It had to be this way -- perfection in a Shakespearian-tragedy sense. Of course my first trip to a Republican National Convention would start out with mortal terror...not of Republicans, though they're plenty frightening, but of the weather itself. Rain lashed the car as I drove down to Tampa. Gusts of wind pushed my and other vehicles around a bit. When I managed to make my way into deep western Florida the rain stopped, but the wind picked up enough to throw a few palmetto plants my way. And now everything seems to have died down. It's just raining. Nothing torrential, just bad weather.
I'm beginning to think that my trip down is a fairly spot-on allegory for the Republican race itself: all sound and fury but no real substance. No lasting ideas. There does of course seem to be an up-tick in voter suppression schemes, hatred of women, the poor, and minorities in general, but nothing we haven't seen before...
Unless you count Ron Paul. We've seen him before, but never quite like this. It may be nothing but I've already resisted conversion attempts from several members of the Ron Paul Nation, and I've only been in Tampa for a few hours. Ron Paul's acolytes shuffle out of nowhere with their Ron Paul T-shirts, and instantly recognize that you have not yet accepted Ron Paul into your heart as your political lord and savior. And they are very eager to spread the good word.
What baffles me is how they know. I've already been mistaken as a Republican (easy mistake to make considering I'm a grumpy looking white guy in a collared shirt and slacks) and recognized as a liberal, but the Ron Paul folks are batting a thousand. They never miss. Their political pitch is always roughly the same with Democrats; they know I'm a liberal but want to explain to me just why and how government is the root of all evil. I'd shrug this off if they weren't pulling the same trick with Republicans. The pitch to Republicans has more to do with a mild scolding for saying one is in favor of small government (a favorite pastime for many on the right) only to massively increase the government's size, spending, and scope. I was even accosted by a Ron Paul supporter in the lobby of my hotel. Sandals, sweatpants, a Ron Paul T-shirt, and the instant knowledge that I was a liberal Democrat.
Please keep in mind that all of this has happened outside the convention. I'll keep an eye on this brand of weirdness and all the other stories as they arise when the convention kicks off in full. Though I must say, if I encounter anything as impressive/unsettling a Ron Paul mind-readers, I'll be surprised.
(Editor's Note: Charles is in Tampa covering the Republican National Convention for The Progressive Populist.)