A tale of two conventions: Looking back at late July's wild political ride

How did the RNC in Cleveland and DNC in Philly compare?

It’s all over.

The seas of people, the bullhorns, the speeches.

The pageantry, the flamboyant protesters and the daily Secret Service wandings — everything else that constituted the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Gone.

And you know what?

I kind of miss it.

Having borne witness to both, I found some stark differences — and startling similarities — between the two. By some measures, the RNC in Cleveland was the superior of the two conventions. By other (OK, most) measures, it was the DNC in Philadelphia.

Here’s how they compared.

THE LOGISTICS

If thousands of out-of-towners are coming to your party, you damn well better make sure your town is easy to get around. Most RNC events took place near the Quicken Loans Arena, right downtown. Between notable events at the Q, you could walk to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame if you needed to stare at Jimi Hendrix’s velvet jumpsuit to clear your mind of the convention’s racist overtones. There were plenty of watering holes for sitting down to write between protests/events/speeches.

You just needed to get downtown. And there was a train that took you there (!).

Philly, by contrast, was much more spread out; the arena was a 10-minute subway ride from where all the delegates were.

It was hard to find a place to sit and write at the DNC if you hadn’t paid the exorbitant prices for workstations — unlike the RNC, where the charges were very reasonable (and accessible for news outfits without deep pockets — like ours).

Winner: The RNC.


THE VISUALS

So. Many. Balloons. And signs.

Delegates waved signs in the arena throughout both conventions, sure, but DNC attendees were given a different sign to wave each night: “Michelle” on Monday, for example. On Thursday, the arena was cluttered with American flags large and small.

Winner: The DNC certainly offered more to look at.


THE TONE

Trump’s RNC speech was the culmination of several days’ worth of xenophobic, ethnocentric spew.

It was really not all that different from the three other garbage speeches we’ve suffered in Tampa.

“Illegals,” jerbs, Hillary’s that lady hosebeast from Evil Dead II, etc.

If you want a good summation, just read this quote from Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force: “You don’t think violence solves anything? What kind of monster are you?”

The one thing that was new to the rotation was Trump’s utterance of “LGBTQ,” which we have to acknowledge was pretty cool; it’s great he wants to keep everybody safe from ISIS.

The whole event seemed more like an anti-Hillary Clinton infomercial than a convention.

By contrast, the Dems put on a greatest-hits show. There was something for the hawks, for the doves.

Sure, many who spoke at the DNC spoke critically of Trump (perhaps none more eloquently than Khzir Kahn).

And even though Sanders supporters were deeply disgruntled, the unity thing managed to get going by the end.

Winner: The DNC.

click to enlarge Trump supporters during his acceptance speech. - Joeff Davis
Joeff Davis
Trump supporters during his acceptance speech.

THE BOOS

I was on the floor of the RNC, standing next to the Florida delegation, as U.S. Sen. from Texas Ted Cruz delivered his political career to the Lord Jesus Christ on Night Three after refusing to endorse Trump. It was fucking intense.

Five days later, I was in the room in Philly when Sanders delegates from Florida loudly booed former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz at a breakfast event.

Both politicians carried on as though their careers weren’t dying on national television. But Cruz’s shit-eating grin in the face of a public shaming won the day.

Winner: The RNC.


THE COPPERS

At times, the RNC felt more like the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show than a series of serious conversations about the role of government or objective reality.

And, as with Grateful Dead show parking lots, there were many cops.

The police presence at the DNC the following week was noticeable, but, perhaps because events were so spread out, they didn’t seem omnipresent.

So, yeah, the DNC seemed more chill and less militarized.

Winner: The DNC.


THE HOTNESS

An associate pointed this out: Meandering in the halls of the arena, there seemed to be a stronger presence of attractive people at the DNC. Not that the rival event didn’t have a reasonable babe factor (what with all the young campaign staffers and all), but the Dems win this one.

Winner: The DNC.


THE SPEAKERS/PERFORMERS

The RNC, as many have noted, was more defined by who wasn’t there than who was. Few moderate Republican officials bothered to show up. The celebrities that were there weren’t exactly A-list.

The Dems were able to nail down a roster of A-listers in the way the Republicans never could, what with that liberal Hollywood conspiracy and all.

Winner: The DNC.


THE FUTURE

If you listen to Republicans at the RNC, you’d think we were in the middle of a shitcan apocalypse brought on by Obama or something. The only one who can save us all? A billionaire who says the darndest things.

At the DNC, by contrast, the message was optimistic while acknowledging that there’s more work to be done. It was nuanced and thoughtful — even if a touch boring at times.

It’s impossible to predict what happens next, but as of this writing, Trump’s numbers have tanked some, and the billionaire is currently picking a fight with the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier.

But stranger things have boosted his numbers, so I’m done guessing for the moment

About The Author

Scroll to read more Columns articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]