There was some question until last night whether the Trump operation was actually going to be able to put on a convention. Until what amounted to the last minute they’d failed to put out a list of convention speakers. But now we have a tentative list and some indication of what the program will involve. It is, as it must be, classic Trump, a tribute to him, his family, various yes-men and lickspittles and a hard doubling down on the red meat base Republican politics that got him here in the first place.
The two big takeaways for me are that the GOP will apparently devote the first night of the convention to a new rehashing and re-exploitation of the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, a tragedy Mitt Romney tried and failed to ride to victory in 2012. The one political winner for the GOP coming out of years of milking the death of four Americans was uncovering the Clinton email story, which whatever you think of it on the merits has unquestionably inflicted real political harm on the soon-to-be Democratic nominee. The Benghazi ‘scandal’ itself has been a four year running gob of hate and derp sticky enough to grab on to it an almost limitless number of conspiracy theories, bogus hearings and almost all the residue ‘stab in the back’ revanchism available on the American hard right, which is quite a lot. The one thing it hasn’t done is generate the political benefits Republicans have hoped for from it. It has almost never been more than a topic that revs up the base of the Republican party. It is also fundamentally based on a series of lies about what happened almost four years ago.
Next is what is being described as a prime time presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual history. I’m not sure if this is meant to suggest some sort of excursion into softcore pornography or a timeline or what. But it’s probably best to note that just as ‘Benghazi’ was the scandal that failed to win the 2012 election, Bill Clinton’s sex life was the one which kept losing Republicans elections through the 1990s. Of course, this is coming from a man, Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault and/or rape under oath in three separate legal proceedings by three separate women.
In so many words, the Trump convention is aimed not at building a broader coalition but on a relentless hammering of the things that get the base of the Republican party – roughly 20% of the electorate most fired up. Just as Trump’s campaign has been a paean to White Christian America and rumblings for revenge at its passing, the 2016 GOP convention seems set to cast its eye backwards, a bridge to the 19th century.