Please Advise: What Should I Expect From Next Week’s GOP Convention?

For the first time, maybe ever, spin-doctor Steve has no idea.

By Steve Burgess 14 Jul 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

The GOP convention runs from Monday to Thursday. What can we expect?


Dear Worried,

I have no idea. That statement is found nowhere in my promotional brochure and I ask you not to repeat it. But sometimes even a political spin-doctor must be frank. The Republican convention of 2016 promises to be a unique event in the annals of American politics. To make predictions about what Donald Trump, his supporters, and their opponents will do is like trying to pick a tornado-proof trailer park.

What an event it will be. The paparazzi will be swarming to catch a prized shot of guest speakers like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Ditka and, I don’t know, maybe Ted Nugent’s taxidermist. There will be laughter, there will be tears.

Well, tears for sure -- riot control cops don’t typically use laughing gas. Fox News reporter Brett Baier recently told Stephen Colbert that Fox reporters will carry gas masks. I’ve always advocated that precaution for Fox News viewers as well.

The climactic moment will no doubt come from the Orange One himself. Will Trump stick to the teleprompter? Or will he veer back into that pestilent swamp of narcissistic grievance and squirrelly conjecture he calls home?

That’s the interesting thing about Trump’s freelance style. His forays into hateful proposals and racial division have not been evidence of careless rambling. When he announces some evil new policy, that means he is on message.

No, when Trump rambles he usually morphs from race-baiting demagogue into bitchy, self-involved high school senior. He fumes, he feuds, he claims persecution (Trump on Black Lives Matter: “Well, I’ve been saying, even against me the system is rigged... I can really relate it very much to myself”), he launches into bizarre critiques like this one about the sweating of his rivals: “Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?”

I get a little misty reading that last quote. It was uttered back when Trump’s candidacy was still considered a joke -- or should I say, still considered unlikely to succeed. Oh how we laughed, once.

So the question is, will Trump heed the pleadings of his handlers (or at least his son-in-law) and stick to a script? Or will he feel the adoration of the crowd, an adoration that he so clearly shares, and decide that any self-involved drivel he spews will be received like the Sermon on the Mount? By the Statue of Lady Liberty I pray: let it be so.

Meanwhile, after what was the longest and most titillating tease ever performed by a 75-year-old man in a rumpled suit, Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. Once when I was in third grade Billy Scherzwanger twisted my ear until I said “Steve Burgess eats boogers and asks for seconds,” and I thought of that moment when I saw Sanders onstage. He looked like a Survivor contestant preparing to swallow a plate of live grubs. But he did it, bless him. Perhaps his endorsement will help Candidate Clinton. Perhaps the Bernie crowd will re-watch the tape and discern a Morse code message in his eye blinks: “She is threatening my family. Send help. The Revolution continues.”

Most prognosticators give Clinton a solid lead at present; a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll puts her a healthy 13 points ahead of Trump, 46-33. And yet other polls from Quinnipiac show Trump leading in the key battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania, and tied in Ohio.

Such tight horse races are typical of U.S. campaigns, so typical that you might almost forget that one of this year’s two candidates is essentially a humanoid version of Jabba the Hut. There has been plenty of sad evidence of American social dysfunction this month, but Trump’s continued viability still seems astonishing.

There will be plenty of protestors in Cleveland for the Republican confab, hence those gas masks emblazoned with the Fox News logo (which I believe shows CEO Roger Ailes in a Speedo). Ugly scenes could well develop.

The urge to protest is understandable, but Dr. Steve suggests discretion. Keep it peaceful. Anti-Trump shouting will not convince half so well as actually letting people hear the man speak.

Napoleon said “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Likewise, protestors should not give media any other circus to focus on. Stand back and leave the spotlight to Bozo.  [Tyee]

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