On Tuesday, I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention and watch the delegates formally nominate Donald Trump as the party’s presidential candidate. Despite the pageantry and fakeness, it was an experience I’m grateful for.
When I packed my bags to head to Cleveland to report on the RNC, I expected I’d be spending all my time on the street, filming protests and counter-demonstrations and slinking off to the bar after I was done. However, fate had a different plan in store for me, as I spent Tuesday inside the convention itself and got to witness the God Emperor Trump formally receiving the presidential nomination. Not only that, I was invited to sit with the Hawaii delegation on the floor and observe the action up close.
My odyssey began at ten in the morning, when I drove to the out-of-the-way hotel my RNC contact was cooped up in—apparently the GOP decided to be cheap and put his group in the furthest possible joint—to receive my guest credentials. After returning to the city and visiting the USS Cod memorial with Roosh and company, I headed back to the hotel to board the bus with my friend… to go back to Cleveland.
Security was a two-step process. According to my friend, we weren’t allowed to bring in anything that wasn’t in a “convention bag”: a clear plastic tote that allowed the Secret Service to see everything inside. We were checked once at the entrance to the cordoned-off security area and again when we entered the Quicken Loans Arena proper. My phone’s directional microphone initially made security nervous, but they let me in anyway.
Outside the arena, the surrounding streets had been turned into what amounted to a carnival. The convention complex featured the “Freedom Marketplace,” a bazaar where vendors hocked their wares, as well as a number of restaurants and bars. While my friend and I walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe to meet one of his friends, I spotted a guy dressed up like Abraham Lincoln, as well as a group of pro-Kurdish protesters.
Inside, the convention was a madhouse. The arena was five floors of delegates, high-powered guests and concession workers going to and fro. On my way up to level five (the guest level), I spotted both New York Times columnist David Brooks and Montana Senator Steve Daines. My friend had given me a lei (a wreath of flowers), both to identify me as a member of the Hawaii delegation and as a conversation starter with any famous figures I came across.
I took a seat in my designated section to watch the convention unfold. The arena was packed from top to bottom, with media outlets perched in designated sections up top and down below. On the floor, the delegates from each state were seated, designated by signs.
The show began at 5pm, with a soft rock band playing godawful Muzak renditions of pop songs. After the audience quieted down, Paul Ryan, who was presiding over the convention, came out to begin the nomination process. I filmed several portions of the vote count for Red Ice: you can watch our live event here.
I was hoping for anarchy on the convention floor, but the #NeverTrump crybabies must have still been tired from Monday’s temper tantrum, because the nomination process went unnaturally smoothly. The biggest fireworks were when Colorado (where the party establishment conspired with Ted Cruz to cancel the state’s presidential preference vote and deny Trump delegates) announced their vote: booing from Trump’s supporters filled the auditorium. However, even the pro-Trump hecklers got winded quickly. When the Minnesota delegation (who had threatened to walk out the day before after #NeverTrump’s rebellion was killed) announced their votes for Marco Rubio, nobody even shifted in their seats.
The biggest thing that pissed me off was the prearranged nature of the whole thing. When I overheard a guest later raving about how “this is what democracy looks like,” I had to stifle a laugh. The RNC vote was as democratic as the Politburo. Everyone knew that Trump would be elected on the first ballot due to the fact that he won the primary (and #NeverTrump’s failed insurrection), so counting the votes was merely a formality.
In particular, when it came time for Michigan and New York to cast their votes, both abstained so they could showboat later. Ten minutes later, the New York delegation suddenly interrupted and announced their votes, giving Trump the majority he needed to secure the nomination. The vote counting stopped and the Jumbotron flashed a pre-made “OVER THE TOP” graphic while the Muzak band fired up their instruments.
Tokenism was also running high at the RNC. As part of the opening celebrations, we were forced to sit through a Sikh prayer delivered by California GOP vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon. The delegation of Utah, land of lily-white, caffeine-hating Mormons, was lead by a black man. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time in the alt-Right echo chamber, but I was hoping that nominating an outspoken gadfly like Donald Trump would have tempered the GOP thirst for appeasing the Left.
After the vote wrapped up—Trump veep Mike Pence was nominated by acclamation, probably because everyone was bored and wanted to go home—I headed out to get some concession stand-quality food from the “Republican Roadhouse.” Highlights included Paul Ryan’s teleprompter breaking—forcing him to stand around like an idiot for five minutes while his handler grabbed a paper copy of his speech—and Mitch McConnell getting booed by a quarter of the audience every time he showed his face.
Shortly thereafter, I was invited to sit with the Hawaii delegation on the floor while Chris Christie gave a speech in which he put Hillary Clinton on a mock trial. I also ran into Nigel Farage on the guest level, but he vanished before I could say hello. After I went home from the convention, I dropped by a party being hosted by Milo Yiannopoulos and featuring a who’s who of the Right: Geert Wilders, Richard Spencer, Peter Brimelow, Mike Cernovich, Chuck Johnson, Roosh and more.
I remain unconvinced that the Republican and Democratic National Conventions aren’t huge wastes of money. In an era where voters largely determine party nominees for public office, the delegates themselves are just meat puppets on an unpaid vacation. Nonetheless, I’m glad I got to watch the process up close.