Political Asylum — August 30, 2012, 11:52 am

In Search of the RNC Cocktail Lounge

The Texas delegation, which in 2004 distinguished itself by wearing Band-Aids with inked-in hearts on them to mock John Kerry’s service to his country—in the cause of a man who went permanently AWOL from the Air National Guard—was wearing not only the plastic cowboy hats they always favor, but little, red-and-blue matching uniform tops yesterday. They sat together on the campaign floor, looking less like the pep squad at a high school basketball jamboree I’d initially thought than like a brilliant costuming idea thought up by Corky St. Clair.

This Republican convention seems strangely down-at-the-mouth compared to the one in 2008, and shabbily organized compared to the last one I attended in person, in New York in 2004. No one seems to know how to navigate the various blocked-off staircases and escalators of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a small, undistinguished hockey arena decorated everywhere with the lightning-bolt insignia of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Up on the fifth level, by the cheap seats, is what is designated a “Prayer Room.” It is little more than an indentation in the wall, with a flimsy curtain around it, more of those oh-so-Christian lightning bolts, and a couple of very old and battered Bibles.

No one is praying or reading scripture, though. Instead, they mostly mill about, trying to find their seats, or else refreshments. One middle-aged, balding man in a raspberry-colored polo shirt demands to know where the Republican National Committee cocktail lounge is at. This baffles the unfailingly polite young ushers, and he strides off, silent wife in tow, gnawing aggressively at the end of an unlit cigar. Strangely, in an arena with thousands of people in it, I spot him three times in forty-five minutes, in increasing states of agitation as he searches for his elite watering hole.

“Like Diogenes before him,” Jack says sadly, “he searches for the last open bar.”

Share
Single Page
undefined

More from Kevin Baker:

From the July 2014 issue

21st Century Limited

The lost glory of America’s railroads

Appreciation June 26, 2014, 8:00 am

The Twenty-Three Best Train Songs Ever Written—Maybe

From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”

New York Revisited June 19, 2014, 8:00 am

The Near-Death of Grand Central Terminal

And how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
New Television·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Season 5 of Louie (FX), Louie is a new kind of superhero. Like Wonder Woman, the canonical superhero he most resembles, Louie’s distinctive superpower is love.”
Illustration by Demetrios Psillos
Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today