More than anything else, my first Republican National Convention reminded me of another type of event I've been to hundreds of times: a professional wrestling match. The Republicans aren't the only major political party guilty of this kind of over-the-top extravaganza. The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was every bit as scripted and contrived as the GOP's Tampa gathering. But I did not have a ringside seat for the DNC. Still, throughout my Republican convention experience, I could not help but think, is this the RNC or WWE?
Mitt Romney did not rip off his shirt to show off his 24-inch pythons like Hulk Hogan, nor did tag-team partner Paul Ryan, but they flexed and they preened. The crowd ate it up. Romney-mania ran wild.
During the early part of the convention, the RNC spent most of their time trying to change the delegate rules in a way that would completely disenfranchise grassroots activists and future anti-establishment candidates, like my boss Ron Paul. The convention floor revolted. Conservative leader and president and founder of the Leadership Institute Morton Blackwell spoke out strongly against the rule changes and organized a last-minute trip to Tampa to give the committee a piece of his mind. When Blackwell arrived in Tampa, his bus was forced to take a "detour" that many speculated was designed to prevent the influential leader from showing up at the convention in time to stop the rule changes. Based on my experience with the WWE, I think there's a good chance that this is what happened. On any given episode of WWE Raw, you can see such behavior. The "commissioner" or "general manager" is usually beaten up, locked in a closet, or detained in some entertainingly hokey fashion so that the bad guy wrestlers can have their way in the ring. Seriously, how many times over the years has WWE head honcho Vince McMahon walked out during a match and changed the rules whimsically, something fans always get angry about but feel helpless to challenge? This is essentially what the RNC did — and not surprisingly conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, and Michelle Malkin denounced the move loudly.
But the most significant way in which the Republican convention reminded me of wrestling was in how the event was perceived by diehard fans — and those who have never been to a convention before. When wrestling newbies are taken to their first live show, one of the things they initially notice is how phony it all seems. (If you think wrestling looks fake on TV, wait until you see it live. It's even worse.) They might remark, "Stone Cold is not really hitting that guy," or they'll say, "The Rock doesn't really hate John Cena. This is all for show." But to diehard fans, these things don't matter. They're caught up in the moment. They're more concerned about having fun than seeing the mechanics of the show for what they are.
When it comes to the Republican National Convention, a casual observer might notice that while Romney and Ryan say they want to turn around the economy and reduce the deficit, they don't really explain how they plan to do so. A more sober conservative might point out that both Romney and Ryan supported TARP, the bank bailouts, Bush-era statist expansions like Medicare Plan D, and No Child Left Behind — the kind of big government policies the Tea Party now apparently abhors. An even keener observer might wonder what kind of math Romney is using; after all, Romney accuses Obama of "gutting" the defense budget during a time when we spend more on our military than at any time in our history. Some estimate Romney's proposed defense increases will add $2.6 trillion to our debt. If our annual deficit is around $1.5 trillion, and Paul Ryan's prescriptions to reform entitlements already seem too "extreme" to many, how would a Romney administration possibly balance the budget under these circumstances? The numbers simply don't add up.
Still, to Republican diehards, much like wrestling fans, the reality of the RNC is less important than the emotions they feel while they are there. Romney is Hulk Hogan and Obama is the Iron Sheik. Logic schmogic, Obama is going down for the count, 1-2-3! Yeah baby!
This is not to say that Obama doesn't deserve to be defeated. Come November, I hope he is. But who we replace him with needs to be someone who is significantly better than who we have now. Based on what I saw at the 2012 Republican National Convention, I'm convinced that Obama's potential replacement would only be marginally better. This is a shame. I'm also convinced that the greatest difference between wrestling fans and political fans is that most wrestling fans realize that what they're watching isn't real.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.