I started to hear the strange noise in my head just before the official nomination roll call began at Tuesday night’s Republican National Convention. Before that can start, the candidate must be nominated and seconded, and the guy doing the seconding was some slimy little bantam rooster of a man in a polyester suit. “There’s something happening here,” he said, “and it is exactly clear!”
Whoa, wait, hang on. I thought to myself: Did this really just happen? Did that small fraction of a Republican politician just misquote Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” — probably the most important antiwar song ever written — in order to celebrate the presidential nomination of Donald Trump in front of an almost-comically pro-war crowd? That’s when the sound started. I listened, and realized I was screaming inside my own skull.
They did it. They actually fa-chrissakes did it. At 7:15 p.m. Eastern Time, the Republican Party placed Donald Trump one election away from becoming president of the United States. I grew up seeing him on the news four decades ago, and he was always a punchline: the hair, the ex-wives, the failed business deals. It never seemed to end, and then last night he appeared above the throng in Cleveland on a massive screen like Zeus to thank everyone for his nomination, and I still couldn’t believe it was real. Maybe I never will.
Night Two was a mess. Delays everywhere in the program, augmented by an incoherent rebellion from the Alaska delegation, and all in front of a half-empty stadium. The roll call was particularly agonizing: THE GREAT STATE OF WHEREVER, HOME TO FREEDOM AND THESE COOL CHESTNUTS THAT LOOK LIKE JESUS IF YOU SQUINT AT THEM JUST SO ON EASTER SUNDAY, DELIVERS THREE VOTES AND AN OLD SHOE WORN BY RICHARD NIXON TO DONALD TRUMP! It was like that most of the night.
This is not to say there weren’t some firecracker moments here and there. Chris Christie regained some of his swagger by running an impromptu “trial” of Hillary Clinton that had the mob screaming “Guilty!” the way porn stars scream “I’m coming!” Donald Trump, Jr. easily gave the best speech of the convention to date; he was like his dad if his dad figured out how to speak in complete sentences. Outside the convention hall, a man carrying an AR-15 walked through the restless crowd holding a sign that read, “Jesus Vapes.”
Oh, and when the final convention delegate vote tally was declared, Jeb Bush had a grand total of three. Three delegates for a year’s work and a hundred million dollars, not enough bodies to start a basketball team. This gave me a small fragment of joy.
The simple truth of the night — Donald Trump is the Republican nominee — is what stops my internal clock. It isn’t a surprise; it’s not as if Trump jumped out from behind a door like some orange ghost and yelled “Boo!” The ink was dry on this deal after he won New York, and he’s been leering like Poe’s raven over the process ever since. The rest was just noise and other candidates quitting. Still, the gulf between the thought and the reality is wide and deep and difficult to traverse with my faculties intact. Trump is the nominee, and he might actually win. Stone the crows.
The Pence Show is tonight, along with some more Trumplings taking the stage. Last night’s crowd was about as enthusiastic as old spaghetti, but maybe the VP nominee’s speech can light them up. Wait, what am I talking about? Mike Pence makes statues seem hyperactive by comparison. Maybe Chachi can sing “Limelight” with the cover band to spice things up. One can hope.
I’ll keep you posted.