Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

When the first installment of this column appeared last September, it was unclear how the contest for the GOP nomination would unfold, although it was already a certainty that it would be an eldritch spectacle. And so it has been.

The twenty-fifth and final edition of this column finds the triumphant yet stultified Romney, his rodentine running mate Paul Ryan, still-in-it-but-not-to-win-it challenger Ron Paul, 50,000 delegates, sundry other Republicans and media types, and a developing hurricane named Isaac all converging on Tampa.

Their playground awaits. For weeks, Tampa strip clubs have been gearing up for the convention with that yearning spirit of unfettered free enterprise that gets Republicans all hot and bothered:

One place is bringing in a stripper who looks like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. There are major renovations taking place. And some nude clubs have already been giving potential customers a taste of the talent online…

Even the Gray Lady decided to raise her hemline and demonstrate some prurient interest:

… Tampa cannot shed its national reputation as the strip club capital of the country. “It’s not true,” said Joe Redner, the owner of the renowned Mons Venus and a man famous for fending off local attempts to close his club. “It would be nice, though.”

While the revelations in the Times piece aren’t really very revelatory, it’s always nice to have one’s intuition confirmed:

Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far.

“Hands down, it was Republicans,” she said. “The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.”

Oddly, the Times piece somehow views these lopsided statistics as evidence of some sort of bipartisan naughtiness equivalency, but the paper was at least good enough to correct some numbers days after the article originally ran:

An article… about strip clubs in Tampa, Fla… misstated the estimated number of such businesses in the Tampa Bay area. There are about 30 such clubs, not 50. The article also included an invalid comparison between the number of strip clubs per capita in Tampa and Cincinnati. The Ohio city said it does not have strip clubs.

Not at all coincidentally, the Ohio city doesn’t host national political conventions. Cincinnati’s last convention, a Democratic one, was in 1880. Of course, back then nudity hadn’t been invented yet.

With the convention imminent, website Daily Bleach helpfully offers up the “The 10 Raunchiest Stripper Ads Welcoming Romney and the Republicans to Tampa” with handy links and examples of the graphics, along with a rundown of other sex-related doings:

In the past week alone, a slew of x-rated websites have announced the tawdry, hardcore erotic services they’re offering exclusively to convention attendees. These include VIP cabanas, Sarah Palin impersonators, champagne toasts, free homosexual steam rooms, “smelly foot worship” with a stunning dominatrix and something frighteningly named the “Santorum Stimulus Package.”

Added bonus: beats hell out of having to listen to a Bobby Jindal speech! But strip club owners and their workers aren’t the only busy folks in Tampa right now, as Hillsborough County Sherriff David Gee notes in his “open letter to the public“:

I am confident to tell the public that we are prepared to make it a successful RNC in Tampa…

To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift…

There will be arrests. The question is how many. We are prepared to handle any number of RNC-related arrests through our Orient Road Jail. We are committed to due process and the rule of law regarding RNC-related arrests. We have procedures and policies in place to ensure an orderly and lawful process for anyone arrested…

Whence the dark cloud actually originates is going to take the sheriff by surprise, I think, but he’s certainly not kidding about that jail:

Sheriff David Gee has ordered the Orient Road Jail, a 1,700 bed prison in Tampa, emptied, relocating some inmates to another nearby prison and releasing others on bond. The entire facility has been transformed into a one-stop booking, detention, and bond-issuance center capable of handling large numbers of arrests…

Good times ahead, and all part of Tampa’s rich pageant, a pageant described in the title of Will Doig’s excellent Salon analysis as “America’s Hottest Mess.” Doig draws a direct and depressing linkage between the corrosive influence of the Teabagger mindset and the civic neglect and consequent dysfunctional nature of cities like Tampa. How can people afford to frequent strip clubs if they have to waste their money paying taxes?

… Tampa can only do so much thanks to a toxic combination of hostility toward government, revenue and collectively used amenities. What’s the matter with Tampa? The Republican conventioneers will get to see for themselves when they arrive.

One delegate, however, will not. For the first and last time ever, I stand with Paul LePage. His party does not:

Gov. Paul LePage will not attend the Republican National Convention next week after a GOP committee Friday overwhelmingly rejected Maine’s delegates to the convention in Tampa, Fla. The ousted delegates supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul…

Most of Maine delegates chosen at the state convention were Paul supporters. The RNC instead has chosen a slate of delegates split between the libertarian congressman and Mitt Romney…

“I have decided not to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention and instead focus on state business and spending some time with family,” said LePage in the statement distributed at midday Friday. “I made it clear, when the challenge was issued, that I felt the Maine delegates selected at the Maine Convention should be seated in Tampa. It is unfortunate that not all of these delegates will be seated.”

Another late scratch is LePage’s fellow rightwing asshat governor, Florida’s own Rick Scott:

Gov. Rick Scott has announced he will pull out of his Republican National Convention activities, including his speech scheduled for Monday night in Tampa…

The governor said it is a real possibility [Isaac] could have a Category 2 hurricane landfall on the Florida panhandle…

Scott said he and his family are still coming to Tampa, but he will be focused on the storm.

Thank goodness for that. Personally, I think seeing Scott being interviewed by Anderson Cooper as the two of them shout at each other over the wind and rain and struggle to keep their feet planted on Channelside pavement promises to be one of the week’s real highlights.

Remember, though, there’s more to a convention than just strippers and mass arrests. The committee responsible for crafting this year’s official Republican platform has been working hard to obliterate their party’s appeal to independent voters with a perfect balance of unabashed misogyny, fiscal recklessness, firearms fetishism, regressive social policy, and a whole truckload of anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry. To nobody’s surprise, they’ve pulled it off:

Republicans next week will likely adopt what veteran platform writers said is the most conservative platform in their history after the drafting committee voted to keep strict pro-life, pro-defense and traditional marriage planks intact.

Wait a second. Surely their erstwhile moderate of a nominee isn’t going to go for this carnivorous extremism, is he?

James Bopp Jr., chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution… said Mitt Romney… didn’t push back against much of the document’s conservative bent as the platform waded into major constitutional controversies, Republican pet peeves and today’s political battles.

Ah. And Romney’s sure to love the theme the GOP has announced for Tuesday night:

Promising that Tuesday’s convention theme “will honor the fact that it is the drive, determination and sacrifice of America’s job creators and millions of hard-working American men and women who made the United States the exceptional nation it is,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus today announced that Tuesday’s theme for the 2012 Republican National Convention will be “We Built It.”

Not so fast, Reince. You might want to check out what Media Matters had to say about this:

… “We Built It” is based on the Fox-fueled distortion of President Obama’s remarks tying the success of businesses to “this unbelievable American System” that includes government spending on infrastructure and education.

However, the selection of the Republican convention site actually proves President Obama’s point about the role of government assistance. The construction of the Tampa Bay Times Forum was majority-financed by the public; the arena is owned by local government; and the Republican convention has received tens of millions in government funds to help with costs and security.

Harking back to last-minute changes in their 2008 convention schedule they blamed on Hurricane Gustav, Republicans have been busy trying to tinker with this year’s schedule to avoid various problems ranging from Isaac to dissident Ron Paul delegates to Mitt Romney’s storied lack of personal appeal. One such plan broke in the Times last Thursday:

Mr. Romney will be elevated as the party’s standard bearer on Monday – not Wednesday as previously expected – to keep the official business of the roll call delegate vote from competing with broader themes of introducing Mr. Romney. Officials also are keeping an eye on a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac and considering concerns about a possible disruption from Ron Paul supporters at the Republican National Convention next week.

… It is a formality, and Mr. Romney will still deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday evening, but the change is significant and an effort to keep the convention focused tightly on Mr. Romney.

I reckon that keeping the convention focused tightly on Mr. Romney will be the thing the Republican Party will regret most about next week, so I applaud the idea. Monday, however, is now a bust:

In a statement Saturday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the threat of Isaac is just too grave to go ahead with the opening night of the convention.

The convention will convene on Monday and will immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon…

Romney will likely now be officially nominated on Tuesday, officials said on a conference call with reporters Saturday…

Losing Monday is not a worst-case scenario. The national networks had already said they weren’t going to air any of the primetime speeches on the opening night of the convention live, forcing officials to move Ann Romney’s speech from its original Monday slot to Tuesday.

Tactically smart. Now the supremely unlikable Ann Romney still has a chance to make her husband look almost charming by contrast, the attendees have Monday evening free to tour the peeler bars, and I have an extra day to roll out the first edition of this column’s successor. See you Tuesday.