The conventional mullet: RNC business up front in NC, party back in FL?

The conventional mullet: RNC business up front in NC, party back in FL?

Someone at the RNC must have read their contracts for the upcoming convention. Donald Trump demanded a move from Charlotte, North Carolina, after Gov. Roy Cooper declared that the GOP couldn’t hold a “full” convention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, Republicans have contractual obligations to hold some of its functions in Charlotte, as it turns out, so they remain on the hook … for those.

Rather than devise a socially distant convention, however, the RNC will opt for a conventional “mullet” — business up front and party in the back. The back will likely be Jacksonsville, Florida, the Washington Post reports this morning:

Seeking a city willing to allow a large-scale event amid the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have tentatively settled on Jacksonville, Fla., as the new destination for the premier festivities of the Republican National Convention in August, according to three Republican officials briefed on the plans.

The details of the arrangement are still in flux and RNC aides are scrambling to determine whether the northern Florida city has enough hotel rooms to accommodate the quadrennial event, which typically kicks off the final stretch of the presidential campaign. …

The convention’s more routine and lower-profile meetings still would take place in Charlotte, the original host site for the convention, according to two officials. Those smaller meetings are intended to honor the RNC’s contractual obligation to hold its convention in North Carolina and shield the party from lawsuits for moving the large events elsewhere.

On what basis would lawsuits work? The parameters for the agreement were changed unilaterally by North Carolina, not the RNC, even if for understandable reasons. However, the state’s failure to enforce those social-distancing policies in an even-handed manner by allowing protesters to ignore them also would undermine their legal case. They’re lucky to get any piece of the convention at this point.

That RNC  concession looks more like a logistical rather than a legal choice. They have already shelled out money for those facilities, and party officials had already made plans to travel there and use them. It makes sense to conduct the business end of the convention at the already-leased space while looking elsewhere for a platform for the rallies — which is where the real money would have been made in North Carolina. If Florida wants to cooperate, they’re just as important as a potential swing state as North Carolina, although the GOP can’t afford to lose either one. Voters in NC won’t be too pleased with Cooper over the lost business, though, so that might be the equivalent of the RNC eating its cake and having it too.

If this works, expect this to become a new model for the anachronisms that political conventions have become. They have to find new ways to remain relevant, and as Andrew Malcolm argued yesterday, expect the unconventional from now on:

Such impacts are big deals for American politics and our nation’s 59th quadrennial presidential selection. These next few weeks will likely reveal the most drastic lasting or temporary changes ever in how we officially select White House contenders in this unpredictable election year when a majority of Americans tell pollsters they’ll definitely not vote for a second Trump term, and a majority also believe he’ll be reelected.

As someone who’s observed these strange events for decades as a student, a politics junkie, a reporter and an actual participant both behind-the-scenes and out-front as a delegate, I would argue that redesigning a convention tradition cloaked in 19th century cobwebs is not necessarily a bad thing. …

True, since then these political gatherings have become four speech-filled nights (and afternoons) of carefully-scripted political theater (think Sarah Palin’s 2008 acceptance speech), attempted entertainment (Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair in 2012) and image-making (those faux Greek columns to give newcomer Barack Obama cosmetic gravitas for his 2008 acceptance speech).

But there’s more to these Leap Year assemblies than show biz. For some 50,000 delegates, alternates, family and party faithful in town, the conventions have been a historic opportunity to participate in democracy’s intricate workings. Heading into the long autumn campaign slog, in effect, they are a pep rally for them and for millions of others watching on TV and now online.

With all that history, what’s a mullet or two between friends?

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David Strom 3:21 PM on March 24, 2023