Fever Dreams as Cleveland Steams: RNC Night Three, Featuring Pence

Three days down, one to go. It’s starting to get fun, and I’m not just saying that to keep myself from biting my tongue off and shoving it in my eye to make it all stop. Oh no no no. It’s a party up in here, a festival of the possible … if you define “possible” as how lowbrow spit-shine hold-it-together-with-bungee-cords this thing can possibly get. Half the stadium went dark last night in the middle of the show, and the big board video monitor looming above the crowd like a giant metal shark fin started blinking and fluttering and flashing before crapping out entirely. Bring in the Grateful Dead to play “Wave That Flag,” right? They had the light show set when the board went south. Hell with it. Let the million flowers bloom.

We have a guy up here in New Hampshire named Al Baldasaro, a fire-breathing pig of a state rep. known in many townships for his John Birch political views and his Free Stater friends. He has gathered around himself a coterie of like-minded goons, the kind of sad but scary silly people who come to Town Meeting each week with a Glock 9 on their hip because freedom. Mr. Baldasaro is also an advisor to Donald Trump on veterans issues. He told the press on Wednesday that Hillary Clinton “should be put in the firing line” and summarily executed for treason. He’s a Trump delegate. The Secret Service will be paying him a visit if they can get past all the room service trays piled up outside his hotel room door.

Laura Ingraham — the competent Coulter – threw a flat-out Nazi salute at the crowd upon concluding her remarks, and they went wild with joy, waving “Lock Her Up” signs and screaming the c-word until their throats split. Not long after, Marco Rubio appeared in a video that could have been titled, “Why, No, I Have No Integrity.” The man Trump belittled mercilessly throughout the campaign, the man who attacked Trump at every turn to no avail, dropped to his knees in that video and tied Trump’s shoelaces with his teeth. It was a sight to see.

Ted Cruz did not disappoint. He delivered a masterfully delirious speech filled with graphic fiction before turning on his host and refusing to endorse him. Now, it’s hard to tell the difference between a crowd yelling “Cruuuuuuz!” and a crowd yelling “Booooooo!” I’m pretty sure the boo-birds won the exchange. The funny part came when Donald Trump walked in just as the booing reached its crescendo. He must have wondered for a moment if he was in the wrong building.

Mike Pence, Trump’s newly minted VP pick, gave a fine speech. He managed to avoid telling women how much he hates them and wishes they would just go away already, but that will come in time. These two are going to make a dynamic pair as this campaign unspools itself to November.

Pence is terrifying in that he has the ability to come off as a mainstream and even reasonable politician. He is at ease with a dog whistle. In his speech, he didn’t say, “I want to deny women bodily autonomy,” but he did talk about the “sanctity of life.” He didn’t spout explicit homophobia, but he did emphasize he is a “Christian first” (and we all know what his brand of Christianity looks like). He didn’t blatantly announce his anti-Black racism, but he made sure to note that he will always stand with “the thin blue line.” Make no mistake: Pence is a danger.

The RNC is no longer a major national political convention. It is another Donald Trump reality TV show writ large, and is a dark metaphor for what a Trump presidency would do to this country. Trump is on tonight, and like reality TV, anything is possible.

Stay tuned.

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