Many of Trump’s guests will use the scene at the Republican Convention in Cleveland to ignite feelings against minorities and repudiate rights.
Those who say that they know what is going to happen in the Quicken Loans Arena of Cleveland during the Republican Convention, or more importantly, the streets of the city, are lying. I'm writing this column from the air, surrounded by Californian colleagues from the press and television. Someone next to me bets that Trump will be the nominee. The cameraman who accompanies me warns me that in Ohio you are allowed to walk the streets carrying heavy weapons; the famous open carry law that has caused such pain in the days since the assault in Dallas. The truth, though, is that none of us knows what we are going to meet on Monday in Cleveland, a city that certainly owes its social and economic strength to a diverse and vibrant immigrant community. Maybe within a week we will be reporting the story of an assembled party like so many others, a perfectly orchestrated and choreographed act with more show than substance. Or maybe we will be recounting the story of a new clash between the nativistic Trump hordes and those who with equal fury repudiate them. All told, anything can happen.
What is certain is that Trump needs the unification of a party that has he has taken by assault this 2016 in order to be a success. It will not be an easy task. This convention doesn't seem like any other. The huge gatherings by American political parties generally bring together the cream of the party’s crop, the famous "Who's Who" of the Republicans and Democrats: celebrities, officials, candidates, the old glories and the rising stars. The career of Barack Obama, for example, began 12 years ago in Boston when the campaign of John Kerry, then candidate of the party, selected him to give the keynote address, the formal address of the week. Obama, who was a candidate for senator of Illinois at the time, took the convention. Eight years later he became president of the United States.
That is the importance and dynamic of all of the conventions. I think of 2012, when the list of speakers for the Republican gathering included governors, congressmen, old presidential candidates and even Clint Eastwood. It was, literally, the whole world. The only thing missing was George W. Bush, and his absence had to have been a political calculation (his public redemption hadn't set in yet). Four years later, things are very different. Bush has returned from an absence, but this time as an obvious actor of disavowal of his party’s candidate. In Cleveland, the division among the Republicans has been so grave that Trump has been able to summon practically no one from the Republican hierarchy. Of the 16 candidates that competed against Trump, only Ben Carson and Ted Cruz (reluctantly) have decided to participate. With the exception of two or three governors and two or three legislators, almost no one from the Republican top circle will stop at the stage in Cleveland. That's right: Trump has given space to four of his children and his wife, a professional golfer (famous for her beauty, not her swing), a pair of famous actors from the '80s and a former actress who now—I kid you not—has an avocado farm.
No one knows what will happen in this strange mix. However, giving in to the easy temptation to ridicule, two things must be clear. The first is that very few people have the television instinct Trump has. His sense for the frivolity that consumes the general public is extraordinary and, largely, explains his ascension. Disregarding the impact it can have on this organized circus for Trump, as disgusting and empty it seems to us, it is a mistake.
The second thing that is clear is that one must not forget that behind the confetti and glamour, the circus in Cleveland is being held for the first openly nativist candidate in the history of big political parties of the United States. Many of Trump's guests will use the scene in Cleveland, the Republican convention itself, which has paraded the greatest conservative politicians in the modern history of the country, to ignite anger against minorities, repudiate the rights of gays and the equality of gender, threaten trade wars and, maybe, voraciously threaten other wars, and many other terrible things. This is what we will see in Cleveland this week: a more furious and irrational United States. It is the United States of Trump. Hopefully the circus will dismantle its tents without leaving too much hate behind.