TED CRUZ is the voice of reason? That’s fucking terrifying.

    • Sadly, I think Cruz made the choice he did for his own 2020 chances, not out of integrity. He’s going to be the savior of the GOP, in his mind, after they lost their way with this nutjob he refused to endorse.

    • Oh, obviously that’s why he did it. But he’s still so far been the only major GOP politician to actually say “vote your conscience” while the GOP’s supposed leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, Marco Rubio, and even Jeb and Mitt just roll over and it happen.

      • I may be very, very wrong here, but I also feel like Ted Cruz actually believes in his policy positions, while Trump and co are more blatantly manipulating people because it works, and maybe because they enjoy a certain type of combativeness and hatred.

  2. I saw the last 15 minutes of it(was waiting for a show on NBC to watch), so I caught the tail end of Mike’s speech. I didn’t know whether I should laugh over how preposterous everything he said was, or to be scared for the fact people were cheering him. I just kept telling my parents he is the Governor who hates women, and my dad said he looks like it

    • I tweeted about #PeriodsForPence during his speech. ‘Pencey-poo’ is awful. The fact that he is the VP nomination scares me. This morning I turned on he radio and I accidentally heard Rush Limbaugh talking about testicles in a graphic and gratuitous way. I imagined a less patriarchal world in which the Periods for Pence women were on the radio talking about female genitalia instead. The bright side is that even Rush Limbaugh sounded totally confused about what it happening within the Republican party and was talking about testicle because he was insulting members of his own party. He actually was at a loss for words, which is the first time that Rushypoo couldn’t think of something to say. That was hilarious. Rush Limbaugh pausing and stumbling and trying to think of something to say might be the sound of the Republican party crumbling. Of course he went on to insult women and Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow because hatred for women (and people of color) seems to be the only thing that unites Republicans at the moment. This is a bizarre time to be alive.

      • Very much. One guy after the even on NBC said he had some insider info that the over/under how many times Trump and Pence will be standing next to/being near each other from now to November is 12 or under. NBC was confused about that(cause after Pence’s speech Trump came up to him and then quickly left), and called it a marriage of conveniences. It really is a bizarre time to be alive. Why can’t we go back to a time when VP and President were buddies, and criticizing each other’s kids.

  3. my mother got so frustrated last night, she said” they are only bashing clinton, they arent mentioning a thing about trump.”

    i replied that trump hasnt put forward a single policy for anything, even job creation his go to mantra, all his promised is to build wars and be mean. And dont forget, they didnt actually want trump! So they arent going to focus on him, that will only amount to a sentence, they have to bash and demonize clinton.

    it galls me that the biggest gripe they have against clinton is her dishonesty when they literally gave up fact checking Trump.

  4. I like your site, but I am sorry I feel unsafe here as a Republican. Is there like a republican version of your site? Or a really queer republican site that isn’t for gay men? – Dykey Republican.

    • Hi there. May I ask respectfully why you identify as a Republican? Were you raised that way? Does the current candidate speak to your values? And if so, what values are those? How do you feel about the fact the the official platform wishes to repeal marriage equality? Are you married? Just general questions that I would honestly and respectfully like to engage with you on, if you’re up for it?

      • I get what you mean, being republican leaning myself. TBH though, I don’t feel unsafe here, just in the minority. Yes, if you say you are republican you get a deluge of “why the heck are you republican because they hate gay people” questions, but typically it doesn’t go much beyond that from what I’ve seen.

        And it’s also true that the republican platform is pretty odious right now. As politically conservative as I am on many issue, I really am pretty ashamed of the party. Except for maybe Anne Dickerson (who blasted the party on their stance on LGBT families).

          • Sure:) Even though the Republican party has come to mean small minded people who pretty much want to shut down anyone that doesn’t agree with a limited set of values, originally, the difference between Republican and Democrat was the view on the roll of the federal government vs the roll of state governments.

            While I pretty much disagree with a lot of the current platform (ok, mostly all of it), and I can’t in good conscience vote for Trump, I still believe that the country is too big and the states are too diverse for one central government to efficiently work in the best interest of all of its people. I think about it like this… if Trump actually got elected, would the “values” that he is pushing at the federal level really reflect the beliefs of the majority of every single state? Basically more power to the states, to me at least, means that the federal government is held a bit more in check… just in case things get crazy over there. Plus I think that smaller programs are easier to run (state vs. federal) and are more efficient from a tax standpoint.

            That’s pretty much the only reason I lean Republican:)

          • Hi Howie, thanks for answering!

            The thing I worry about when the states have more discretion and the federal government has less influence, is what do we do about bigoted state laws like HB2 in North Carolina? What do we do about states like Texas who restrict abortion access and access to reproductive health services?

            Just for instance – and thank you for talking with me! :-)

        • Yeah, I share your confusion, Howie. I know my political views are in the minority here (not Republican, not by a long shot, but what would probably be described as libertarian), but I have lurked much longer than I have had an account and I do not recall ever having seen posters be outright abusive towards each other. Unsafe? What would that even mean on AS? Being challenged on your opinion by people who disagree with you is not being made “unsafe”. In fact, if it can be done respectfully by all parties involved, that’s the best way to learn and grow. By the power of academic discourse! Seriously, I’ll stop now, but you see where I’m going with this.

          I also suspect that there are plenty of queer women out there who are not Democrats or not even left-leaning, they’re just not as vocal/active/visible in certain circles. Many of my buds are libertarian-ish, or just centrist, especially if they didn’t grow up on the coasts, and nobody broke down their doors to revoke their card and welcome toaster.

          • That’s the thing about both state and federal rights, Queer Girl… it’s like a double edged sword… You are totally right about it swinging the other way where states enact discriminatory and even dangerous laws, but the same thing can happen at the federal level. The wrong president/supreme court justices could trample all over our rights.

            My way of thinking is that it is easier to move to a different state than a different country, but either way it is still possible to be stuck (for family or financial reasons) in a not good place.

            BTW, thank you for asking and being so respectful of my views:) I appreciate it. Maybe I am more like Kat – Libertarian more than republican, but tbh, I am a bit uneducated about the Libertarian party in general. I gotta fix that:P

    • I get the disconnect you must have to deal with, as queer spaces most often lean Democratic, simply because LGBT equality is not supported by the Republican Party platform. I’m curious, however, why this space doesn’t feel safe.

    • I’m going to guess there aren’t very many really queer Republican sites because of how the Republican party has been scapegoating gay people for several decades.

      The current Republican VP nominee tried to cut off AIDS research in Indiana and reroute the money to fund conversion therapy.

    • 1) echoing the questions as to why you feel unsafe, as no one is advocating for any sort of violence against republicans?

      2) interested in knowing if I can use RepubliDyke for my superhero name. if it’s already yours, we can share

    • right now right here in these times at this moment in human history with everything that’s been going on with police killings of unarmed black people and the mass shooting in Orlando and violence at peaceful Black Lives Matter protests and the murders of trans women of color and the men getting away with raping women every damn minute of every damn day and the violence Trump is advocating against undocumented people and muslims…

      you feel UNSAFE
      READING A QUEER INTERNET WEBSITE
      because you are a Republican
      and the writers who write for this site
      are not Republicans

      welp
      yep
      sure

    • Let me start off by saying that name-calling or bullying should not be tolerated here, and I Am sorry if you’ve been subject to it in the AS community. That’s wrong. I also believe we should have right to respectfully voice dissenting opinions on here.

      That said, don’t expect a lot of agreement or sympathy for some of those opinions on here. Understand that some of us here are genuinely terrified for the safety of our communities. Think you know what it means to feel unsafe? Try empathizing with how Muslim Americans feel right now. Or black people getting shot at by police. Or the trans children who will be driven to suicide by abusive “therapy.” Or the people working for the government who made the “mistake” of being appointed for Obama and may lose their jobs. Hell, I’m a US citizen, and even I’M concerned. Trump attacked the credibility of a US-born judge for daring to be of Mexican descent.

      So, pardon me if I find your claim of feeling “unsafe” a bit hard to believe.

    • I have yet to find a lesbian website that does not lean far left. However, there are plenty of more right-based/libertarian websites that do not focus on social political issues. To me, these are the issues (abortion, which bathrooms to use and whether or not someone will bake a cake for my wedding) that politicians love to use to divide the American people against each other and distract from the real issues – jobs, economy, globalism, security. I love breitbart and the drudgereport. I have a feeling there are some lady-loving conservatives pundits out there; we just don’t know who they are yet. Agree there are more visible gay conservative men sites out there. The Gateway Pundit just came out as gay–I am not a reader of his site. However, Peter Thiel gave a great speech last night and lefties–you can’t deny that the reaction wasn’t supportive. Slightly off topic–if you didn’t catch Ivanka’s speech, you really missed a smart, well-spoken women speaking genuinely about her father. Ivanka = my new crush

  5. Heather, thanks for withstanding so much insanity; I know what you mean re:making you feel ill and needing to turn it off. I really love your graphics,tho! They made me laugh at least. Also, the link to the “Think Progress” article is not working, js.

  6. To be president you have to a measure of humility. Humility for then entire process. The quest to become President isn’t one of ego but of inner strength and character. Character to lead the way you feel is necessary. Donald Trump lacks all sense of humility. He is treating this just like his tv show. The republican party didn’t have someone with enough talent as a politician to take on Hillary. Let’s face it, it was always going to be Hillary and the Republican voters thought someone with enough brash arrogance can take on the same sense of a person in their mind. But make no bones, they truly needed a leader. Not a celebrity. And they have been conned into thinking a celebrity can lead them. Ask yourself, would Kim Kardashian make a good president, or Maybe Kanye West. No, if Donald had tried to become Mayor of NYC then he has a legitimate shot. Why, cause he is starting at the bottom. The President is the biggest opportunity and you better be ready for what comes next. You have to have leadership to take all who oppose you and work with everyone all at the same time. Its a thankless job, Its a humbling job. A job Trump isn’t ready for.

  7. I’ve always been deeply committed to the idea of “never again”, to speaking out against widespread violence perpetrated by the state against its people…this RNC is making me more concerned than ever I’m going to have to bleed for this ideal right here at home.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!