Does the RNC Care About Democracy?

Zachary Bynum


I recently watched a video from the 1996 Democratic Convention where the entire crowd broke out into the Macarena. The amount of spirit and energy that emitted from the room was err to that of a rock concert. It’s funny how excited people get for political pageantry to me, truly. I think it is the happier, cleaner side of politics, and I think that is necessary because it shows us that democracy can indeed be fun. It’s like a form of self-care for the American political system. Think about all the money, time, and strategy that fuels it and how much stress and anxiety it creates as a country. The Conventions are a time where everyone in the party decompresses just a tad bit and comes to celebrate and make a compromise, even amongst all the dysfunction. This particular year seems to be an exception. We have Donald Trump, in all his infamy, who the Republican establishment has major reluctance showing full support for but a backing that is unmoved in their dedication. On the other side, we have Hillary Clinton who has complete support from the Democratic establishment, but a very sordid relationship with Democratic followers. Now these two things may be two sides of the same coin, but there is something to be said about the way the RNC played out. At the RNC, there seemed to be a lack of prominent Republican leadership speaking, but those who did speak seemed to continuously invigorate a great deal of support for Mr. Trump, not the Republican establishment as a whole. On the last night, I think many followers of the Republican Party made it very clear what they think support for Trump should look like by the relentless booing and resistance Ted Cruz was met with during his speech. In that moment, what Trump supporters were saying was “THIS is what Trump support looks like. It looks like undying loyalty. It looks like unification in every aspect, and most of all it looks like opposition to anything that is not Trump.” To me, I take pride in situations where the country is chanting and unified on issues that bring us together. I take pride when I see crowds cheering for people appreciating the vibrancy of our democracy. I feel worried when I see what I saw at the RNC. Yes, I am sure at the DNC there will be plenty of “Bernie or Bust” bros protesting and shouting, but that is because they know they are allowed to push back. At the RNC, there seemed to be this unspoken agreement that to push back was to put yourself into harm’s way, so don’t even do it. Now, dozens of politicians, pundits, and other Republicans have jumped on the Trump boat, and it seems more like conformity, more so than actual support. The same can be said for Hillary supporters, but there is a distinct difference. Hillary brings in support because many people know that at the end of the day she is more qualified, more capable of understanding the tools of governance, and at the end of the day is the best candidate to pick if you do not want a Trump presidency on our hands. Many supporters of Donald Trump who settle for him seem to be people who have been bullied into supporting him, or people who are too scared to “betray” the Republican Party. Here’s my thing- Trump being able to get this far was a betrayal within itself. Moderate Republicans have lost their influence in the party when the last two or three Republican presidents were all fairly moderate. Religious Republicans are now being torn apart by where they should put their support. Staunch Republicans, like Ted Cruz, are now losing grip on their leadership. All three of these categories are people who seemed to be carrying the integrity of the Republican party, and now it is in vain.  It is all just one big mess, and yet the American public is faced with the façade that the Republican Party is unified and strong. It’s just unbelievable. You would think that for a party who has operated so long on coming off as respectable and put together, has fallen to this length. I do not point this out to say that they should’ve manipulated the rules of democracy or electoral politics because at the end of the day Trump won, fair and square. But it probably comes down to the way they have led in the recent years. Republicans have taken very few measures to strategize how they can expand their electorate or adjust their platforms to make way for different forms of Republicanism. Instead, the party has operated for too long on a monolith- a monolith that has ultimately created Trump and barred anyone else from comprehensively leading the Republican Party. This entire election has felt like an implosion within the Republican Party, and I am just wondering what that means from here. This is why the Convention seemed so out of place. My expectation was that there would be tons of shouting, screaming, and maybe even dancing in support of a Trump nomination. Maybe people would even put aside their differences and just come together for the convention itself. NO. Instead, it was a very unitary, semi-dystopian display of “Trump or else” type sentiments. To me, that is where we are at in this election. I leave the RNC with many qualms about our democracy in hopes that the DNC will restore some of my fettered faith.

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