First Impressions of the Republican Convention
Protests and Parties
by Jo Freeman
Things are being done a little differently at the first Republican convention to be held in the Twin Cities since 1892. The differences are small, but just enough to blur the picture.
Sunday is usually protest day. Not this time. At this convention the big march is on Monday. which happens to be Labor Day. Since it's a federal holiday, the Twin Cities will be on a Sunday schedule, giving locals time and space to protest.
Two small anti-convention marches were held on Sunday, as part of a week of protest activity. In Minneapolis, about 150 people marched in the Liberty Parade (organizers insisted that it was a parade, not a march) to a rock concert in a public park.
The biggest contingent appeared to be supporters of Ron Paul, the libertarian Congressman from Texas who opposes the war. One of his supporters told me that they are going to take back the Republican Party, but couldn't tell me how they plan to do this. They are holding a parallel three day convention in Minneapolis.
In St. Paul, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and CodePink mobilized about 250 people to march from the State Capitol to the Xcel Center where the Republicans planned to meet. Nine deliberately "marched into the arms of the police" and were arrested.Veterans for Peace held their own convention right before the Republicans came to town.
For convention delegates arriving on Sunday, the convention host committee held a big welcoming party, rather than separate state delegation parties as is the norm, in the large auditorium of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Staged at Civic Fest, a week long "celebration of history and Democracy," delegates could schmooze and knosh their way among 35 exhibits constituting a temporary mini-museum for political history fans. They could view a display of election items spanning 300 years (my favorite), learn the stories of the 14 US Presidents before George Washington took office, take the Oath of Office at a staged inauguration ceremony and tour a replica of Air Force One. The rest of the week members of the public paid $10-$15 per person to see the same things.
This auditorium also held the booths of over a hundred vendors and non-profits who paid $2500 each to sit there for the week. Except during the delegate party, visitors were few and far between and the vendors I spoke to were not happy.
Browsers looking to buy Republican souvenirs had to go through or around the official RNC store that sat between Civic Fest and the small businesses who paid to be a part of the Republican marketplace. The RNC licensed St. Croix productions to produce and sell stuff and gave them the prime time spots, both at the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Xcel Center. When the Republicans move to the Xcel Center on Monday, the official RNC store will also move, while the vendors who paid for booths thinking that they would sell to a Republican crowd, will be left with only the members of the general public who pay to get in.
Among the non-profits was the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans who still remain loyal to the party of Lincoln (whom they claim was secretly gay, hence the name Log Cabin Republicans). They announced that "about 100 Log Cabin members and openly gay delegates, alternates and convention guests are expected to attend the Republican Convention" but, unlike the Dems, no one is counting.
One vendor sold mints in a partisan tin emblazoned with a donkey or an elephant. He kept a "buyer's poll." Before the Republican delegates arrived, the donkeys were winning.
What I Did
I spent most of the day hanging around the Minneapolis Convention Center waiting to see if I could get a 'no show' press pass to the Republican Convention. While there, I took in the Civic Fest and walked into an unrelated film screening. The soon-to-be-released movie, An American Carol, is a satire on Michael Moore. It's a right-wing, reactionary satire, but if you can put politics aside, it is pretty funny.
When I left the film, I walked right into the Republican delegate party. Easiest party I've ever crashed. Unlike those at the Democratic Convention, the host committee volunteers were acting as greeters, not screeners.