"My mommy said not to put beans in my ears, beans in my ears, beans in my ears."
- Len Chandler
But last night, I was rummaging through the cupboard looking for a bag of beans. All I could find were pinto beans. Too big. Where are those damn navy beans?
"What are you doing?" inquired my loving wife.
"Looking for navy beans," I replied.
Perhaps it's that growing, unstated empathy developing between us but somehow she understood. It wasn't about food. She grabbed the remote, hit 'mute' and said, "Is that better?"
It says a lot about the tenor of the first hour of the first evening of the Republican National Convention that listening to that hate-filled, ironic, idiotic, paranoid, fantasy-world rhetoric would somehow kill the brain cells necessary for me to realize the mute button would work both faster and better than putting beans in my ears to drown out the barrage of bullshit to which I was voluntarily subjecting myself.
Another five minutes and I would have been looking for a sharp stick to either poke my eyes out or shove up my nose for a DIY lobotomy.
The only moments of admittedly minor levity in the evening's hatefest came when speaker after speaker unselfconsciously, and with no sense of irony whatsoever, referred — repeatedly — to "our great country" while, often within the same sentence, parroting The Donald's campaign rallying cry, "Make America Great Again."
Ya can't have it both ways, folks. Which, of course, just reinforced my belief that the whole thing was a misspelling and what the orange-haired clown meant was, "Make America Grate Again." Congratulations; you have. America hasn't been this grating since the early years after the Second World War when it was just learning to flex its fledgling hegemonic muscles. While the culture of the Ugly American never entirely vanished, pre-presidential politics as practised by the presumptive candidate have revived it and elevated it to heights — depths? — unimagined.
The last time the Republican Party, or any major U.S. political party nominated a candidate so lacking in experience, so ill-prepared by either training or temperament, so thin-skinned and mean-tempered was... never. Even Barry Goldwater — "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." — seemed like a flaming liberal and a Mensa member compared to the despicable human who was nominated as the party's candidate Tuesday night.
It all seemed like such a joke a little over a year ago when Trump announced he was running for president. After the drubbings the Republican Party suffered in 2008 and 2012, there was much anguish and soul searching, talk of opening up the tent and finding a way to embrace minority voters, especially Latino voters. Somehow, few observers imagined the way to do that was to insult Mexican immigrants, call them rapists and criminals and promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico... even without the legerdemain of making Mexico pay for it!
It still seemed like a joke late last year when the party's braintrust, such as it is, threw their support behind, well, anyone but Trump. The joke grew successively less funny as, one by one, the 'serious' contenders dropped out, bruised and damaged by Trump's schoolyard bullying.
At this point, the joke's on whatever's left of the Republican Party. Their ornery, obstinate child has become a putative adult and will be leading them to what many imagine will be their Armageddon. Too bad. For the past eight years, theirs is the party that has vowed to take down the government because their candidates didn't win the presidency and a Democrat — a black Democrat at that — did. It's the party that spawned St. Reagan and his culture wars, his greed-is-good philosophy and his beggar-thy-neighbour policy towards everyone who wasn't conservative and upper middle class. It's the party of Bush the Second and his unfunded, misadventure of a war in the Middle East that sowed the seeds for hell that's followed, a hell Trump's supporters think can be made to go away by mindlessly chanting, "Make America Safe Again."
And so we have a morally bankrupt, misogynistic, xenophobic, intolerant swindler heading the ticket. Filling the No. 2 spot is a bible-thumping, born-again, Christian jihadist who has openly waged war on abortion, gay rights, climate change and tolerance itself in his own state.
While the response of what's been called the Republican old guard has been to simply not attend this week's hatefest and/or keep their chequebooks closed, the party's platform has, in the words of the editorial board of the New York Times, morphed from a big-tent party to one building big walls, embracing "... a destructive platform out of touch with American lives and devoid of the common sense the nation needs for any form of political progress."
Excuse me, but common sense left the country years ago.
Sadly, frighteningly, Trump could win. While it's nice to think that's a long shot, it seems such thinking is more an exercise in denial than reality. The same 'screw you' attitude that surprised the world when the British voted to leave the EU is the common ground of Trump's supporters. It's too simplistic to believe they're all simply ignorant rednecks. They're not. They're people who have been on the losing end of globalization, which is to say much of the 99 per cent. They're people who can't understand why their government would bail out the very banks who, in turn, wouldn't work with them to not foreclose on their homes. They can't understand how they can hump their butts all week long for a company owned by billionaires and still earn so little themselves they qualify for food stamps. They want to make their dreams great again and they hope — believe may be too strong a word — Trump can do that for them.
Of course they're delusional. But if rationality and thoughtfulness were key components of politics, a country of nearly 320 million people would be able to conjure up better candidates than the two who'll be presented as choices this November. And that's Trump's ace in the hole: Hillary Clinton is unloved and unlovable even by many who will dutifully vote for her in the autumn. If there's any single reason we might be forced to vomit the words President Trump next year, it'll be the lacklustre choice between two seriously flawed, power-hungry people.
Make America great again? Hell, either one of them would be exceeding expectations to simply slow down the decline.