By: Benjamin Anthony
My visit to the Republican National Convention was rather hastily planned, I had missed the deadline to apply for a special press pass and my local newspapers refused to grant me any sort of credibility, leaving me on the outside of the arena with all the protesters. Even the cartoonists who were protesting wanted nothing to do with me, saying I was an unprofessional hack who needed to work on his anatomy before I’d be able to join their ranks. Rather than give in, I made up my mind to press on and cover the event on my own. I had a reserved ticket for a gathering of Republicans at the Hard Rock Cafe and hoped to catch Roger Stone at a rally outside the convention as well, I figured that there would be so much chaos surrounding the convention that this would be enough to cover. The night before the the convention I watched the news of another attack on police in Baton Rouge that left three officers dead and then watched in puzzlement and horror as President Obama said that “we need to temper our words and open our hearts” in response to these homegrown terrorists. This of course would make a great cartoon caption.
With these attacks happening more and more frequently I had expected Obama to up his game a bit, come out a bit stronger but instead he continually plays right into the hands of Trump and the Republicans claims about him. This continually makes me wonder if he has just gotten tired of the role of Commander In Chief or is he really this inept as to give the other side all this ammunition against him? Donald Trump eats this stuff up and hints that maybe Obama is not what he seems, bringing up his original accusations that he was not even born in America and therefore not qualified to be President. Whether or not you agree or question Obama’s birthplace it is troubling that he seems to make such disastrous statements.
The next day I took off down the interstate towards Cleveland, as I got closer the digital road signs had alerts to call the FBI if you see anything suspicious and I fully expected to be pulled over and subjected to a full vehicle and body cavity search, but instead the traffic was light and there were no searches. I found my exit and a parking spot with ease, at this point I still thought maybe the protests are so massive that all available security is busy trying to stop an open revolt from anarchists, democrats and maybe illegal immigrants who swam across the lake intent on shutting down the Republican Convention. Instead…
If you look closely you can see a handful of protesters amid a long line of mounted police. This was the extent of protest that I saw, they shouted for a couple minutes and then were gone. In fact after the convention was over the grand total of arrests made was…twenty four. Granted there were nearly three thousand police that came in from around the country, but still as far as protests go it was a very quiet and uneventful four days, nothing like the mass chaos and burned out ruins that the media had predicted.
Sadly due to my own inability to leave the house in a timely manner I missed Roger Stone’s speech and only saw him as he was leaving in a crowd of reporters and boom mikes. However I did manage to meet Milo Yiannopoulos, the self proclaimed “most dangerous faggot” who was speaking about the dangers of Islamic terrorism and the oppression he faces because of his sexuality and support for Donald Trump. After getting a selfie with him I was stopped by a young lady who wanted to interview me about why I was there and my thoughts about Milo and Trump and the whole event. We talked for a while and she kept telling me about a party the next night put on by Milo. Sadly it was just before this party the next night that twitter would officially ban Milo from the platform, forever this time they said. He had posted a mean review of the just released Ghostbusters movie and got into an online spat with one of the actors in it. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of twitter and square, made the call to ban him, perhaps mistakenly thinking this would turn around share prices of the failing company stocks.
Really let me take a moment to say how bizarre the prices are for twitter, two years ago a share was worth around fifty U.S. dollars. Today despite inking deals to stream the NFL, MLB and the NHL over the platform it’s stock has sunk to around fifteen dollars a share. Square, the other company Jack is CEO of, is staying around the ten dollar a share mark after it’s initial public offering last November. Many voices have been calling for him to do something productive for the stocks and bizarrely all the live streaming deals have had no positive affect. Which makes me think that perhaps the banning of Milo was financially motivated, stir up some controversy and hope investors ignore the falling revenue growth. Maybe the fall football schedule will turn this around and in turn go a little lighter with the censorship coming out of the house of tweets and give us few hashtags like #FreeMilo
Anyways, I made my way to the protest area in downtown, still a few blocks from the gated off arena where all the delegates and politicians and mainstream newspeople would be performing the official duties of the convention. The number of police was overwhelming, everywhere I looked there were groups of ten and twenty officers milling about, some smiling, some looking concerned, all of them sweating. And despite my initial worries, they all were polite and non-threatening. I had expected to be greeted with clouds of pepper spray and rubber bullets, even brought safety glass and a kerchief to cover my nose and mouth, but the only time I needed the kerchief was when the sweat on my forehead started to blind me. No tear gas, no pepper spray, no complaints on the police brutality front.
The next couple of hours I wandered among the streets, Jesus freaks were holding up signs proclaiming the end is near and had loud speakers that were saying it as well. I found a Civil War monument that I never knew existed, which contained life sized sculptures of Lincoln and even had some artifacts he had signed or possessed at some point. MSNBC had a portable broadcasting stage set up on a side street and was reporting live, I watched as pro-Trump supporters vied to get into the background with a sign reading “Socialism Sucks!” Some guy was trying to sell condoms with funny slogans for the various candidates, but at five dollars apiece and of definitely questionable origin I had to pass on buying any of them.
By now it was getting close to the time when the event at the Hard Rock Cafe was going to begin, and I was needing a drink as the heat was overwhelming. The event was put on by the Christian Coalition of America and was touted as being about clean energy or energy independence or something, free food and drinks were listed on the tickets and I have read my bible numerous times so I figured I could easily blend in if anyone questioned my presence. Once again though, nothing out of the ordinary happened, one of the Congressmen from Ohio relayed the story of Daniel in lion’s den and how that compared to….I could not actually follow what his metaphor was. Nor did I hear any speeches about clean energy, but I did get two free drink tokens and exchanged them for bottles of Corona. The food was nice, a buffet with nachos, pizza, chicken fingers and eggs rolls. Every one of these Republican events I end up at that involves food always seems to include chicken fingers. This makes me wonder if Democrat events would also include chicken fingers, or if they would have some other unifying culinary morsel for their supporters?
I tried to ask some questions of the Congressman who was there, and to his credit he talked with me, though he had to admit not being familiar with Gonzo Today. My phone was almost dead at this point, and it was getting closer to sunset, with no desire to roam the now deserted streets, I found my way back to the car, still intact, no smashed windows or stolen tires, though in tossing my briefcase into the backseat I pulled a muscle in my back and had to do some stretches before I could take off.
As I drove away I couldn’t help but remember the words of Dr. Thompson “What were we doing here? What was the meaning of this trip?” In fact they had repeatedly come up in my mind throughout the day as I wandered through the streets. I wouldn’t be able to come back for the rest of the convention, still I had witnessed the start of it, but how would it end? Some violent protest when Donald Trump finally made his way to the stage? I doubted it, there simply was no strong opposition to him to be found, just the same recycled jokes and taunts that are plastered onto t-shirts and buttons every election cycle.
The three remaining days I watched on television and there at the end when Trump finally made his WWE style entrance, and accepted the nomination, there was no great earthquake, Satan didn’t poke his head up from hell to give him a high five, nor did the heavens part to allow an angelic chorus to serenade The Donald as some of his supporters seem to feel would have been only appropriate. No at the end we are left waiting for November, waiting to see how this all plays out waiting to see who will be the next President of these United States of America and who will be left outside weeping and gnashing their teeth.