Several weeks ago, before I went to New Orleans, I went to Orlando. It was a crazy busy trip, and I was forced to give up my steady diet of CNN. It just so happened that on the last night I was in Orlando, the Season 5 finale of Game of Thrones aired, and I found it so mesmerizing I decided to go back and rewatch GOT from the start. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a complicated show with a huge cast of characters and a lot of political maneuverings (as well as a lot of gore and plenty of sex and a few supernatural elements). It bears rewatching, just to make sure you catch all the threads.
So, for the next couple of weeks, during my free time I rewatched GOT from the start, further removing me from the day to day grind of the presidential campaign. I discovered I felt… happy. Not the frantic disbelief I had been feeling as I watched the train wreck slowly play out in front of me for months. Battles with armies of the undead and attacking dragons were far more relaxing than the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
But, well, you can only watch Game of Thrones reruns for so long, and I usually make it my business to watch both parties’ conventions, so last night I broke my fast. Sweet baby Jesus, how I wish I hadn’t.
Last night, the Republican convention started. I can’t say I ever enjoy it, but I pride myself on understanding the intellectual underpinnings for other people’s opinions. Hearing true conservatives speak about their philosophy of smaller government, in particular, I find I can sometimes find some common ground. Plus, I just enjoy hearing intelligent people speak, sometimes even more so when I disagree with them. It challenges me to refine my own thinking and gather more information about my own positions.
But that’s not what happened last night. First, a bearded guy who looked so shady he would definitely get pulled over by any self-respecting cop in any jurisdiction kicked things off. (You’re at a serious event, dude. Take the bandanna off your head). Turns out he’s on some reality show I’ve never heard of, something about duck hunting, and a little casual Googling revealed that he has some pretty unsavory things to say. Okay. Then came Scott Baio. In case you were born after 1975, Scott Baio is a guy who was once on a very popular T.V. show which ran in the 1970s and a spin-off that ran in the early 1980s. I’m not sure what he’s done since then (I think there was some reality T.V. in there somewhere) and I’m not sure what substantive insights he has to offer on policy. Well, actually, I am sure, because I heard him speak and the answer is: none. He did say one pretty offensive thing, “Make America America again,” which was right in keeping with the Trumpian dog whistle of wishing we could go back to when white men ruled unpestered by people of color and women. I wondered if, as an Italian American, he had any knowledge of how his own people were treated when they first arrived in this country.
Perhaps the most telling (and depressing) episode of the evening came when CNN grabbed him for a post-speech interview on the convention floor. The interviewer asked him how he had come to speak at the convention. The story went like this: he had gone to see Trump speak in L.A. last Thursday, and, after the speech, Trump spotted him in the crowd and went up to him. On the spot, Trump asked Baio if he’d like to speak at the convention. Baio, clearly baffled but also a little fame-whory (and, apparently, also a true believer) said yes. Last Thursday.
Now, I’m no expert on the planning of political conventions, but they seem to require quite a bit of prep. And I’m not suggesting no one has ever gotten a last-minute invitation to speak at one. But both the motley cast of characters (D-list celebrities more appropriate for a season of “Celebrity” Apprentice than a major party’s convention) and the breezy lack of preparation (as evidenced by the total amateur move of letting Trump’s wife deliver lines lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech) suggest some troubling things about a potential Trump administration. Gone would be the deliberation of an Obama Administration, or even the iron-clad adherence to message of a Bush Administration, making way for the free-wheeling, “we’ll make it up as we go along” Trump way. That may work in business (although four bankruptcies would seem to indicate that no, not always), but it’s a terrifying prospect in the running of the most complicated economy and biggest military on Earth.
Back to dragons burning people alive. It’s less terrifying than this.