Sound and Fury (Signifying Nothing)

by on September 2nd, 2004

Although I’m not at the Republican National Convention, I know my fellow Republicans join me in thanking all those diligent protesters out there for showing up in New York. What would otherwise have been a relatively lackluster affair with only a handful of good speeches has gotten far more than its due in press coverage, and will probably get a post-convention “bump” far larger than anything Sen. Kerry got in Boston. So viva the First Amendment.

At last count, more than 1,500 protesters have been arrested, but there seems to be some disagreement as to whether things are getting more heated or less. The LA Times said, “Day of Relatively Calm Protests,” while Reuters worried, “Republican Convention Dogged by Relentless Protests.” The Voice of America – that imperialist tool – tried to explain what it all means to foreigners.

The Republicans inside Madison Square Garden appeared, by most accounts, to be generally undogged – though they weren’t really targets for conversion by the liberal hordes anyway. The target is the press, who seem content with keeping track of the arrest numbers in a fashion that recalls the Olympic medal count.

The protesters themselves seem to be partially a collection of college students and frustrated graphic artists (some of the posters are quite good; perhaps a gallery exhibition should be arranged after the election). And the protesters are getting more strident and irrational with each passing day in their denunciations of the administration: “Stop Mad Cowboy Disease,” “FU RNC,” “No World Domination,” “Corporate Whore,” “I’m English – We Hate Bush Too,” “Bush: International Terrorist,” “We’re Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them,” and my personal favorite, “</BUSH>” (you gotta appreciate HTML jokes). And there were effigies, upside-down American flags, Bush masks, mock coffins, and all manner of vitriolic symbolism. All very evocative of Lincoln and Douglas. But what has become ridiculous never had a chance to be sublime.

What is the real objective here? What are the masses rising up trying to accomplish? Let’s deconstruct it a little.

Raise Consciousness: Yes, okay. Let’s raise peoples’ consciousness – that’s an oldie but goodie because nobody can put a finger on what it means (though it’s worth noting that this phrase is almost trademarked at this point by the left). The country is polarized, and a bunch of people, including your own august selves, still don’t like the administration. Is this news?

Change Minds and Votes: Polling indicates that things haven’t changed appreciably (indeed, at all) since the convention started. At best, it’s a wash. And the number of undecideds ranges from four to five percent (the number of voters “leaning,” and therefore theoretically uncommitted, has held steady as well, around 20 percent). So not many minds have been changed by the protests. They may be waiting for later protests before deciding, however.

Disrupt the Convention: Now we’re getting to the red meat, so to speak. Not to be naïve, but aren’t Republicans entitled to have a convention, too? It’s not enshrined in the Constitution, but it’s been a generally accepted political practice in America for over 150 years. You didn’t see thousands of guys in seersucker jackets and J. Press ties hurling epithets at delegates going into the Democratic Convention; in fact, most of the protesters thought Kerry wasn’t far enough to the left.

OK, Have a Convention, but Not in NYC!: Why not? As the odious Michael Moore pointed out, New York, the center of world finance, is the perfect place for Republicans, who believe in capitalism and free markets, to have a convention (though Moore put it slightly less charitably).

The final tally: no minds changed, no new issues brought forward, no new solutions proposed, and no new ideas. But lots and lots of signs littering the street afterwards, and vast amounts of time, money and energy that could have been used elsewhere making a real difference – doing unexciting things like community volunteering or participating in a campaign – all wasted.

It’s becoming more obvious than ever that the anti-Republican, anti-conservative, anti-business, anti-neocon, anti-globalization, anti-war, anti-capitalism, etc, etc, etc, “movement” (to the extent there is any unity there at all) is little more than a self-licking ice cream cone, marching to justify its existence and existing to march.

Marc C. Johnson