Cleveland, Day Four

Christian Lorentzen

America is a disastrous hellhole teeming with criminal non-citizens who steal jobs when they aren’t killing innocent young girls, but on 20 January 2017 it will transmogrify into a tranquil, terror and alien-free manufacturing dynamo, with assault rifles available to all, upon the inauguration of President Trump: that was the simple message delivered at great length on Thursday night. Trump confirmed that for all the cartoonish sideshows attending his campaign, he’s essentially a one-issue candidate, and that issue is immigration. ‘Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,’ he said, and you expected him to list every one. The crowd chanted ‘Build a wall!’ Ancillary issues were touched on — the murder of police, shabby schools, crumbling roads, taxes in need of cutting, even African-American youth unemployment and Latino poverty — but they all fed back somehow to an evil trinity of globalism, defined as mass immigration of criminals riding on the wings of terror and bad trade deals. ‘Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,’ he said, promising to repudiate something that all other national leaders of recent memory have treated as an inexorable and desirable force of history.

‘One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders,’ Trump said, briefly touching on someone other than Hillary Clinton and her legacy of ‘death, destruction and weakness’. He was talking about Sarah Root, a 21-year-old Nebraskan who died the day after she graduated from college. In Trump’s phrasing the ‘border-crosser’ who ‘ended the life of an innocent young girl’ might have been a cold-blooded killer and perhaps a rapist. In fact, a drunk driver from Honduras called Eswin Mejia crashed into Root’s car, went to jail, got out on bail and skipped town. Root’s parents, who support Trump, are pushing for a law that would prevent the undocumented from being released from custody when they’re charged with a crime that results in death or serious injury. It’s a sad story, disingenuously presented, but it’s a pure distillation of what got Trump to Cleveland.

Among the Republicans on hand there seem to be three responses to their nominee’s hyperbolic dystopia. First, there are the enthusiasts. I spent some time talking to Al Baldasaro, the New Hampshire state representative and veterans affairs adviser to Trump who made headlines when he told a radio interviewer that he thought Hillary Clinton was guilty of treason and that the punishment for that is death by firing squad. Baldasaro was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, served in the Marines for decades and in the late 1990s moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire to be with his wife, Judy. Baldasaro showed me pictures on his phone of Judy shooting an AR-15 assault rifle in the woods while wearing high heels. Most of my conversation with Al came down to his notion that liberals say what's in their hearts because the liberal media distorts things and you have to have a military mind and think with your head. He blames Clinton for the rise of Islamic State. He thinks the Iraq War was a mistake but that the Obama administration mishandled the exit in a way a Republican administration wouldn’t have. I pointed out that political executions were a hallmark of Soviet and Nazi regimes. ‘That's just how I feel,' he said. I said he had just said liberals were too enthralled by their feelings, and he moved on to his preference for firing squads over lethal injections, which are less humane than they are made to sound. He supports needle exchange programmes in New Hampshire to combat the heroin epidemic, for which he blames a lack of border control and Mexican drug dealers based in Massachusetts. ‘We need to build a wall,’ he said. ‘That’s why I’m for Trump.’ His ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’ hat was of the camouflage variety.

Others dismiss Trump’s demagoguery as an effective political tactic and little more. I spoke to a lawyer specialising in intellectual property who said that Trump had won the game and that was that. Ted Cruz, whom he’d known for a long time, was a sore loser and his withholding of a Trump endorsement was a typical attention grab. What matters is putting a GOP economic regime in place because Republicans are better than Democrats at encouraging innovation. His take sounded a lot like the message delivered by Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, who told the crowd, ‘Fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.’ Thiel also told the crowd that he was proud to be a gay Republican, an RNC first. It got him a healthy ovation but not at the volume of those you get for saying you’ll kill terrorists or deport Mexicans. I was disappointed that Thiel didn’t bring up his enthusiasm for space exploration or his opposition to the ideology that death is inevitable. Maybe it won’t be inevitable with another eight years of innovation under a Republican economic regime. What if all the Republicans in Cleveland lived for ever and colonised another planet?

The third response was despair and disbelief. In the afternoon, when Trump’s speech had already leaked, Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, whose adorable campaign to stop Trump has been going for months, bummed a cigarette off me. I told him I was heading to the Q after I'd read the speech. ‘I’ve read it,’ he said. ‘It’s like the plot of Batman.’


  • 22 July 2016 at 5:09pm
    IPFreely says:
    '(It) deals primarily with themes of ruthless pragmatism, manipulation, and power.' Wikipedia: 'House of Cards'
    I think that Trump has had his reality show transferred and scripted based on the series with Kevin Spacey as Trump with a suave haircut and Robin Wright as a more articulate Ms. T. No stone unturned as they say. So how will Trump's drama play out? And will there be a second series?

    • 22 July 2016 at 8:49pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ IPFreely
      Some of us hope fervently that the series will be cancelled after the pilot show. But we are unsure of our fellow Americans' taste when it comes to "reality programming".

  • 24 July 2016 at 3:01am
    FoolCount says:
    But US is a hell-hole where workers wages did not increase at all in the last 30 years or even more. If the regular people cannot do anything to improve their own lives they at least now have a way of making it slightly less peachy for the 1%. At the very least they will take even just scaring the shit out of their masters. The hysterical looks on those faces and panicked screams are totally worth it.

    • 24 July 2016 at 3:25pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ FoolCount
      Oh boy, more "symbolic politics"! Yeah, the wealthy and privileged are really running scared. Give me a break. FC obviously knows little of American politics or life. The real hysterical looks and idiotic screams were visible on the faces of the Trump true believers at the convention ("Oooh, we're going to have Guns, God, and Guts! - Woo-wee!"), who will be very disappointed if he is elected. One of the reasons that wages have been stagnant is the globalization of the economy resulting in the export of jobs, all viewed fondly by the neoliberals and neoconservatives of the two American parties (as Gore Vidal used to say, there's only one American party, the Property Party, and it has two wings known as Republicans and Democrats). Workers for Trump's enterprises also had stagnant wages and no job security - he has no actual interest in these people, but would love to ride on their backs into the White House as "The Greatest". The US, with all of its serious social and economic problems, is not actually a hell-hole (yet) - most of its citizens are carrying on their daily lives as usual. But. according to Donald, it's the scariest place in the world to be - what a load of crap, conveyed by a bloated, wealthy, ignorant buffoon.

    • 25 July 2016 at 12:37am
      FoolCount says: @ Timothy Rogers
      You are wrong here, Timmy. I know plenty of American politics and life. In fact, I spent ten years of my life in that hell-hole. Boy, was I ever happy to get out. Everyone who consumes US media even occasionally knows damn well who is really hysterical there. Maybe Trump is a liar and all his anti-globalisation rhetoric is a shameless put-on - the only way to find out for sure is to elect him. Even so, at least he is sufficiently attuned to the popular sentiment to engage in such rhetoric. His opponents don't even bother with that - they keep serenading the status quo as if everybody around them were blind and deaf. Americans are supposed to vote for Hillary why exactly?

    • 25 July 2016 at 2:05pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ FoolCount
      Having been born in the USA back in the glory days of WWII, “Timmy”, as FoolCount calls me, has lived in many different parts of the country for more than 70 years, including fifty of those working at a variety of jobs and several in the army. That brief but necessary biographical note is made to indicate that I consider myself more seasoned and capable than FC to render judgment on the nature of our society, which FC graced for 10 years before leaving the “hell-hole”. The one thing I can agree with is that “boy am I happy that I got out” of that hell-hole. I’m glad he left too, since it seems that he has nothing intelligent to add to the discussion of what political direction the country should move in to face its problems (and face up to the nature of its problems as well). His argument that you should vote for an entirely unqualified candidate for a powerful public office in order to see if his performance matches his rhetoric is one of the more zany, simple-minded ideas I’ve heard recently when talking to acquaintances who say they might (or plan to) vote for Trump.

      Trump waited 70 years himself before jumping on the “right-wing populist” bandwagon, which is in line with his lack of principles (as seen on many TV clips of Donald commenting on public affairs, he had a lot of admiring things to say about Hillary not too long age – he will probably “re-imagine” this part of his past for us, just as he has done about his whole life). Rather than spend time enumerating why people should vote for Hillary Clinton (in spite of her recognized flaws and past mistakes), there is one overwhelming reason that can’t be trumped – she is not Donald Trump, whose election would probably be disastrous for the country. Anyone who has actually studied the man’s career knows him to be capable of concentrating his attention on only one thing, his fabulous Greatness. The man’s a joke. Electing him would be like giving an automatic weapon to an unruly adolescent with an attention-deficit disorder. It’s not about immigration, globalization, the increasing division of wealth, or anything else – in his mind it’s all about Donny-boy.

    • 25 July 2016 at 7:51pm
      HBART says: @ Timothy Rogers
      I believe Vidal also said that the difference was that the Democrats believed in giving a little of it back to the people, while the Republicans wanted to keep it all.

    • 26 July 2016 at 5:20pm
      gary morgan says: @ FoolCount
      And your answer is to want to elect a billionaire demagogue who inherited it and has the political nous of a window?! Irresponsible is the least I'd call that, even idiocy is too kind.

    • 27 July 2016 at 4:41am
      Joe Morison says: @ gary morgan
      Unfair to windows! At least they give a truthful picture of the outside world.

    • 27 July 2016 at 2:13pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ Joe Morison
      This comment would be slightly (metaphorically) relevant if Trump actually knew something about the outside world, which, from his self-centered personal "window", includes the US. His actual "political" experience is with those various local eminences who have been involved in approving (through zoning and land-use boards) and/or promoting casinos, golf courses, and luxury residential high-rises. Hardly a vantage from which to get a truthful picture of the outside world.

    • 28 July 2016 at 4:32am
      Joe Morison says: @ Timothy Rogers
      But then, when it's dark (and, let's face it, the world does seem pretty dark at the moment) all you can see when you look out of a window is your own reflection - so perhaps there's something in it.

    • 28 July 2016 at 3:14pm
      Timothy Rogers says: @ Joe Morison
      Uh, ugh, er . . . if I understand this correctly, Narcissus, falling in love with his own reflection as a lowering storm gathers is . . . a solution? Exactly how and why? There is no "general darkness", merely the usual set of social and economic problems that have confronted individuals and societies for a very long time. Trump himself is one of those problems, and he has little or nothing to offer in terms of solving them. As far as right-wing populism, which does represent some legitimate grievances -- they are not all equally legitimate -- Trump, having jumped on this at the last minute, is riding along with a vague movement, and actually has neither abilities nor plans to address these grievances.

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