You can understand why people were reluctant to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena this week, or for that matter the Democratic convention coming up in Philadelphia next week.
This is a dangerous time to be in an urban environment. Every time you turn on a TV, it seems, you’re inundated with images of police shootings or terrorist bombings or attempted coups by the military.
You’ll often see similar violence on display at the rallies of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, with Trump urging his supporters to beat up recalcitrant protesters.
On top of all that, Republicans are holding their quadrennial convention in Ohio, which is an open-carry state. There are several white nationalist groups in Cleveland to show their support for Trump, and just as many or more groups of anti-Trump protesters.
All of them can legally carry assault weapons on the streets of the host city, which leaves one with the unpleasant thought of bullets flying as the roll call of the states is held to officially confirm the presidential nominee.
You also might be hit up for a contribution by desperate party officials trying to close a $6 million funding deficit caused when corporations like Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola withdrew their sponsorship of the event.
Small wonder, then, that so many senators, congressmen and former presidents decided they would skip all the fun by staying away from their own convention.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who most definitely is not a Trump fan, sent word through his spokesman explaining his absence from Cleveland: “Sen. Sasse will not be attending the convention and will instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state, all of which enjoy more popularity than the current front-runners.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., had the most pragmatic reason for not attending the convention: “I’ve got to mow my lawn.”
None of the Bushes are there, and neither are the two most recent GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain. Dick Cheney isn’t there either.
Georgia’s representatives in Washington weren’t nearly that squeamish about attending. U.S. House members like Buddy Carter and Tom Price showed up, as did Georgia’s two senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.
Gov. Nathan Deal pledged several weeks ago he was going to Cleveland, and he’s been joined by such state figures as Attorney General Sam Olens, Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Perdue not only went to Cleveland, he is one of the few elected officials who doesn’t look with dread toward the November election. He’s been predicting for a while that Trump will prevail over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I know an outsider when I see one — someone who is listening to us,” said Perdue during the recent state GOP convention. “He’s complaining about the very people we complain about — politicians, bureaucrats, the media. He can win Michigan and Mississippi on the same day. When does that ever happen?”
State Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, waxed philosophical about the road trip: “Cleveland, Ohio, is famous for corned beef sandwiches, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the 2016 Republican National Convention,” he said. “This week, I’m proud to say I’ll get to enjoy all three.”
Cowsert is also being a good sport about the decision of Republican primary voters to go with Trump, a choice that does not sit well with many of the party’s establishment figures.
“The Republican voters have had their say, and we chose Donald Trump as our nominee,” Cowsert said. “As a Republican, as a Georgian and as an American who respects our electoral system, I will represent the people who are sending me to the convention, and I will cast my ballot for Donald Trump.”
With or without the elected officials, the parties will go on. It’s hard to say that anything of substance ever happens at a national convention, but they’re still an important ritual of the presidential election season. You can think of them as infomercials for American democracy.
I’m watching the proceedings on TV as I always do. However, I’m doing it at a safe distance from Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.