Not just reporters, actually: Trump nemesis Jeff Flake also got into the act. See Mollie Hemingway for a round-up of reaction. Did I dream it or did the head of the FBI not give a press conference two weeks ago explaining why Hillary Clinton did in fact violate 18 U.S.C. 793(f) by showing gross negligence in her handling of classified information? If I dreamed it, I must have also dreamed that her poll numbers went into the toilet directly afterward as it dawned on swing voters that, yes indeed, this unprosecuted criminal was likely given a pass because of her power and supreme political importance to the Democratic Party.
If I didn’t dream it, well, maybe that’s some key context for the “lock her up” chants, n’est-ce pas?
Jonah Goldberg helpfully reminds the left that wanting to lock up one’s political opponents not only isn’t new but has been viewed in some cases as essential to good government when they really are guilty of criminal wrongdoing. (Ask Gerald Ford.) The reason media types are grumbling about this, I think, is because they’re jonesing for some sort of “feral Republican” moment at the convention they can point to as evidence of the ominous cultural forces that Trump has unleashed. He’s a demagogue. Where’s the demagoguery? So far, the odd shrieking Rudy Giuliani performance aside, the speeches have ranged from dull to earnest Republican boilerplate to innocuously charming (the Trump children). Even the protests have been peaceful. Christie “indicting” Hillary Clinton last night and getting the crowd to chant is the closest things have gotten to a “mob moment.” And here’s how much Chris Christie personally despises Hillary:
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) July 20, 2016
It’s all a big show aimed at using partisan passion to try to glue the party back together. Absent Comey’s press conference I think it’d be fair to scold Christie for turning Hillary’s policy failures into quasi-criminal “guilty or not guilty” wrongdoing, but the Comey press conference isn’t absent. It’s the hardest punch she’s taken since her campaign began and it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. And Christie, whom everyone expects to be AG in a Trump administration, saw some value in a rhetorical gimmick aimed at reminding Republicans of his previous life as a prosecutor. Big deal. If you want to smack him and Trump for something, smack them for sticking to a one-note anti-Hillary message that all Republicans have already absorbed instead of emphasizing Trump’s economic message, which was supposed to be the theme of last night’s program. You’ve got a nominee who, for once, might be able to really connect with working-class voters, including working-class Democrats. He’s broken with party orthodoxy on trade and immigration in the name of bringing jobs back to American workers. Naturally the thing to do on “Make America Work Again” night in Cleveland is … devote four more hours to explaining why Hillary is the Antichrist. (Literally!) That’s a wasted opportunity to make some headway with people who, having followed the campaign only very casually so far, might not even realize that Trump’s economic agenda is very different from the same-old same-old GOP’s. Peter Suderman:
Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the GOP’s most prominent sitting legislators and turtle look-a-likes, barely touched on anything like a jobs plan. The closest he came was saying that as president, Donald Trump would sign a bill allowing the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, and would allow Republicans to follow through with their promises to repeal Obamacare. (It’s worth noting here that Trump’s poor and wildly shifting understanding of health care policy—he has said positive things about single payer—leaves open a lot of questions about the sort of health care he might actually pursue as president.)
Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, perhaps the Republican party’s most successful and influential policy entrepreneur, had almost nothing specific to say, or even reference, about jobs and economic policy. He spent most of his speech asking—practically pleading—with the GOP to unite around Trump, because Hillary Clinton was unacceptable. The same goes for Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who spent the entirety of his speech acting as prosecutor and laying out an extended case against Hillary Clinton. Granted, I suppose this could be his job in a hypothetical Donald Trump administration.
Right, but McConnell and Ryan are mainstream Republicans. Their economics are conservative; Trump’s novelty is that his program is nationalist. This should have been the night for an array of blue-collar Americans telling their stories about how immigrants took their jobs and outsourcing put them out on the streets. Jeff Sessions and Trump advisor Stephen Miller should have been highlight speakers, along with any other protectionists Trump could scrape together. The convention organizers could have even done something to tease the idea of raising the minimum wage, however horrifying that might have been to conservatives in the arena. Nothing would have signaled to viewers more sharply that the “Trump Party” is different from the Republican Party than goosing voters about a pay hike for the lowest earners. Instead we got the empty calories of “lock her up.” But maybe that’s fitting: In the end, the only decent argument for electing Trump is not electing Clinton. Why pretend otherwise?