By Jonathan Cristol
Next week, Americans will tune in to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in record numbers. The RNC is where the Republican presidential nominee president will be chosen. Its conclusion marks the start of the general election campaign.
To earn the Republican nomination, a candidate must earn at least 1,237 votes from 2,472 delegates.
No choice is given to the delegates; they are bound to decisions made by voters over a six month period that began in Iowa on 5 January.
Thus, the convention is typically little more than a four day, primetime, extravagant coronation ceremony. Typically, major politicians and party figures make routine speeches, party business is attended to, and people wear outrageous hats. But the conventions can also be a place where the unexpected happens. For example, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the little known junior senator named Barack Obama gave a memorable speech that turned him into a household name. In 2012 Clint Eastwood held a bizarre conversation with an empty chair, in which he said,“We don’t have to be — what I’m saying, we don’t have to be metal masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys if you look at some of the recent ads going out there. I don’t know.”
This year, the convention will be different. There will be behind-the-scenes, ultimately futile, attempts to change the rules, unbind the delegates, and prevent Trump from gaining the nomination. There will be unprecedented violence outside the convention. Trump has inspired and incited violence throughout the campaign.
In Cleveland, there will be biker gangs and neo-Nazi groups ready to “protect” Trump and his supporters from the massive number of anti-Trump protesters expected to gather in the city. In light of the potential for violence, Cleveland has instituted common sense rules for the area around the arena, including “no umbrellas with metal handles,”and “no tennis balls.” You can, however, carry your gun. (Seriously. You can take your gun anywhere except inside the convention itself.)
Inside the Convention, we will hear from some extremely important political figures: pro golfer Natalie Gulbis will speak, possibly about her appearance in a tenth season episode of “CSI: Miami”; former Melrose Place star, underwear model, and Celebrity Wife Swap contestant Antonio Sabato, Jr. will speak, I assume, about his experience as “international celebrity spokesperson” for AnastasiaDate; soap opera actress and avocado farmer Kimberlin Brown will also speak, probably about the complexities of financial regulation in an era of economic uncertainty.
However, it won’t be all D-List celebrities and minor sports personalities. There will be many members of the Trump family, along with some well-known political figures such as former House Speaker turned professional blowhard Newt Gingrich, and brutalised and broken New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The only foreign policy figure slated to speak is former Defence Intelligence Agency chief and paid RT contributor James Flynn, who, I presume, will make the case for both Trump and Putin as brilliant men of principle.
Peacemakers, really. The third night will conclude with a speech from newly-named vice presidential nominee, and non-grandstanding white man, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Of course, all eyes will be on Donald Trump, who will close the convention on Thursday night. Literally anything could happen during that speech. Trump could read a speech off a teleprompter; he could withdraw from the race; he could welcome hologram Saddam Hussein to the stage; he could horsewhip Chris Christie; and he will likely announce policies that make the U.S. and the entire world a more dangerous place. The only real certainty is that it will be a ceremony worthy of Kim Jong Un, and probably modelled on the recent North Korean Party Congress.
Finally, welcome to “Redhead, White, and Blue,” my irregular column about the United States and United States foreign policy. Next week I’ll preview the Democratic National Convention.
Dr. Jonathan Cristol is a fellow at the World Policy Institute and senior fellow at Bard College’s Center for Civic Engagement. Follow him on Twitter: @jonathancristol