The media are asking probing questions during the Republican Convention, once again demonstrating the intellectual sophistication of our nation’s elite press corps. Sure, the media have noted, white males are laudably absent among the speakers. But how many blacks are there among the delegates? How many women, Asians, Hispanics? Gays, disabled, AIDS victims? Homeless, poor single mothers, Rastafarians, and the underprivileged generally?
Other pressing questions: will Mary Cheney be forced to campaign from the closet or will she openly declare her "sexual orientation" against her mother’s claim that Mary has never announced that she is lesbian? You can only marvel at the sheer depth of these amazing lines of questioning. And can you stand it?: this is going to go on for another three months!
The coverage hasn’t been without the discovery of some scandal. It turns out that most of the delegates consist of the Republican party’s base: conservative white male Christians. So we must conclude that, on one hand, the Republican Party is making "great strides" towards being "inclusive" (read: Pat Buchanan is not speaking and there are no more calls for getting rid of affirmative action), though it has not gone far enough to appeal to the only people who count, which is everyone but rank-and-file Republican voters.
The organizers of the convention invited all this nonsense by Clintonizing the proceedings in a complete betrayal (one of a million to follow) of the donors and activists of the party itself. The delegates must be wondering: how did we get snookered into giving up a week of work and vacation to come hear all this Clintonian blather from the podium? After all, if you want a sermon about the poor and underprivileged and marginalized, you can always log on to the White House website. The delegates, like all Republicans this year, figure they will put up with it if only to satisfy their top priority: getting the Clintons out of the White House.
At the same time, I feel no sympathy for these delegates. After all, this nonsense is merely a repeat of 1996, when the press also congratulated the GOP for leaving hate behind and being more inclusive. The GOP went even further back then. They had an Official Victim as the presidential candidate who never shut up about his disability, and a vice president who was a full-time advocate for gutting anything in the platform that would appeal to the base.
That’s the ticket to success, they believed, since it was Pat Buchanan’s 1992 speech that elected Clinton (yes, they do believe that!). Of course, the GOP lost the 1996 election too. There were moments in the 1996 campaign when Clinton even ran to the Right of the Republicans on a whole range of issues, from tax cuts to crime control. The Dole-Kemp ticket was too stupid to recognize what was going on. They kept running to the Left, thinking that by avoiding attacks from the media they were going to waltz right into the White House.
It so happens that the organizers of this year’s convention are from the same stock as those who ran the 1996 convention: the aging, liberal, Northeastern WASP branch of the party that differs from the Democrats only on the basis of class and religion, not ideology. Their goal in putting together this parade of left-liberalism is not to be more "inclusive" but to avoid harsh criticism from their friends at the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
These are the people in charge of the party. And they hate grass-roots Republican activists as much as the media and the elites in the Democratic Party hate them. From their perspective, the activists and donors are there to pay, get out the vote, and otherwise do what they are told. This year, the grassroots are going along only to gain a victory in November. That’s also what they believed in 1996.
I’m not suggesting that the 2000 election will be a repeat of 1996. For one thing, Bush is not dumb enough to let this convention define his campaign. He knows that in one week, the convention will be a foggy and fading memory. For another, Al Gore is not smart enough to run to the Right. Even if he were, he is constitutionally incapable of saying anything sensible. Also he has to worry about his Left flank being tempted by the call of Nader.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the GOP sees no threat from the Right flank of the party? If the Republicans did lose in November, and I’m not advocating that, they would deserve their fate. But even that won’t teach them a lesson. They never learn.