It became apparent to me soon after I arrived at the Republican National Convention that many Republicans don’t really want Donald Trump to win the presidency of the United States. Instead, they want revenge, pure and simple.
As the recent Washington Post/ABC poll indicates, Donald Trump its considered less qualified by most voters (Washington Post/ABC Poll on Qualifications of Trump and Clinton) and other surveys have indicated that Trump’s approval rating, even among Republicans is under water.Yet, as the Post poll and others indicate, the Trump-Clinton race is very tight.
When I attend conventions, I spend more time watching the crowd in the arena than listening to the speeches. Rarely do the speeches deviate from the talking points and themes well established over the previous year. I want to see what gets convention attendees to get out of their seats. In 2016 Republicans the idea that activates Republicans is the revenge fantasy that Hillary Clinton will be imprisoned for past actions.
During the speeches, delegates and guests will often break out into chants of “Lock Her Up.” Sometimes these are prompted by speakers, while at other times, the crowd will do this even while the speakers are talking about something else, including Donald Trump.
Last night several speakers tried to extol Donald Trump’s virtues as a candidate and potential president. The Trump children–Tiffany and Donald, Jr.–told warm stories of the candidate as father and mentor. Chris Christie talked about his 14-year friendship with Trump and the general manager of Trump Winery spoke about Trump’s managerial advice. These speeches were politely received.
The delegates and guests responded with emotion primarily when Hillary Clinton’s name was invoked, especially when Chris Christie prosecuted Clinton for her behaviors as Secretary of State and Ben Carson discussed Clinton’s admiration for Saul Alinsky and his praise of Lucifer. It was during these speeches that the loudest and most sustained chants of “Lock Her Up” happened.
Even beyond the arena itself, it is clear that Republicans want to punish Hillary Clinton and, by extension, President Barack Obama, more than they really want to elect Donald Trump. Although there were plenty of Trump t-shirts and other campaign swag being sold and worn, the number of t-shirts and buttons proclaiming to want Clinton jailed or worse was running a close second. Plus, the loudest protestors were often ones who claimed to have additional evidence of Clinton’s treason.
One of my students asked me, in a serious tone, whether Republicans would intimate impeachment proceedings soon after Inauguration Day should Clinton be elected. My initial response was to rationally say why this would never happen. After being in Cleveland, however, my response was “I hope not.”