“Stand still and smile,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas). “It will only take a couple of minutes.”
The acting chairperson at Monday afternoon’s Republican National Convention was asking party delegates to pose for a panorama picture, but his statement might as well have described the proverbial ramrodding he subjected GOP loyalists to minutes earlier.
Womack gaveled through objections and concerns from a segment of delegates who sought a roll-call vote on the GOP convention’s rules Monday. In doing so, he wrought the ire of a party segment that organizers had hoped to unify at this week’s Cleveland spectacle.
“I have never — in all of my life, going on six years in the U.S. Senate, prior to that as a lifelong Republican — I’ve never seen anything like this,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) during live coverage on C-SPAN. “There’s no precedent for this. We are now in uncharted territory.”
Lee’s state and more than a dozen others had made written requests for roll-call votes on the GOP rules, which had been held out as a potential Waterloo for #NeverTrump advocates who entered Cleveland hoping for a chance to make a statement.
But Womack denied process to delegates who had sat through hours of awkward cover songs and political platitudes spewed by everyone — from county leaders to Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.
“There’s a jazz band,” Lee told reporters in a frantic moment broadcast on CSPAN. “They’re doing a lovely job. I don’t know what the song is, but it’s a soothing riff.”
Lee criticized Womack for leaving the stage after claiming the rules had passed on a voice vote without the requested roll-call from others.
“Maybe his mom called with bad news from home, I don’t know,” Lee said of Womack’s exit and reappearance to ram through the same rules in a second, similar vote. “It’s surreal.”
Stand still and smile: We’ve got guns and butter
While the rules protest votes were stampeded over in pure Trump fashion Monday, the resultant scene served to alienate certain party hardliners while hammering home that The Donald will be the 2016 GOP flag-bearer.
The result refocused attention on the other storylines bubbling up for months.
Receiving far less chatter had been the proverbial “butter,” the second part the infamous economic model.
Donald Trump called me a ‘terrible’ person by William W. Savage III
Perhaps that’s unsurprising, as 2016’s main economic discussions thus far have concerned class inequality. Traditionally, that topic has challenged GOP campaigns.
Enter Donald Trump.
While Trump has found success railing against companies who move jobs overseas, Serious People are still awaiting a revamped tax plan that has been promised for months. His current proposal has been widely panned as impractical fantasy.
Still, political conventions are largely about fantasy — rhetorical reverie for the notion that everyone thinks like You do and no one cares if you dance like a buffoon while wearing a tacky hat.
Looking foolish in patriotic garb and hollering in support of your favorite team may just be the most bipartisan activity in America.
It’s no wonder, then, that accurate, intelligible discussions of guns and butter will have to wait a few more weeks.
Okies in the mix
Monday’s opening shenanigans in Cleveland featured early admiration for Oklahoma politicians. U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s name was called to accompany Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the rules meeting somewhere in the back exhibit halls. Lankford did not appear in CSPAN coverage.
A couple hours later, OKC Mayor Mick Cornett gave brief remarks from his new position as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Republican mayors are restoring the middle class,” Cornett said to a smattering of hoots. “Republicans mayors are restoring the American dream.
“Republican mayors are a growing force. A Republican mayor may soon be coming to a city near you.”
A nod to Cleveland’s 2017 mayoral election, came after Frank Jackson, Cleveland’s Democratic mayor, introduced his city on stage and asked attendees to visit the city’s museums, among other things.
Fallin announces GOP party platform
Womack’s debacle gave way to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) who accepted his introduction by obliviously opening to the perturbed crowd with, “Thank you. Who’s proud to be an American?”
Barrasso, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin had the unenviable task of delivering canned platform-centric speeches after a moment of intriguing human emotion.
In her speech, Fallin explained how long ago a one-page summary of Republican principles “made me into a Republican.”
While her performance largely went off without a hitch, Fallin’s syllable-by-syllable recitation highlighted the governor’s potential limitations as a potential vice presidential candidate. Fallin had awkwardly seemed to be campaigning for the position.
Meanwhile, Trump’s actual VP selection — Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana — received his first public test Sunday with an interview by 60 Minutes.
While GOP delegates only had to “stand still” and take their medicine for “a couple of minutes” Monday, Pence will be taking his for the next 15 weeks.
“Each day, he’s going to have to go out on the trail and eat a shit sandwich,” a top Indian Republican said of Pence last week.
Fortunately for the Indiana governor, Womack cleaned Monday’s plate before he had to arrive.
(Update: Melania Trump’s speechwriter got an early start on Tuesday’s breakfast.)