Jo Freeman's Convention Diary: Where Was the Luncheon for Melania? Keep It Made in America and the Donald Trump Bobblehead Were in Cleveland
Party conventions aren't just about politics and parties. They are also about education and promotion. Groups come looking for supporters, or just to inform the public. They hold fundraising events and push their products as readily as any merchant. Some groups ask for money, some don’t; some feed you, some don’t. All want your attention and use various ways to get it.
Miss. Belle Sherwin (center, wearing plaid coast, hat with feather) and other League of Women Voters members down from jury panel to hear civil and commercial cases in Cleveland, Ohio Court in late February of 1923. Picture taken on steps of old court house in Cleveland, Ohio.
For weeks, think tanks and magazines sent e-mails asking me to sign up for their panels and lectures in Cleveland. But I wanted to see what women's organizations were doing so I abstained.
Once in Cleveland, I couldn’t find anything specifically for or about women. It appeared that women's organizations had gone underground! The last day I discovered that that wasn't entirely true, but they were scarce. Compared to previous Republican Conventions, women weren't organizing as women, or appealing to women as women.
The National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) sent a well-decorated bus, but it was locked and parked inside the security zone, where everyone who came in had to have credentials and go through a very invasive search. In the past the NFRW had been a major presence. They used to host a luncheon for the candidate's wife but that ceased in 2004. As far as I could tell, no group hosted a luncheon for Melania, though I'm sure she was invited to a lot of parties.
So let me tell you where I did go. The Hill had a short list of events, a tiny fraction of what there really were. On it was a Big Tent brunch by the Log Cabin Republicans. This is a gay group which formed 30 years ago to try to stop the GOP from restricting personal freedom. They have held Big Tent events at other Republican conventions with Republicans for Choice and the Republican Majority Fund. The latter was no where to be seen in 2016.
There was nothing on the list indicating whether press was restricted so I showed up at the 9:00 a.m start time on Wednesday only to be stopped by security before I could even get to the Media check-in table. It seems that neither my name or organization was on their list. Of course not, as there had been nothing about pre-registration in the event listing, let alone how. All the press credentials dangling from my neck weren't good enough to persuade the woman in charge of the Big Tent to let me in. She said that they were at capacity and we should leave. We didn't. I heard her tell a Danish radio station which also wasn't on the list to wait until 10:00. I waited.
At 10:00 I followed the Danes into the search tent as though I was part of their crew. Once past the search, Media Check-In took my information and gave me a Big Tent ticket. There weren't a lot of people inside that tent. Those sitting at the few tables were cordoned off from those standing, with the press in the back. I worked my way forward so I could get a good camera angle, only to be told by the communications woman to move to the back. Since I couldn't see the speakers, I counted the house. There were about 50 people and maybe 20 press under a big tent large enough for 200.
The big name attraction was Caitlyn Jenner, who was introduced as the most famous Republican in the country. She demurred that that title now belonged to The Donald. She told her story as she has many times, adding only why she was a Republican. She said it had been harder to come out as a Republican than as a woman. She was a Republican when The Donald was a Democrat, but didn’t talk about it. (Editor's Note: Caitlyn Jenner's YouTube speech at the Big Tent)
Afterwards I walked to the Cleveland Convention Center. On the way I passed a small park where four members of the League of Women Voters were passing out information. They are studiously non-partisan, but believe that more women should get into politics. They may have been the only group there for whom that was a goal.
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