Sunday, July 24, 2016

RNC Cleveland: Local Grievance Edition

Trump and his circus have left town, and so have I. But before I turn myself over entirely to watching the DNC on GMT, let me point out a few local Cleveland issues that bothered me about this convention. I've already blogged about the big stuff. Let me just get some Cleveland things off my chest.

1) As someone who used to live in downtown Cleveland (at least for most of the week) I felt a special sympathy for the immigrants and first-generation Americans who live and work downtown in the convention zone. Back when I lived on East 12th Street, I did all my local grocery shopping from a little store run by Arab immigrants. For a party that talks endlessly about small business owners, the Republicans talk a lot of smack about the hard-working immigrants who own many of those small businesses.

I found myself thinking a lot about the family that runs that grocery, and what it must be like to have the neighborhood around your family store be taken over by America's Number One immigrant hater and Muslim basher. Sorry, guys. I am really, really sorry.

2) Well-known former actor Scott Baio used some of his ridiculous prime-time slot to misuse Langston Hughes. This is standard practice among conservatives, who find "Let America Be America Again" too tempting a phrase to resist (although they can easily resist actually reading Langston Hughes's poem, which means the opposite of what they think it means. Generally, they seem pretty good at not reading things.).

But even if this has become standard operating procedure, it takes a special amount of ignorance to misuse Langston Hughes's words in Cleveland. Langston Hughes is from Cleveland, Chachi. There are places named for him inside the convention "event zone." Do a little research before you open your mouth, and have some respect.

Also, for those of you keeping score at home, Baio kicked off the Republicans' Monday-night theme of "taking language from black folks without giving them credit."

Hughes's poem is a little masterpiece, at once embracing the best version of the American Dream, the dream of freedom and equality, while acknowledging that "America was never America to me." Or, out another way, Hughes points out that that vision of America has never been completely real, but that it can and should and must be. Here's a little taste:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe. 

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
If you like that, just wait until Hughes really gets going:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.  
You can read the whole thing here. If this sounds to you like exactly the opposite of the hateful Republican convention and the hateful demagogue it nominated with a "false patriotic wreath," you're exactly right. It is the opposite of that.

On a related topic: Shut up, Chachi.

3. In the middle of all the disorganized hate-mongering, Unindicted Co-conspirator Chris Christie revealed that Trump the First would, if elected, purge the civil service of Obama appointees.  Not just get rid of Obama's political appointees whose terms automatically end when parties change power, but any career civil servants, the non-political types who are there to do their jobs no matter who the President is. What Trump and Christie want is the power to fire the entire civil service, everyone with a government job, and potentially replace them all with political appointees.

We used to do it that actually, and it is no way to run a serious country. It rewards partisanship over competence. (Imagine a system in which every election leads to someone replacing your mailman, and where the mailman doesn't actually have to do his mailman job as long as he does his real job as a political activist. Sound like fun? It wasn't.) This is outrageous just on the level of basic good governance and, you know, wanting to actually operate like America.

But here's what really hacks me off: it was Republicans who changed that corrupt system, Republicans who created our professional, non-partisan civil service, and for that to happen a Republican President of the United States had to die.

He was President James Garfield. He was murdered by a lunatic assassin who was enraged at civil service reform. He was from Cleveland. He is buried in Cleveland. His tomb is about six miles or so from the convention floor.

So let me say that it is particularly grotesque that these alleged Republicans demand a return to the old corrupt "spoils system," in the city where the man who gave his life to end that corruption has his tomb. Chris Christie wants to turn basic civic services into crass political tools? Huh, funny. No one is surprised. That's what he's already in trouble for doing.

But if Chris Christie wants to badmouth that particular Republican achievement, all I can tell him is: "Meet me at the Garfield Monument and say that again."

cross-posted from, and all comments welcome at, Dagblog


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