“Hopefully it Won’t Take Terribly Long”

The U.S. political conventions are as inescapable as the pandemic for two weeks. We are halfway through. The Democratic Party had its convention virtually and the Republican Party is having its virusly…I mean…not quite virtually. The GOP, at Trump’s urging and likely insistence, is still bringing together about 500 people (over 300 of which are delegates) in Charlotte, North Carolina the first few days of its convention.

Not to worry though. The GOP is requiring masks, testing, physical distancing, and bluetooth technology to track delegates’ movements. That’s right. The GOP, which has many members who are all about individual rights all the time, will have to submit to wearing a badge that allows them to be monitored 24/7 while at the convention. Gee, I do not remember wearing a tracking device to attend the Democratic convention last week. I do not even have an Alexa to watch over me and I am even careful to avoid saying “Hey Google!” anywhere near my phone.

Even Steve Scheffler, a Republican delegate from Iowa and president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, has to wear a tracking badge though, as he told NPR Morning Edition Saturday today, he is not very happy about it. He said he would follow the rules because that is what they need to do to get Trump renominated (not really, as the Democrats effectively demonstrated last week). However, he also said, “But I don’t like where this might be going down the road. Maybe mandatory masks today, maybe mandatory vaccines tomorrow.” So I guess you still do not wear a seat belt, Steve?

Amid all these precautions the Charlotte Observer is reporting one tiny, little flaw in the GOP plan:

Quick-turnaround testing for coronavirus is in place for the convention but results won’t be immediately publicly-disclosed, officials said Friday. After the event is over, an “after-action” report will be released but the timing of that is unclear.

County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Friday: “Hopefully it won’t take terribly long” to release the report. Additionally, the county’s regular release of COVID-19 case data may later show whether the large event affected Mecklenburg’s recent positive trends. Health leaders have said it can take up to two weeks for local data to reflect such an impact.

Hanna Smoot & Alison Kuznitz, August 21, 2020, The Charlotte Observer, retrieved from: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/article245107450.html

Thank you, Gibbie Harris, for writing the epitaph for every person who dies of COVID-19 in the United States under Trump’s watch: “Hopefully it won’t take terribly long.”

I am wondering…at what point do QAnon and the other Tinfoil Hatters wake up and realize what Kathryn Olmsted so eloquently states in the last line of her book, Real Enemies:

If antigovernment conspiracy theorists get the details wrong – and they often do – they get the basic issue right: it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy.

Kathryn S. Olmsted, Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11, p. 240.

Every government has secrets it tries to cover up. Yet the Trump administration appears to traffic (as in a “rush hour”) in secrets and covert plans to benefit Trump, his family, and his allies. Most cleverly it uses conspiracy theories to cover it’s own actual conspiracies…and it seems to be working, at least for the QAnon and Tinfoil Hat crowd.

“Now wait just a dang a minute, Tom, that sounds like your own Tinfoil Hat conspiracy theory.” Frankly, I would agree except that even the recently released Republican majority Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election revealed some of those Trump conspiracies.

I am not a fan of any political convention. I was a delegate for my precinct in Iowa many years ago and was supposed to go to the county convention but found a way out so my alternate would have to go. What a relief! Even small political conventions are a turn off to me. I still watch them out of a sense of civic duty but I do so distractedly – while muti-tasking.

However curiosity got the best of me last week and I wanted to see how the Democratic Party would do a virtual convention. Since it was only for two hours each night I decided to sit down in front of the television on Monday night and actually watch the convention. I got hooked. I watched all four nights of the convention and mostly loved it.

Why? For this reason: “We the People” who were featured throughout the event. There were times, of course, when we had to put up with the “party elite” making their speeches and some sounded like they were still campaigning. Amy Klobuchar was the worst offender and I had way too much of her at the convention. I understand, though, that each of the Democratic candidates had to have their consolation-prize-moment on stage.

Still, “We the People” stole the show. From the opening National Anthem (one of the most emotionally powerful performances I have ever seen) to Brayden Harrington just moments before Joe Biden spoke to accept the nomination on Thursday night. I absolutely loved the images and voices of “We the People” throughout the United States and its territories.

My very favorite part was the roll call vote from all the states and territories. I wondered how the Democratic Party would pull that off. It was a tour of all states and territories through video as delegates delivered their votes for the last two standing candidates – Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. We saw U.S. citizens and delegates from the Northern Mariana Islands in the West to Puerto Rico in the East, from Alaska in the North and Texas in the South. Often the delegates were standing before iconic images in their states or territories, such as Diamond Head in Hawai`i.

Despite a few technical challenges and awkward pauses, the Democratic Party did an extraordinary job taking their convention fully virtual. In fact, they may have redefined how future conventions will look. The participation of “We the People” overcame the technical glitches, snafus, and the energy of a live audience. It is difficult to imagine how the GOP can have a better convention.

There is one thing the Democratic Party was able to do that the GOP cannot in 2020: include the images and voices of former Democratic presidents. Every living former Democratic president was involved in the convention to give their support to Joe Biden. Even some whose legacies have been tarnished by questions of character, such as Bill Clinton.

However, there is not a single living former Republican president, or presidential nominee, who is likely to appear to support Trump next week. There is a profound message communicated by their absence that the GOP needs to receive.

The worst part of the Democratic Party convention was the coverage provided by the PBS Newshour which I was forced to watch on the last night. It was not only bad, it was so bad that even the Newshour’s anchor, Judy Woodruff, acknowledged it on air last night (Friday, August 21). It pains me to report this because I am a fan and supporter of PBS. They had way too many talking heads and analysts (one that was far more biased than PBS usually tolerates) and they just would not shut up. PBS kept cutting away from the convention to give us more of their commentators and analysts. Even CNN did not cut away except for at the top of each hour for the obligatory commercial breaks. Frankly, CSPAN was the best place to watch the convention as it seemed to be simply a direct feed with no commentary.

Thursday was especially painful because both internet and cable were out at our house. The only station carrying the convention we could get over the air was PBS. We were stuck. The PBS coverage was so inadequate I decided to take Dolly for a walk to calm my inclination to drop the televison off our balcony.

How bad was it? It was so bad I began to mutter Gibbie’s epitaph. Given how things have gone the past three and a half years, I suspect I will begin to mutter it midway through the first night of coverage of the GOP convention – even if I watch it on CSPAN.


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Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

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