The House Band, Led by G.E. Smith
For some reason, the RNC likes to hire a band to perform during the lulls in the program between speakers. This year’s house band was led by G.E. Smith, the former guitarist for yacht-rock band Hall & Oates and the musical director of Saturday Night Live from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s. The RNC house band would be a competent wedding reception band, provided that you had undergone extensive internal lubrication, and it pretty much stuck to standard Tuesday night lounge-act material played with the élan of aging frat boys.
For reasons that I will never understand, one of the songs the band decided to play was David Bowie’s “Station to Station.” This is the title song from the album that came out during the peak of Bowie’s “drug-addled provocateur” phase, where he flirted with fascism and collected Nazi memorabilia. Given the not-so-vaguely fascist overtones of Monday’s evening sessions, it’s hard to tell whether the song was played ironically, unironically, or obliviously.
Either way, we were treated to the sight of convention delegates who had been rocking along to “My Sharona” suddenly get blindsided with a song containing the lyrics “It's not the side effects of the cocaine / I'm thinking that it must be love / It's too late to be grateful.” God sometimes sends us little blessings.
Donald Trump's Entrance
Is this a winner? Is it a loser? Are we winners or losers for witnessing it? Is this the only thing we will remember about this entire convention? There are no answers yet. It should be observed that Queen's “We Are the Champions” was blaring from the convention hall speakers during his entrance, which wasn't even followed by a speech. Trump was merely there to introduce his wife, Melania. The introduction he gave was shorter than his entrance.
Her speech may have been somewhat clichéd and filled with platitudes, she may have said that Trump was never going to give us up without pointing at the band and having her speech segue into a Rick Astley cover, and we definitely didn't learn anything new about Trump from it, but Melania had the only positive, non–finger pointing remarks during the entire evening. It was a nice palate cleanser, and gave the crowd something to feel good about...
...Namely some of the sunshiny sentiments — or, rather, entire sentences — used by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention. Maybe the parties can agree on some things.
During a normal party convention, approving the rules under which the convention will run is a perfunctory and pro forma affair. But during this RNC, it was the site of the last stand of the #NeverTrump forces, those Republicans who promised to fight the nomination of Donald Trump. There are lots of weeds to get into, but the first salvo was to force a roll-call vote after contesting the standard “say aye/say nay” voice vote.
This is what happened when they called for a voice vote.
That’s right: chaos. The party leadership dealt with this by ignoring the cries for a roll-call vote and emptying the stage. While the stage was empty, the RNC sent, uh, “operatives” onto the convention floor to “convince” delegates who had signed the petitions to, uh, “unsign” them. Then they informed the convention crowd that unspecified delegates in three unspecified states had changed their mind and the motion for a roll-call vote had thus failed. And then they simply moved on with the rest of the convention! There is a technical term for these sorts of shady procedural shenanigans: ratfucking.
Metaphors That Fall from the Sky
Donald Trump's motorcade was involved in a traffic accident as it rolled to the first day of convention. Trump himself was uninjured. Sometimes life just gifts you a metaphor so pure and so right that you're almost loath to touch it or explain it, like an uncut diamond. This is one of those times.
The Haters and Losers
Now that Trump's coronation is here, people are coming out of the woodwork — or, rather, the shiny gold facade spackled on every single Trump property — to confess their sins, namely their contributions that helped lead to this moment. Former Spy magazine editor Kurt Andersen told BuzzFeed, “I think on Judgment Day, depending on what happens, we will bear some responsibility at Heaven’s gate for what we’ve done.” In The New Yorker, the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal said that he feels “a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”
At least they can take comfort in the fact that they weren't alone. The haters and the losers are multitudinous and gained power in their anonymous cumulative hating and losing.
But now Trump has the power (although few of the speakers on Monday night thought it necessary to mention him very much). And now he can crush the haters and losers in very petty ways!
Like with seating arrangements, for example. Host states typically get front-row seating; Ohio didn’t. Ohio also happened to be the primary state won by John Kasich, its governor, who has no plans to show up to the convention being held in his state. Instead, states like New York and California — which all turned out big for Trump — got the best views for the nominee’s very dramatic entrance. These also happen to be states that will never vote for Trump in November, but Trump isn’t one to take the long view on hating and losing. Sad!
Trump’s Unrealized Dream Convention
On the first day of the convention, Donald Trump changes his mind about his vice-presidential pick and chooses a replacement in an Apprentice-style prime-time event. Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich are told to build a wall out of materials that can be purchased in ’90s-era SkyMall catalogues left over from the Trump Shuttle. Christie wins after distracting Gingrich with a stuffed rocking elephant, which the former House Speaker Instagrams three times during the contest. Don King, the boxing promoter once charged with killing two people, acts as the announcer for the vice-presidential showdown. Later in the week, he is scheduled to be one of the people tasked with giving a character reference for the nominee.
All speeches scheduled for opening night are canceled.
Since no living presidents agreed to speak at the convention, Trump hires dozens of impersonators to give speeches in character. Twenty of the presidential impersonators are dressed up like Ronald Reagan, and all are tasked with saying that Trump's campaign is just unbelievable. On Wednesday night, Tom Brady throws a spike-covered football into the air to set off the balloon drop. Everyone runs out of the way to avoid being hit by the spike-covered football as it returns to earth. The balloons, which in a novel twist are gold instead of red, white, and blue, begin to fall, as 100 drones take off and slam into said balloons, making them burst and release millions of gold sequins.
Donald Trump gives an introduction speech for himself, which lasts 45 minutes, both because it is centerless and because he keeps having to pause to spit out gold sequins.
The room bursts into applause. Everyone loves Trump.
Make America Safe Again
Every day of the Republican convention has a different theme, rendered in a phrase snappy enough that it can fit on a red trucker hat. The first night was themed “Make America Safe Again.” There was a Benghazi section, in which a mother whose son died in Libya declared that Hillary should “be in stripes.” Senator Tom Cotton, an Iraq War veteran, recited his bio to make sure that voters remember him four years from now. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, proud promoter of stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policies, talked about the police, promising that Trump would do for America what Giuliani did for NYC — a pledge that probably sounded more like a threat to black Americans familiar with Giuliani's tenure. Senator Joni Ernst, a veteran, was there, although she wasn't allowed to speak until the very end of the night. Scott Baio said stuff?
Together, the speeches made an argument that Hillary Clinton — more than ISIS or crime or immigration or police shootings — is the enemy that America needs saving from, used the raw grief of parents and fear to paint a picture of a terrifying world, and presented Trump as the only person to save us from it.
The villains were drawn vividly, making it clear who the Republican Party is against — them. What the GOP would do to insure safety after defeating said foes at the ballot box was less clear.