I am heading to Cleveland for my fourth Republican National Convention, and first since 2004. This is an interesting time for the Republican Party across the country. Despite what you may hear and read, the GOP has an embarrassment of riches, control of the U.S. House and Senate, more governorships and state legislatures than I can remember in my lifetime and no indication of giving much of that control back to the other side. Those are gifts from Barack Obama.
But control in itself does not equal victory, or even success or progress. Unfortunately, control is now the goal of Republican and Democratic elected officials, solving problems is subservient to that goal. The historic candidacy of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary is a reflection of deep dissatisfaction of mainstream voters with the political establishment in America, both Republican and Democratic, and their failure, collectively, to put the interests of the country before political objectives.
I applied to become a Trump delegate and encouraged my 19-year-old-son, Grant, to become an alternate delegate because if we don’t change course very quickly on major issues, there may be no turning back from the enormous challenges facing the nation. We are going to Cleveland to ensure that Trump is nominated president, that his vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is nominated, and a new party platform reflecting the urgent policy priorities that must be addressed is approved by convention delegates.
Border security, national security, terrorism, deficits, debt, the drought, jobs and economic growth are issues that need to be addressed urgently and fearlessly by the next president. Trump appears to have the moxie to do just that, all while prioritizing “America First” in his public policies. It’s a strong message, and explains his electoral success so far.
Unlike the three previous conventions I attended, in 1996, 2000 and 2004, there is an effort to deny the candidate that won the most votes in the primaries the nomination, but the #nevertrump and #dumptrump movements will be soundly defeated.
In addition to the three objectives above, the rules committee will consider crucial changes to the way Republican presidential candidates are nominated. There is a nefarious block of establishment delegates that want to further rig party rules against an insurgent candidate like Trump; those rules must be soundly defeated in committee or on the convention floor. Unlike the Democrats’ nomination process, which is fixed with a high percentage of super delegates, the Republican nomination process is far more dependent upon how many votes a candidate receives in each primary. GOP elites are panicking. Defeating their rules package will be a top priority.
Security is an obvious concern for Cleveland, it’s been interesting to see the progression of security at party conventions over the years. In 1996 and 2000, there was almost none visible that I remember, and very loose procedures. It was so loose in 1996 I had a friend come to San Diego for the convention as a guest and he wound up with an all-access pass which put him into every part of the arena. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, the 2004 convention in New York was on full military lockdown, with a broad perimeter around Madison Square Garden and incredible security in Penn Station below. Still, antiwar protesters followed us around virtually everywhere, had our itineraries and cell phone numbers, and were a general nuisance, but not violent.
Cleveland in 2016 will be a different environment. We’ve seen violence initiated by anti-Trump protesters all over the country, and with the New Black Panthers vowing to carry weapons in the protest zone, the safety of everyone attending is a valid concern. Throw in the fact that the ACLU sued Cleveland, and won, to shrink the secure zone around the arena, and we’ll be face to face with protesters all week.
Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump’s words, they don’t justify violence of any kind. The Secret Service, Cleveland Police and other various law enforcement agencies had better be prepared to handle the worst, and delegates need to be prepared to defend themselves. By the way, you won’t see conservative groups violently protesting the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia – they should be left alone to do their business in a safe environment.
I’m glad to be a delegate again, and give my son the experience of democracy in action. This might be the last chance for the Republican Party to run a candidate truly interested in confronting our serious national issues.
Fresno businessman Mike Der Manouel Jr. is chairman and co-founder of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, and a former congressional candidate. Twitter, @LincolnFresno