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Shameless: 5 Ugly Themes We Saw at the RNC Convention

When they talk about “taking America back,” they don’t just mean taking it back to pre-Obama days, or even to the era of Ronald Reagan.
 
 
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The Republican National Convention closed Thursday night. After millions of dollars and countless hours of preparation, planning every aspect of the messaging and visual clues, the most indelible moment of the convention was the wince-inducing image of Clint Eastwood mocking an empty chair representing Barack Obama. Congratulations, Mr. Romney.

Of course Eastwood was far from the only embarrassment on- or off-stage. If Republican Party leaders had any capacity for shame, they would be losing sleep over the truth-be-damned, ends-justify-the-means approach to their entire campaign. But why waste time with counter-factuals? Here are five notable themes from the Republican Party’s week in Tampa.

1. We Built it (on Lies)

For almost as long as I can remember, there was a tremendous reluctance among journalists and even many politicians to call out a politician for lying. People used euphemisms like “misleading” or “untruthful.” Not any more. The GOP’s campaign this year is so thoroughly grounded in falsehoods (there’s another one) that even political journalists who are used to the loose standards of campaign rhetoric are struggling with how to express the scope of the Romney campaign’s lying. RNC speakers kept fact-checkers working overtime to keep up with their lies. Knowing what was coming, the Romney campaign pre-emptively announced that it would “not let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

One of the most memorable examples of journalistic indignation at the shamelessness of the Romney campaign came from political reporter Michael Tomasky:

Analysis of the fact that Ryan can lie the way he does requires the skills of a psychologist. All I can say is that we’re in new territory—a Republican trying to own a Democratic issue, and doing so on the basis of a couple of lies so blatant that he’s practically saying to the Democrats and the media: “Fuck you, come and get me. You can’t touch me.”

Of course, right-wing pundits have spent years pounding an ignore-all-but-right-wing-media message into the heads of their reader and viewers. The first sign of the convention I saw when arriving in Tampa was a billboard near the airport that screamed, “Don’t Believe the Liberal Media.”

2. Tea Party Triumphant

The anti-government Tea Party movement, lavishly funded by the Koch brothers and corporate America through groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, has been working relentlessly to move the GOP further to the right, successfully waging campaigns to purge the party of elected officials deemed too willing to work with Democrats or insufficiently enlisted in the campaign to roll back any regulations on business. FreedomWorks was successful at getting almost all of its wish-list codified into the party platform. Ted Cruz of Texas will almost certainly be joining Jim DeMint's Tea Party caucus in the Senate. And Koch’s hand-picked candidate, Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan, is the party’s vice presidential nominee. Maybe even more important than all that, reverse class-warfare rhetoric absolutely dominated the convention: over and over, concern for economic inequality was equated with petty jealousy; progressive taxation was slammed as punishing success; people who might need government assistance were denigrated as lazy parasites. No wonder David Koch and his allies were in the mood to party on the final night of the convention.

3. GOP = God’s Own Party

Sen. Marco Rubio, the shining star of the Tea Party’s 2010 efforts, used his prime speaking slot right before Mitt Romney to declare that “faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.” Really? Not individual liberty or equality under the law or the protections of the Constitution that apply to people of all faiths as well as none?

 
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