For me, the tone was set for Republican National Convention even before it began, with the decision about the party’s platform. I was a McGovern delegate at the Democratic Convention in 1972. Though it was a long time ago, I can still recall the agonizing hours spent in meetings both before and during the convention over the wording in the platform as the Vietnam War dragged on.
Back then, the Democratic Party leadership was concerned that platform planks, if not carefully crafted, could have a powerful effect on voters. So this year, when I learned that the RNC decided that there would be no updated platform, and that they would use the same wording from 2016 other than to follow the directions of the unpredictable Donald Trump, I was appalled by the political laziness of the party and the power they had ceded to one individual.
So many pressing issues face this country—the global pandemic, a faltering economy, Russians messing with US troops in Afghanistan and elections here at home, racial tensions blown up by the shooting—in the back—of yet another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. With all these controversies underway NOW, Republicans do not think it even necessary to have a party platform to bring their case to the American people. Instead, they cede this opportunity to a capricious, divisive and unpredictable Donald Trump.
Allegedly because of the coronavirus, The Republican National Committee passed a resolution saying it would not adopt a new platform because “it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement” while also noting unanimous support for Trump’s agenda:
“RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda;
“RESOVLVED, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention;
“…and RESOLVED, That any motion to amend the 2016 Platform or to adopt a new platform, including any motion to suspend the procedures that will allow doing so, will be ruled out of order.”
So fearful was the RNC that some rogue group might attempt to sabotage their non-platform, that they ruled any attempt to change it a priori out of order!
So, before all the feel-good testimonials that surfaced throughout the four day fest; before the exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies that were laced into remarks from the podium; before constantly castigating Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Democrats, Black Lives Matter, socialists and left wing radicals as those who were out to destroy our country; before holding a finale on the crowded South Lawn of the White House (Hatch Act be damned) with no social distancing and almost no masks, I simply got stuck on the malpractice of a major party at this pivotal moment in American history that could not (or would not) develop its own platform. Rather—in a blatant sycophantic lauding of Donald Trump—the RNC basically declared, “Whatever you desire, fearless leader.”
Ah yes, “Fearless Leader.” That’s the image that lingered with me: Fearless Leader, the main antagonist in the 1959–1964 animated television series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. In the show, this dastardly character employs fellow villains–Russians Boris and Natasha—over and over again to thwart the noble intentions of the flying squirrel and his antlered friend. But in the end, he fails every time.
So, as I watched the four nights, I was haunted by the cartoonish image to whom everyone was paying homage. If the stakes weren’t so high, the whole episode would split my sides in laughter.