People under 40 are in for a treat this summer. A new reality show combining the very best of Survivor, Jackass, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, will begin July 18th and run through the 21st. It promises to be the television event of the year, and you don't even need cable. The macabre spectacle known as the Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland earlier than usual this year, so as not to step on the TV ratings for the 2016 Olympics. The Democrats follow suit a week later in Philadelphia, so everybody can jet off to Rio de Janeiro and bring back the Zika virus.
The GOP's soiree will take place in the Quicken Loans Arena, which seems a bit insensitive, considering their quadrennial gala will be held in a sports arena owned by a mortgage company that was sued by the government for "knowingly violating underwriting practices (and) issuing hundreds of defective loans." But it all makes sense when you discover the arena is owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner and heavy Republican donor, Dan Gilbert, a billionaire businessman and chairman of Quicken Loans, who accepted a government bailout for his mendacious operation. So that's a good start on what will be the billionaires' political convention.
Several pundits are predicting that the cyclone that's about to devour Cleveland will be comparable to the 1968 bloody Democratic convention in Chicago. The greatest similarity is that we get to sit on the couch with our popcorn and watch the implosion of a major political party. The differences, however, are many. The national mood leading up to Chicago can best be described as incendiary. LBJ announced he would not run for reelection in March. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April, followed by the murder of Robert Kennedy in June.
The best hope for peace was Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, who came to the convention with the most delegates. Every manner of protester flooded into Chicago: radicals, moderates, anti-war activists, hippies, Yippies, and the Black Panther Party. Mayor Richard J. Daley was the law, mobilizing the National Guard and the Chicago police with orders to "shoot to kill" arsonists, and "shoot to maim" looters. This emboldened the cops to commit sanctioned brutality against the loathed, long-haired intruders. For the next three days, while the Democratic Party was disintegrating inside the hall, blue-helmeted riot police removed their badges and went on a rampage, wading into the protestors with sadistic zeal, cracking skulls and bloodying campaign volunteers, men and women alike.
In the end, party bosses chose Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had not entered a single primary, as the nominee. Because their candidate was crushed by the party machinery, a whole generation took their ball and went home, sitting out the election and enabling the reign of Richard Nixon and setting off another five years of bitter anti-war protests. Like Mick Jagger said, "You can't always get what you want."
This year, it's the Republicans who are in chaos. With tempers boiling, talk of a brokered convention and an insider "Stop Trump" movement, there's every potential for violence. Only this time, the violence will be inside the convention. While a delegate might mention the word "riot" under his breath, Trump just comes right out and predicts it. When Donald Trump speculated that if he doesn't get the nomination, "I think you'd have riots. I'm representing ... millions of people," he virtually invited every Tea Party yahoo, Klansman, white supremacist, and open-carry gun neurotic to come to Cleveland. For certain, protesters will descend righteously into the city where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered by a policeman (who was previously declared "emotionally unstable") for brandishing a toy, airsoft pistol in a public park. Black Lives Matter will be in force. So should the many groups publicly denigrated by Trump: Mexicans, African Americans, Asians, war heroes, women, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, the disabled, and the poor. This time, however, law enforcement will be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service (if we can keep them away from the prostitutes) and not the trigger-happy Cleveland police.
So buckle up, this is going to be ugly. So far, it looks like the only people who will speak on behalf of Trump are Dennis Rodman, Sarah Palin, Mike Tyson, Chris Christie, and Omarosa. Maybe they could get the Cliven Bundy militia to prerecord a message of support which could then be read by Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson.
The strange thing is the rules committee is not bound by rules, so they can make them up as they go along. There are two scenarios here: Trump loses the nomination and begins rampaging around the land like the Cloverfield monster, or Trump wins the nomination, but the GOP announces a third-party candidate so as not to let the country fall into the hands of a sociopath who once said, "It really doesn't matter what (the media) write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."
Who can argue with logic like that? Except, imagine for a second if that quote came out of the mouth of Barack Obama. Rednecks would be locking up their daughters. No matter how repulsive Trump is to his fellow GOP presidential candidates, almost all of them have pledged to support the party's nominee.
Go ahead and nominate his ass. His hate-filled reality show will be renewed for 12 more weeks, then the voters can cancel him for good — and maybe the Republican Party, as well.
Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.