“So are you excited about voting in your first election?” I asked a young colleague at a work dinner.
“Yeah, kind of,” she replied, “But I don’t think I’ll bother with the presidential vote. I mean, I wanna make sure my state gets the right representation, and that’s what’s important, right?“
I waited for a moment to see if she was joking.
“Oh. Um, would you mind, can I just borrow this?” I asked. Reaching over the table to pick up her fork, I held it above the back of my hand. “I’m going to have to stab myself now because if I don’t, I will be incredibly rude. Is that ok?“
She looked at me like I had just shit on her salmon.
So the conventions are over. In less than sixty days America will go to the polls, and I will watch, fuming with jealousy, as my friends and (some of my) colleagues vote.
Last week, I went to Tampa and saw this man. Paul Ryan, the newly appointed Republican vice-presidential nominee, has the most powerful body in the history of conservatism since the emergence of the Tea Party. I give you Exhibit A:
In person however, his physique does not easily translate to formal clothing. His suits look thin and cheap and are far too big for him, hanging low as if he has stones in his pockets. As a result, he seems awkward and gangly and actually rather skinny. See Exhibit B.
Ok, so when I say ‘in person’, I mean from a distance of about fifty feet; the seat that a very kind friend had managed, with some difficulty, to secure for me at the Republican National Convention was high above the main stage. I peered at Ryan on a big screen as he gave his acceptance speech. His eyes were a little watery and red, as if he had been swimming without goggles. His hair looked like velcro.
As for Ryan’s speech .. well, it has already been taken outside and beaten to death by every fact-checker, commentator and journalist going, so I shan’t bore you with the detail.
But watching Ryan speak was an added bonus; being at the convention and seeing the craziness for myself was the main joy. There was too much to take in. The delegates on the convention floor were a rippling mass of colour, bobbing up and down to wave their placards, moving through the aisles to chat, a throb of sound that hushed only when Ryan spoke (others were not so lucky, having to give their speeches over the noise). The very funny Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed provides this brilliant summary of the sheer spectacle of the delegates, and then some.
I watched Rick Santorum make slow progress round the hall, stopping constantly for photos, his daughter trailing behind. He is a tall man with a surprisingly commanding presence. There is no ambiguity about Santorum. You know what he stands for, unlike Mitt. Ann Romney’s plea to delegates earlier in the week to love her husband as much as she does was an attempt to quash the GOP’s fears that people just do not know Romney well enough.
Personally I found her speech patronising and rather embarrassing (“I love you wimminnnnn!“). And why didn’t she wear an up-and-coming American designer? Schoolboy error. Having watched Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention in Charlotte this week, there’s no contest. Michelle’s speech was the London Olympics compared to Ann’s Beijing.
From my sedentary position on the sofa, the Dem convention looked much more fun that the Republican. Who would you rather have seen? Clint Eastwood making an utter arse of himself talking to an empty chair, or Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden? The balloons may have come down in Tampa, but the stardust glittered in Charlotte.
I wish I’d been at the convention, particularly to see this. SPOILER: you will cry.
It seems appropriate to mark the first birthday of this blog with this post. I started it as a rambling account of my new life in DC, but it soon morphed into a competition to see how many ways I could say “Republicans? What the fuck is up with that?”
God knows what I’ll write about after the election.