I live in the Tampa Bay area, and in the run up to the RNC, I thought I’d engage in a little citizen journalism. Or at least wander around the circus and capture shots of crazy people with my camera phone for y’alls’ amusement.
But when the convention actually started, I couldn’t summon the will to leave home, fight the traffic and elbow my way through damp crowds of Republican assholes when I could be home instead watching the circus unfold in air-conditioned comfort with iced cocktails. Until last night, when I finally dragged my ass down there.
I was not alone in my lack of enthusiasm. The big local story is the dearth of drama surrounding the RNC. When I finally made my way to town, I was amazed at the heavy police presence and martial law feel but also by the desolation. I’ve never seen so many cops in my life, and they were all bored shitless.
There were heavily armed Secret Service personnel yawning behind fenced off bank and government buildings, guarding plate glass windows that were utterly un-menaced by a single anarchist cinder block. Homeland Security officers and cops from every corner of the state were riding around in Kubota carts, looking in vain for unruly hippies to hassle.
There are a lot of theories behind this ennui: The shitty economy. Disillusioned Dems. Lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Republicans causing a corresponding paucity of passion in their opponents.
Having seen it first hand, I think there’s a simpler explanation: Jersey barriers. The Tampa Convention Center and Tampa Bay Times Forum venues are located at the tip of a peninsula, and it was pretty much shut down, not only to car traffic but to foot traffic as well. I’m talking about an area that is approximately five or six city blocks deep and seven or more blocks wide.
If you weren’t wearing RNC tags on a lanyard around your neck, you weren’t getting anywhere near the place, and even if you had the tags, you had to stumble along a Jersey barrier perimeter to find a manned checkpoint to gain entry. We saw lots of conventioneers staggering around this desolate hellscape in search of a checkpoint, the men sweaty and panting in their suits and the women precariously negotiating the potholes in high heels and looking angry about what the humidity was doing to their hair.
Demonstration-wise, there was this sad little knot of Paultroons manning the approach to one checkpoint, right next to a smelly Port-O-Let. A motley assortment of Birthers and Truthers lounged on the stairs of a nearby building, listlessly arguing with one another and attempting to press flyers on passersby:
We wandered down to another checkpoint and encountered a group of shouty anti-gay, pro-hellfire fetus fetishists:
It began to rain, and when we sought shelter under a bus stop awning, we ran smack into that attention-whore preacher who caused a big hubbub awhile back by burning a Koran:
He was muttering about burning more Korans, and it turns out the gaggle of chanters were his parishioners. The preacher appears to be angling for a Westboro Baptist South franchise, but he wasn’t attracting much attention. There were a couple of counter-protesters, one of whom had this unkind if amusing sign:
We heard about pro- and anti-RNC marches here and there, but all we saw were confused scrums of people wandering aimlessly in a Jersey barrier wasteland. Which is a pretty apt metaphor for the whole damned thing.
So is this pathetic tableau, created when a despondent Galt-Spawn gave up on the democratic process in disgust and deposited his handmade sign in a city government-sponsored trashcan:
The End.[X-posted at Rumproast]
Awesome. I wonder if this will be the last year of an actual convention, since it could hardly beat out Honey Boo-Boo in the ratings game. Everyone has to be wondering what’s the point.
So basically they turned Tampa into Palestine for a week. Lovely. Land of the free, home of the brave.
You were looking for a soul to steal?
Thanks for the scene of the crime report. The crime being the massively absurd security overload.
I think the (hope the) boredom is aboutRomney, not about Dems.
To that point, love that O got lots of cheers for the “this seat taken” pic.
Wouldn’t the RNC and the Honey Boo-Boo show share the same demographics? It must have been hell deciding which to watch.
@Joy: I can see the dilemna now…
“Words are hard. Turn it on the Honey Boo Boo chil’.”
We had preseason football to watch where I live.
@jwb: They probably would have been better off with Honey Boo Boo as their candidate.
On the other hand, I understand the DNC is going to have a nice, family-friendly street festival open to the public, next week.
Imagine when those video clips start circulating of all those nice people with kids and stuff being screamed at and taunted by nasty, hateful republicans!
A fitting eulogy for the RNC. And the Christie sign made me LOL!
Villago Delenda Est
They’d be better off with almost any one of 300 million Americans as their candidate. As long as that one was not named Romney.
The effectiveness of blockading half of downtown Tampa discouraged not only would-be protestors but also people who usually work there M-F (my brother works downtown and he spent most of the week working from home instead).
It may make for a conflict-free orderly convention (on the outside: indoors turned out to be more of a mess, didn’t it?), but it also makes the whole endeavor more… boring, I suppose.
Remember how the local cops emptied out an entire prison in preparation for massive arrests during the convention? I didn’t hear of any huge arrests other than that machete carrier on Sunday. I think they over-prepared for this one, didn’t they?
@Cassidy: No, I think it was “to get her fair share of abuse.”
Tone In DC
Good on you, Betty, for going down there. That was a rather motley crew, indeed.
I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near that place, if for no other reason than the overwhelming cognitive dissonance and rank hypocrisy (teh GOP st00pid, it BURNS).
And, like so many in this country, I figure I’ve already gotten my fair share of abuse.
danah gaz (fka gaz)
The Ron Paul sign in a trash can is almost poetic.
Yeah. The eleventy-million different police departments that have jurisdiction in downtown DC have been doing this kind of thing for the past decade or so. The collective effect has been bad enough to keep me away from the touristy areas entirely. It’s too bad, because the museums have some great shows now and then.
That last photo of the Ron Paul sign in the trash can full of discarded Styrofoam cups is like an artistic metaphor. That photo alone says so much.
Thanks for the report. Great stuff.
danah gaz (fka gaz)
I took a quick look at the event schedule and there are a lot of events that sound like a lot of fun. What a contrast to the RNC convention with Newt University lectures and other fascinating wingnut seminars attended by a lot of older white people in stars and stripes outfits.
I suppose the fine citizens of Tampa also probably are 1) more broke than the citizens of Minneapolis-St. Paul were 4 years ago, and 2) more conservative.
Part of the reason more people showed up, I think, in 2008 to protest the RNC was that the Twin Cities metro probably has a bigger and more organized progressive community than metro Tampa.
And the RNC was just so booooring this year, maybe we all just saw this as a chance to relax and watch the GOP self-deport to electoral lala land. They didn’t need a push – or the optics of counterdemos.
Sometimes ignoring your enemy is the strongest fu.
danah gaz (fka gaz)
@bemused: Someone on twitter suggested that the DNC was going to feature Robert Duvall yelling at a futon. =)
@danah gaz (fka gaz):
We must be long lost twins separated at birth.
If you recall the heavy-handed police tactics of the previous two RNC conventions in Minneapolis and NY, I suppose it could seem that the powers that be have finally won the battle against mass protests. But big protests had already lost their effectiveness anyway — there have just been too many of them, and the media no longer responds. Both Occupy and the Tea Party have shown that smaller, more widely distributed protests work pretty well as a substitute, but it may also be that social media has surpassed the whole getting out in the street thing for propagating political and social messages.
danah gaz (fka gaz)
@RandyH: It was for the best. ;)
I can’t wait until next week when voters get a chance to contrast and compare the two conventions, the two political parties and their platforms, and the two presidential tickets. The right-wing children have had their fun and games, and now it’s time for the adults.
@danah gaz (fka gaz):
Thanks for the photos and the description. Your piece is much more informative than anything I saw on TV.
If the networks would do their jobs instead of just showcasing set pieces, they might actually get some viewers. How about a reporter interviewing GOP convention attendees about women’s rights and choice, a la Samantha Bee. I’d watch that. If the networks want viewers they need to give us something worth watching.
There was a huge police presence in Denver in ’08. They were everywhere. They brought them in from surrounding jurisdictions. I know this because they were bored out of their minds yet happy, because they were all getting over-time, so positively chatty :)
What’s different, I think (and this may have more to do with Denver as a city than Democrats) is the tolerance for protest, because there were a lot of liberal protesters at the Denver convention, and although they were “managed” somewhat, they were treated respectfully and with a lot of calm deference by police. My impression was it’s a city that values political speech. I think that sort of attitude comes from the top, ie: a mayor.
There was a huge anti-war presence that went completely unreported at the ’08 DNC convention. It was really disconcerting to me to walk around and see these elaborate anti-war protests, when the entire media focus was on this tiny faction of “PUMAS”. We had a single PUMA in our delegation and they would literally line up to interview her. We would have to push past her and her media scrum to leave a room. Just WILDLY unrepresentative of what was actually happening there. Media did not present an accurate portrayal of what was going on there. Liberals FAR outnumbered “PUMAS”, as protestors.
It will be interesting to see how Charlotte-area police approach this. I think the Denver approach is best, hands-off protestors as long as there’s no violence or law-breaking. They did a good job balancing safety while allowing plenty of room for political speech. I was impressed, and I’d go back to that city anytime. Plus, it’s a good walking city and has sunny days and cool nights.
@Cassidy: Stealing souls at the RNC? I am reminded of that grade school joke where you make a sucking motion with your hand over a classmate’s head and say “this is a brainsucker, starving to death.” Well, it kills in the fourth grade.
Bloody Bill haz a sad
Don’t worry your pretty little head, Bill. If the worm turns and it becomes president Romney, you can place your order for another blood soaked conflagaration ground war Asia, or wherever Mitt is directed to point the American gun.
Mitt doesn’t give a shit about foreign policy, unless it is cold cash related, but he won’t stand in the way of neo cons, for fulfilling there dreams of murder and mayhem. It would be just too much for his delicate Mormon nerves to have Dick Cheney show up on Fox News to call him a chicken. And it might distract his plan to finish emptying the national treasury into plutocrat coffers.
Drat. if WP doesn’t start allowing edits again, I’m just going to have to challenge it to a duel. Their now
I saw this live, the stunned reactions of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell after Clint Eastwood all but told President Obama to go ** himself while interviewing an empty chair
Villago Delenda Est
Kay, they have their predetermined narrative, and they’re not going to let actual events get in the way of the narrative. I’m sure you know, there are cocktail weenies at parties that will not eat themselves. Covering things other than the predetermined narrative will endanger those cocktail weenies being eaten.
We can’t have that.
This is the first time Kristol’s noticed this? That Mitt Romney completely ignores the war in Afghanistan and never, ever mentions Iraq? It’s been going on for years.
He’s right, too. Obama will hit it hard, and Obama SHOULD hit it hard. Romney’s a big fan of wars, any war, apparently, but in a very abstract and theoretical way. That’s been his approach since Vietnam.
Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937
I feel like I was there. Thanks.
It was even worse than that. Because they shut down the Crosstown Expressway for the convention, several of my coworkers who live in Hillsborough county elected to work from home, even though we work in Pinellas. It wasn’t worth driving two hours to work.
Simple: demonstrations bring cameras and publicity, eyeballs then watch the speeches, and Americans of Dumbfuckery descent decide to vote for Gov. Goodhair.
Dems got smart, realized this, and decided not to cause a scene to minimize the press cover…..ha ha! Couldn’t get through that with a straight face. Nevermind. Dems are lazy.
@Villago Delenda Est:
I love Betty’s pictures, because I get a real sense of the sweaty feel of that event.
Anti-war protestors in Denver did this incredibly moving, silent, oh, I don’t know, sort of play in the streets. It sounds horrible how I’m describing it, like it was mimes or something, but they were Iraq vets moving in a city street how they might move in a city street in Iraq, moving quickly forward, then behind buildings, etc. Silent. It was wild to watch and beautifully choreographed. Sort of solemn, and they got across the sense of gravity and seriousness with which that war should have been treated, but wasn’t. People watching were really riveted by it. You know those huge crowd scenes where people mill around and talk and don’t pay attention? People were WATCHING this.
Anyway, the entire media scrum were grouped around 15 PUMAS holding signs standing on a tiny triangle traffic median, so they missed this amazing …thing happening 4 blocks away.
@Cassidy: Gad. I hope this is an ironic pop cultural touchstone mashup rather than a genuine generational blind spot.
Villago Delenda Est
Like the deserting coward and the Dark Lord, wars are fine for the little people to actually participate in…it takes care of the excess population of little people, you know. Rmoney and his vile cowardly spawn will cheer them on from the safety of their Paris chateaus and New Hampshire lakeside retreats.
Brilliant and hilarious as always, Betty. Thanks for visting the convention so we don’t have to :)
@NCSteve: I was trying to be witty…”She went down to the demonst4ration, she was looking for a soul to steal…”. Fiddles? Nothing? Nevermind.
@PaulW: I don’t understand why they didn’t have it in a cornfield if they were so frightened by the sidewalks of a downtown.
There must be plenty of stadiums in suburban places, surrounded by parking lots, where they wouldn’t have to fence themselves in for blocks and blocks like they did in Tampa.
@Villago Delenda Est:
I had this ridiculous and completely unproductive fight with an AP reporter. She approaches the Ohio delegation, and finds a AA delegate with a Clinton button. Okay, so I’ve already met and spoken with this delegate and she’s a union delegate, she’s sent by her union. She was a Clinton supporter in the primaries, because she had met Clinton personally during Bill’s runs, but, you know, she’s a fucking union delegate. She’s not there to trash the nominee, and she refuses to trash the nominee, despite the AP reporters insistence that she do so. The AP reporter wouldn’t let up, leading questions, repeating her answers back and changing the meaning in the recitation, the whole nine yards, so I’m standing there and finally I can’t listen to this anymore and I ask her why she is misrepresenting what is happening here. Why is she creating news. It goes back and forth for way too long, and she eventually leaves. I got nowhere of course, this “Democrats in disarray” bullshit continued for the entire convention, but I felt slightly better having confronted her.
@danah gaz (fka gaz):
Or Abraham Simpson yelling at the clouds.
“to get my fair of abuse”
Thanks for the report and pictures. I have never heard of jersy barriors. Must be an east coast thing, but the west coast has them too.
“to get my fair share of abuse”
1) Air-conditioning. It’s why they went for an ICE HOCKEY arena.
2) Need to do it in a city with a large enough airport to handle the number of delegates.
3) Need to do it in a city where the uberrich can relax in relative luxury (i.e., yachts).
4) The strip clubs. Also air-conditioned (yes, this joke has gotten old. But it’s Tampa: we live with it).
5) For some reason, Orlando (which is home to far more religious wingnuts than Tampa/St. Pete, and has a larger convention center close to the amusement parks) was too expensive for the billionaires as a host city.
Villago Delenda Est
Kay, I’m not surprised at that at all.
I once had a phone conversation with Tucker Carlson, concerning the death of Steven Kangas in Pittsburgh in 1999. I had been an online acquaintance of Kangas along with a few other USENET liberal types, and we wanted his death to be better investigated than it was (the Pittsburgh police ruled it a suicide). Carlson tried to get me to say that Richard Melon Scaife was responsible for Kangas’ death. He kept asking leading questions, trying to put words in my mouth. My response was we don’t know what happened, and we won’t give the perfunctory nature of the investigation.
These guys have a narrative, and they try to shoehorn the facts, and whoever they talk to, into that narrative.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that you were there to help this woman deal with an AP reporter trying to get her to validate the “disarray” narrative, and using every trick in the book to do so.
I wish it was the MittBot2012(tm) that had blown the 50-amp fuse, but I think it was the entire Republican party. Viewed the next day the Clint thing is even weirder.
Nice report, Betty. Democracy has been extinguished–for
As Allah (PBUH) is my witness I had this hilarious mental image of Betty walking down the streets of Tampa with seven hens on leashes clucking and raising a fuss. I choose to believe that happened. :)
@Villago Delenda Est:
I have trouble with it. I started this huge fight with the local reporter here (we have a local daily that everyone reads) because I know he’s a rabid Republican and he trashed the health care bill in what was supposed to be a “news” piece. So we had a stupid, endless email exchange that went nowhere. That’s the relationship. Openly hostile. He recently (poor thing) had to interview me on voting issues, and he literally wrote every single word I said. So I get all het up over voting issues and I sounded like a really mad 7th grader, but I did say these EXACT things, so really he was doing what I had asked him to do on the health care bill, so I can hardly bitch. My husband was in hysterics when he read it, just laughing because of course it sounds exactly like I actually talk. He said “did you KNOW who you were talking to, or did you think he was your new friend?”
@Cassidy: Durn kids these days.
The next republican Joe the Plumber
Could be republican mating ritual. Could just be crazy. Or, could be to0 fucking much Fox News.
Thanks for this, Betty. Combined with Kay’s comments – especially #28, #38, and #44 – it really points out just how effed-up our commercial “news” media is, in terms of being a reliable source of useful/actionable information.
If falls on us news consumers to be aggressive in looking far and wide for good sources – usually (of necessity) multiple sources – and somehow patch things together in order to figure out the Big Picture. Posts like this help a lot. And it’s yet another illustration of the need to support the work of groups like the ACLU and EFF and other groups that let citizens and good journalists do their jobs, e.g., by putting up a fuss when police arrest people for the mere act of taking photographs in public places.
I’m glad you were able to break free for a day. From your past comments here and at Rumproast, I know you’re not swimming in cash, and you need to work for your sustenance, so the sacrifice you undertook to do this is greatly appreciated.
Villago Delenda Est
All of the above?
@mamayaga: I suspect that’s the case. It’s easier using social media, and more direct. Even when a demonstration actually gets on tv, the coverage is too short and often badly timed. Social media is 24/7 and you can post a video of the entire event told from your perspective. I suspect the next time we have a really big demonstration, the organizers will have their own video coverage and stream it online and not even care if the conventional press covers it. Also social media is cheaper-no permits or cash for stages and equipment needed.
@Cassidy: So it was the mashup? Because I can totally imagine 1970s Long Haired Countryboy Charlie Daniels at an after-party with Mick and Keith, but I’m having a little more trouble imagining 2010s’ Tea Party Wingnut CDB hanging with even septuagenarian Mick and Keith, much less 1970s Mick and Keith.
But then, we’ve seen a lot of surreal in the last 24 hours . . .
Samantha Bee’s piece was stunning.
Here it is: Republican delegates on “choice.”
Villago Delenda Est
It was a tour de force, demonstrating how something like cognitive dissonance without out any cognition is what modern Rethuglicanism is all about. Talking about choices and freedom simultaneously with a platform that is as totalitarian in its outlook as anything that the 20th century’s totalitarian states ever came up with.
@danah gaz (fka gaz): Or Joe Biden yelling at an empty suit*
*Provided by Men’s Wearhouse ™ for promotional consideration.
@PaulW: 5) For some reason, Orlando (which is home to far more religious wingnuts than Tampa/St. Pete, and has a larger convention center close to the amusement parks) was too expensive for the billionaires as a host city.
What, and shut down DISNEY WORLD?
Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen.
A question for Betty (or anyone else in the Tampa area), spurred by the sign about Gov. Christie:
Where’s your favorite takeout place for Cuban sandwiches?
My wife and I, on our visits to her family, are partial to La Segunda bakery (which also has terrific guava and cheese tarts), just off I-4 in Ybor City. We usually pick them up on our way from the airport to her folks in Plant City, but sometimes our flight gets in after the sandwich counter has closed, so we’re looking for a backup. Any suggestions?
@low-tech cyclist: I’m partial to Bracato’s on Columbus (they also have EXCELLENT deviled crabs), but pretty much any of the little joints in that area have awesome Cuban sandwiches, including Lincoln, La Teresita, etc. Most of the time I end up making my own, though. If you have the right bread and roast pork (which are easily obtainable here), it’s the simplest thing in the world.
Have any of the strip clubs reported on what kind of business they did this past week?
ETA: Betty: Good report and pictures. It’s understandable that you didn’t want to go into Tampa most of the week. The one day’s impressions were more than enough. Good pictures, too. Thanks.
@prufrock: Driving has been easy from Pinellas to Brandon this week. Everyone else stayed at home!
I’ve had Cuban sandwiches twice, one prepared by mother in law’s mother – totally Cuban – and once else at what was supposed – per more Cuban in laws – to be a really good Cuban restaurant. They were OK, but I’d much rather spend the same money for a Philly steak sandwich (no, GMIL didn’t charge).
I had barbecue all across the southwest and deep south and all varieties were well worth the money spent – yes, I did ask who in town had the best… The regional disputes on this matter are just silly – they’re different, but great.
Tampa was a PIA to get around in and I can’t imagine what kind of mess this Convention made of it… don’t even get me started with how bad drivers are in FL, especially on a Harley (or any other motorcycle). I’ve never had so many people try to kill me in such a short time interval. I’m surprised there are as many people left in FL as there are…
I would suggest the lack of demonstrators is the result of the Republicans becoming irrelevant. Why bother protesting something which has no meaning to the majority of people. I watched the RNC, once in awhile on t.v. & really there wasn’t anything of interest. No debates, no decisions being made, just a lot of old white people. I’ve never seen so many in one place in my life. I live in Canada & when we have a national convention of any of the 3 national political parties we see lots of different people. Not so much at the RNC
The other reason people didn’t protest was, how are you going to change the minds of people who don’t look at facts, don’t like science, those from texas want to abolish teaching of critical thinking in schools, the list goes on. I personally wouldn’t bother at all. Giving them a protest would have been giving them publicity & meaning & boy are those republicans meaningless. I really dont’ think they have a clue.