CLEVELAND – If it were a typical Republican convention, the convention speaker might attack Hillary Clinton’s position on immigration, her record on health care, her plan to grow the economy.
In 2016, the GOP is accepting a new refrain to beat their opponent: “Lock Her Up.”
As the Republican Party struggles to heal itself after a divisive, year-long primary that culminated in the nomination of Donald Trump, Republicans are finding it easier to rail against Clinton than rally around their own nominee.
“I think it just creates a sense of camaraderie that people are on the same page. I don’t think anybody really expects that to happen,” Ben Carson told TPM.
Since the convention began on Monday, Clinton behind bars has emerged as a potent slogan. On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) egged the audience on as they chanted from the convention floor to “lock her up.” T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers lining the sidewalks pronounce that jail is where Clinton belongs. On Wednesday night, Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi joined in the fun from the stage when the chanting once again erupted among the delegates.
“I love that,” she remarked during her nationally televised speech.
But some elected officials are concerned that taking the party down a road where they have their opponent locked up is out of bounds, in bad taste and unnecessary,
.@HillaryClinton now belongs in prison? C’mon. We can make the case that she shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 20, 2016
It might be catchy, yet other Republican lawmakers aren’t entirely willing to take the chants to their logical conclusion.
“I have concerns that she didn’t tell the truth repeatedly. She didn’t tell the truth on Benghazi. I saw it first hand. … I don’t think she told the truth about her emails nor was she judicious about them and so look she’s gonna have to answer to the American people. There’s an election,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Pressed further if he thought Clinton should go to jail, “She hasn’t been indicted has she? In America you have a chance to make your case,” Walden said.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) told TPM that conventions are ripe for impassioned speech but that a positive message might be a better way to go.
“People talk very aggressively at conventions. You’ll listen to the Democratic convention and you’ll hear some pretty strong things. I think the best thing for us to do is to put our best case forward of why positively to elect the Trump-Pence ticket,” Brownback said “I just always think you’re best off arguing on major policy issues as the best thing to do.”
Some elected officials weren’t all that interested in answering the question at all.
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) thought about answering the question of whether the “lock her up” chant was appropriate when his spokesman quickly rushed him away.
“So,” Scott began, before an aide rushed to his side.
“Hi, we’re walking somewhere what’s your name … yeah we’re heading somewhere. Sorry,” his aide said.
Many rank-and-file delegates, however, don’t see any problem with the chant. At their core, they believe Clinton has broken the rules not just in the most recent email scandal, but with Benghazi and with the Clinton Foundation. If the emails don’t lock her up, something else, they believe should.
“She deserves to be indicted. It’s not fair,” said Arkansas alternative delegate Barbara Durkee. “Is it really fair what she has done to the United States and our American men who are fighting for us in the Benghazi situation? It’s more than just those emails.”
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone, a proud veteran of the 1972 Nixon campaign, echoed the sentiment when asked if Clinton should be jailed.
“I think she should stand trial for her many, many crimes, yes,” Stone said. “There are six billion dollars missing from the time she was secretary of state. How about that for an opener? Because she has bullied and intimidated and threatened the women who are her husband’s sexual assault victims. … How do you feel about rape, you know?”
“Bill and Hillary Clinton are habitual, career criminals,” Stone said.
With the split GOP crowning its most divisive nominee in decades, there is much on which to disagree. The bloodlust to see Hillary Clinton in jail provides common ground on which to rally.