JK and I gathered around our computer monitor last night to watch the streaming video of the Republican convention. Three things that struck me:
1. The way the crowd failed to clap for Abel Maldonado, a California state senator, son of a migrant worker, and one of the very few Latinos who've spoken at the convention so far. At the end of his six-minute talk, Maldonado raised a fist in the air and shouted into the microphone, "Que viva the immigrant story! Que viva immigrants like my father! Que viva John McCain!"
These obviously were meant to be applause lines, and in between each one, Maldonado paused for audience response. But the crowd sat there silently and looked to be squirming uncomfortably in their chairs. It wasn't until Maldonado, with his fist frozen in the air, finally ended with, "God Bless America," that the audience started clapping.
If you're going to the trouble of trotting out a handful of People Who Are Not White to prove that you aren't The Party Of Scared, Racist White People, at least go through the motions of pretending like you give a damn when they take the stage. Either the crowd was unhappy with so much praise for immigrants (this is the party that wanted to make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to bring their kids to the emergency room), or their English-Only brains were befuddled by all that Spanish talk.
Either way, they came off looking like the kind of people who like "diversity" as long as it doesn't move in next door or try to date their daughter.
2. The strange lampooning of community organizing. I was really glad to see the people at Daily Kos started talking about this almost before Sarah Palin left the stage. At least three speakers, including Palin, ridiculed community organizing and made it sound about as challenging as playing with a declawed kitten, apparently in an effort to paint Obama as the radical black man who worked with (gasp and shudder!) poor black people.
I've worked with community organizers in Texas, D.C., and Maine. It's not all games and street fairs. It's long hours and low pay and requires a deep commitment to actually making the world a slightly better, more equitable place. Unfortunately for Republicans, it often means talking with poor people about social issues and registering people of color to vote--two things the Republican Party probably would like to outlaw.
3. The bloodthirsty anger. When Rudy Giuliani whipped the crowd into a frenzy, chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!", I thought to myself, "These people could be convinced to kill their own mothers." There was so much anger in that room. Strange, desperate anger. Their guy's been in the White House for eight years. In that time, the country's been jerked even farther to the right. What do they have to be so angry about?
I wonder whether it's part of their strategy to appear so publicly nasty, or if it's just part of who they are.