By Amrit Singh
Greetings from Cleveland, dear Facts Finders, and welcome to a very special Republican National Convention edition of @FactsOnly, live and direct from the heart of the party.
That’s right, REVOLT is here, on-site and set to give you a sense of what's really going on, both in the seats and in the streets. Now, essentially, these party convention are about formally nominating a candidate for President and Vice President. But there's a whole lot more happening over the next four days here in Cleveland.
And we're here for you. You can find our coverage on the network, on this site, and across all our social platforms all week. We'll have a mini-studio set up in convention center halls, from where I'll interview the passing parade of GOP delegates and other Republican luminaries, while others (Rahman Dukes, Jayson Rodriguez, Rashad Drakeford, Pace Bowden, and Brian Reich) will be outside the venue to capture the less-regulated political expressions, too. We expect it to be an expressive sort of week.
If you've been following REVOLT 2 Vote to date, you know we've been eagerly awaiting the RNC for months now, especially as this most unconventional of political candidates has taken over this largely resistant political party. We thought maybe this convention would be dramatically "contested." (You know, like a reality show or something.) Instead, we've arrived in Cleveland for what a party that seems like it's given over to the inevitable: By week's end, Donald Trump will officially be named the Republican Presidential nominee for 2016, with what is looking like little delegate resistance. We'll see former foes and critics like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan give speeches on his behalf. We'll see former underwear models and UFC aficionados like Antonio Sabato Jr. and Dana White give speeches on his behalf. And we'll bob and weave through an official protest zone outside the hall where guns are legal to carry openly. If that sounds a bit like Melrose Place meets Deadwood, you watch too much TV, but also, you're not wrong: between the dual promises of Sabato and firearms, this RNC is already a head-spinner.
And it's only just starting. Here's a bit more on what to expect.
EACH NIGHT HAS A THEME, AND BIG SPEECHES
Four days, four themes, countless speeches. To political junkies, it's heaven. For the rest, perhaps a little breakdown will help. On Monday, the theme is "Make American Safe Again." Expect a speech from Trump's wife Melania, in addition to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a speech from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, if you want to see a future Presidential nominee in action. (Cotton will run one day, so they say.) On Tuesday, the theme is "Make America Work Again." (Detecting a theme?) The big speaking get is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, once Trump's foe during primary season. On Wednesday it's "Make American Work Again," and there's going to be a lot of people working that podium, with speeches from Veepstakes winner Mike Pence, Veepstakes also-ran Newt Gingrich, and most interestingly, Trump's biggest primary season foe, Ted Cruz. And on Thursday, it's "Make America One Again," and it's time for the Donald Trump show as the man himself takes the stage. Will he go prompter, or will he go off the dome? In any event, chances are he’ll have a whole new ratings coup to brag about—like it or not, it’ll be must-see TV.
PROTESTS IN A LAND OF OPEN-CARRY GUN LAWS
Oh yes, there will be protests alright. After a season during which footage of violent protests outside Trump rallies have been all over the media, we can expect things to get heated. (It probably won't help that it’ll be 90 degrees and muggy here in Cleveland this week.) Not just that, though: The "protest zone" that city officials have established is at some distance from the halls (for safety, they say), and (aside from a specific marching route) quarantined to the point that there will be protestors of all sorts, from all sides, face-to-face. Brace for some stiff shoulders out there, folks. Mix in Ohio state's allowance for openly carried, licensed guns (largely undiminished this week, but for the immediate vicinity of the convention hall), and you have yourself a combustible scenario. Here we go.
MIKE PENCE, VP NOMINEE
Last week, Donald Trump named Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential nominee. (We had at #2 in our @FactsOnly shortlist. Close! But not close enough, because we didn't really see this one coming. Like most everyone else, Donald included apparently.) Now Pence is a former renegade Republican who has come full circle, here playing the part of "establishment figure." Pence buys Trump some conservative bona fides, and that's well and good, but the chemistry and rapport between the two of them so far has been less than perfect. (See: Trump's speech announcing Pence, which was largely not about Pence, and after which he pulled the unusual maneuver of leaving stage entirely. See also: Trump and Pence's first joint interview for 60 Minutes last night, during which they didn't look like they were perfectly in sync. In fairness, it's early for them. Also in fairness, though, Pence was a Cruz supporter whose core beliefs and legislative history (like a vote for the Iraq war; and supporting laws against the LGBQT community) are at odds with Trump's (vehemently against the Iraq war, and far less socially conservative). On Wednesday night, when Pence gives his big speech, we get to see how far Pence is willing to go to show he's in line with his new boss.
YOU WON'T SEE THESE PEOPLE
While it is notable to see some old Trump foes now in the fold, most of them are going to be true to their word and conspicuously absent from the RNC. Like, there won't be a single Bush here, which is the first time that's happened in a while. Also finding excuses not to attend: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, and John Kasich. More like the G.O.Flee, you know?
THE PLATFORM TAKES SHAPE
The convention is also where we get familiar with the party's platform, or the set of principle and policies that the party will campaign on, and promises to implement if put into power. How much of what the Republicans are running on will feel in line with Trump's inflammatory rhetoric, and how weird will it feel if the answer is "not too much"? We've seen a platform draft, but this week is when we really find out.
@FactsOnly is a weekly column written by Amrit Singh, who will be on Twitter (@amritsingh) and Instagram (@amritsingh) and Snapchat (@amrtsngh) all week, documenting how best to avoid bodily harm during this momentous summer week in Cleveland, 2016.