The Republican primary season wrapped up last week with Donald Trump crowned the Republican nominee for President in Cleveland. Over the course of the last year, the American public has watched the 16 Republican presidential candidates drop to 1. After listening to a week of gloom and doom about the state of America presented by speakers at the Republican convention, I am reminded of the authoritarian spectacle presented in the first Hunger Games movie.
For those of you who haven’t seen the first Hunger Games (2012). The movie is set in a futurist society, the Capital of Panem. The leadership keeps the peace by annually hosting the Hunger Games. Participants in the games, called Tributes, are a randomly selected boy and girl from each of 12 districts. The Tributes fight to the death until only one remains in a nationally televised event called the Hunger Games. The Games are kicked off with much fanfare, drawing the viewer in by being both terrifying and fascinating in the leadership’s total lack of humanity. The battle to the last person standing takes place within a televised bubble in which new barriers for contestants emerge on a regular basis, reports of the progress and trials of the teens is routinely broadcast throughout the nation. A solitary cannon boom notifies the nation as each child is killed by another.
This event is presided over by President Coriolanus Snow, the ruthless, tyrannical and primary antagonist. He is a cruel and manipulative dictator who has no qualms about using force to maintain discipline. The Games are intended to give citizens a little bit of hope by allowing the victor to live but not so much hope that citizens revolt.
You may ask what is the similarly between this dark movie franchise and the Republican primary season? The Republican primaries proved to be a hard test not only for the candidates but for the Republican Party. The divisions created during the primaries have recently been discounted by National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus . But the fracture lines are still there. Many prominent Republican chose to stay away from the convention. Senator Cruz’s caution to the convention goers of “vote your conscience” resulted in boos, personal rejection by mega-funders and media assessment of the fall-out of Cruz’s speech possibly ruining his political career.
In between the opening of the convention and the Cruz political theater, Melania Trump became involved in a plagiarism controversy. Her eloquent speech lauded for it’s sincerity upon close review was remarkably similar to Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008. While imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I am sure the attendees at the convention would not have liked to have Michelle Obama be their guiding light. Mrs.Trump’s speech became the major media story for at least 24 hours. Finally, the story was put to rest when a loyal Trump employee, Meredith McIver, was offered up as the responsible person for the mistake. This tempest in a tea pot is still not over. A major Democratic super pack, the Democratic Coalition against Trump has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging Trump broke the law by using his personal corporation to help with the campaign.
On the final night of the convention, Ivanka Trump presented a winning view of her father.
She described Trump as a family man committed to gender equally; evaluating workers results rather than positions, degrees, gender, ethnicity or color; understanding the need to make child care affordable and accessible for working women (a position ardently opposed by Idaho Republicans and probably nationally) and committed to making America great again by focusing on results and talent rather than degrees and bureaucracy. Though I strongly disagree with her dad on many of his political positions, I found Ivanka’s portrait of her father quite compelling. To put my faith in Ivanka’s Trump, I have to forget that this is the man who described women during his highly publicized career as fat, pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting and when asked about these characterizations by Fox News Megyn Kelly described her as “a bimbo”. Angry about Kelly’s tough questions during the debate, Trump took to twitter saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever. ” (August 7, 2015). These are not comments of a man who understands and respects professional women.
Like the Hunger Games, the entire Republican primary season has been hosted under the magnifying lens created by the intense and constant attention of national media. There is no escape either for the willing participants (the candidates) or Americans. Every sound bite, twitter, picture, comment is captured and reflected out to the world to see. We know who was fired and why, who said what and when. Similar to the Hunger Games, the media keeps score of each day. During the convention, the Washington Post ran a daily analysis of the winners and losers. This constant attention to ever minor and major detail has moved campaigns from a civil discussion of legitimate policy differences to the rancor of realty TV where every day people shout that the opposition should be shot or sent to jail. Conveners at the Republican convention ganged up on each other and on those of us with different beliefs outside the convention as if having a difference of an opinion makes one an enemy rather than an neighbor who pays the same taxes, sends their children to the same schools, drives on the same highways or sits in the same pew at church.
After listening to the Republican presentations at their convention, one would think that Hilary Clinton is President Snow come to life on American soil. In this fiction, Mrs. Clinton is single-handily responsible for every ill in this country rather than one of the most respected women in the world. Scapegoating, laying the blame for societal ills on one person, is much easier than developing cohesive national policy. At the Republican convention, we heard many platitudes about “Making America Great!” and very few specifics about how we would achieve a new unified vision of the future. I wanted to hear specific proposals on how to bring our nation with admittedly many challenges together so we can build on the multitude of strengths we share.
This election is not a reality TV show, it is not a game with winners and losers, it is not a movie with three sequels, it is about what we as Americans want for our future. I, for one, am not yet ready to give up on civil discourse and the ability to look for concrete solutions to the many pressing problems facing us. Like Katniss Everdeen at the end of the Hunger Games, I refuse to follow the rules presented at the Republican Convention. I will not demonize the opposition. I am anxious to hear real solutions to real problems.