Usually watching the Republican National Convention is not high on my list of things to do every four years in July. These events usually move along at a predictably humdrum pace with little excitement and no surprises. Only the keynote speech and the nominating and acceptance speeches of the presidential and vice presidential nominees are worth watching. But again, this isn’t because we have reason to expect rhetorical wizardry, most often quite the opposite. It is only in order to be informed of the campaign issues and positions of the candidates that they are worth watching. Yet, this year promises to be different. For a change there is an air of unpredictability surrounding the Republican Convention. Just as the primary campaign provided surprises, the resulting convention is sure to provide the pundits with much analyze. This year, however, what goes on outside of the convention halls may prove to be as consequential as the convention proceedings. But there is more. There will be much to discuss about those who have pointedly chosen not to attend the convention due to their feeling and concerns about the presumptive nominee. So unlike past Republican conventions, the complete picture will be visible only when we are fully aware of what is going on both inside and outside of the event halls as well as the behavior and utterings of those not in attendance.
There has been a move afoot for several weeks now to place the presumptive nominee’s formal nomination in jeopardy. Never in my memory has the Party been so clearly divided by convention time. There have been attempts utilizing both the courts and the Rules Committee to enable delegates to vote their conscience and disregard the candidate that they are bound to. This effort has gained momentum along with significant funding, has employed experienced operatives and has organized within every state delegation. While the chances of success of this movement is a long-shot, the potential could lead to a surprising outcome. Such divisions can certainly lead to some interesting battles on the convention floor.
Due to recent tragic events we have seen demonstrations in cities across America-we can expect more of this right outside the convention hall with no shortage of counter-protestors. Not since the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 has the potential for major demonstrations been so imminent. Convention planners must be concerned about the potential for violence and its impact on the event’s security. No doubt, it will create an atmosphere that will raise the stress level inside, and who knows what that will lead to.
The list of those who have chosen not to attend the convention is growing. It consists of many considered to be stalwarts of the Republican establishment as well as some who have significant political and ideological differences with the presumptive nominee. This has two effects. First it changes the nature of those in attendance. They, for this most part, will be delegates for Trump. By their very nature they are ideologically extreme and view the party regulars negatively as elites. This can make for a more energized and boisterous event particularly given what we are sure will be taking place outside. Second, it allows for the redefinition of the Republican Party by those who have taken it further to the right than ever before. By not attending the “no shows” are defaulting on their opportunity to define the party. This default might leave the future party unrecognizable and inhospitable to their future involvement.
The upcoming Republican National Convention could be filled with surprises and drama. More importantly it will provide a peek into the minds of the most dangerous group of people to ever seek to lead their party. We must know our enemy in order to defeat them. This year we need to watch and learn for the sake of the future.