Why I Can’t Watch the RNC

Why I Can’t Watch the RNC

The level of Trump toxicity in my system makes it impossible for me to consume the RNC’s festival of fear and cynicism.


I missed night one of the Republican National Convention. Deliberately. We’re all practicing some forms of self-care during the pandemic—that was mine. When I woke up, early, I saw “cocaine,” “Adderall” and “Cecily Strong” trending on Twitter, at least here in New York. In a way, that was all I needed to know.

I have no evidence that either glassy-eyed Donald Trump Jr. or his lovely companion, screaming fascist Kimberly Guilfoyle, were doing either drug. As my colleague Jeet Heer said after night one, it doesn’t matter—he blamed Trump’s strange countenance on “existential dread”; it was scary and disgraceful enough, without drugs being involved. The “Cecily Strong” suggestion—that the Saturday Night Live star play Guilfoyle—was completely on point.

It’s hard to believe the convention got worse after that, but it did. I tried to watch Tuesday night, but its cynical manipulation was even worse than Tuesday’s apocalyptic screeching. We had to watch the president of anti-Obama birtherism, the defender of Confederate statues, pardon a black man convicted of armed robbery who turned his life around. (To be fair, the man pardoned seemed genuinely moved, and grateful, but it was a political stunt nonetheless.) We had to watch a president who has made immigration tougher at every turn, who’s railed against “shithole countries,” naturalize five new citizens. I had to turn off the television and go to bed early, again.

Meanwhile, in Kenosha, Wis., armed vigilantes and, according to the local sheriff, militia members began shooting at people protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an apparently unarmed black man, on Sunday. (Inexplicably, at least three police cars rolled past a man carrying his long gun, even after the crowd identified him as the shooter, or one of them.) Two people were killed. This, after the RNC celebrated Mark and Patricia McCloskey, two armed vigilantes who threatened to shoot peaceful protesters marching by their St. Louis mansion earlier this summer, on Monday night.

The president of “law and order” owns this terrifying twist in the escalating national conflict between police and the people who don’t want to be shot by police—or more to the point, who want police to stop shooting unarmed black men and women. He encouraged the armed militias who have turned out to protest Democratic lawmakers’ efforts to combat Covid. Expect him to try to blame the chaos on Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Frighteningly, the campaign’s cynical turn to “compassionate conservatism” played relatively well in the media. The New York Timesfront-page headlines blared: “TRUMP TAKES AIM AT MIDDLE, USING TOOLS OF OFFICE | BID TO BROADEN APPEAL G.O.P. | Points Message at Both Women and Minority Voters.” Apparently, first lady Melania Trump feigned empathy with Covid victims and didn’t plagiarize Michelle Obama, so her speech was considered successful.

So I’m not going to watch Wednesday night, either. I can’t. I have reached some limit—my psyche can’t take in anymore lies. I recoil, morally and physically. I have promised to watch Thursday night and do a live-chat with my Nation colleagues, but until then, I’m fasting, avoiding toxins, trying to do a psychic cleanse. Wish me luck—and I’ll see you all Thursday night.

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