Theatre’s Two Faces at the Republicans’ Masked Ball

It’s theatre, of course, an elaborate show designed to divert the masses, and despite the intrusion of a tropical storm, it probably is achieving its objective. A lot of people are easily impressed. Centuries ago, the ancients figured out that the rabble can be pacified with bread and circuses. And in the case of the Republican National Convention under way in Tampa this week, the circus is elaborate.

For the participants, the bread is abundant. Lavish parties and extravagant settings send a message of unlimited wealth and conspicuous consumption. But those of us on the outside can only press our noses to the window pane and sigh wistfully. To us, the message, as keynote speaker Chris Christie put it last night, is one of “hard choices.”

The well-fed New Jersey governor told the rest of us we must prepare to tighten our belts even more than we do now. For example, he advised us seniors we would have to give up some of our meager benefits so that our grandchildren will think better of us. The government can’t be expected to run up a huge bill for future generations just to keep us from having to eat cat food – especially if we have medical bills. Grim faced and bellicose, Christie gave it to us straight: he doesn’t give a fig for our love, what he wants is respect.

The way I heard it, his was not a message of hope or a promise of sharing. He told us flat out that the One Percent would give up nothing and the rest of us could eat cake. The national debt is our burden, not theirs, he insisted. We would have to make the hard choices. We would have to sacrifice. They would enjoy the high life while the children of the poor go to bed hungry and old folks die of neglect.

Christie didn’t even bother to repeat the Republican fairytale about creating jobs by giving tax breaks to the rich. Apparently, we aren’t even worth lying to.

Every inch the schoolyard bully demanding we give up our lunch, the massive hulk of a man swaggered about the stage, flaunting his success and brandishing his political clout.

I suppose some people admire that kind of arrogance. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews described the speech as “a barn burner.”

I have to say, Chris, that my barn wasn’t burning although the speech made me hot under the collar.

It was left to Ann Romney to present theatre’s other face – the happy mask. She laughed exuberantly and tossed her beautiful blonde hair, a 63-year-old grandmother still looking like a high school cheerleader. Her message was one of  love – the love she feels for her husband, Mitt. They met while she was in college and they have had a typical American marriage, she told the TV camera. And through the years, through the suppers on an ironing board and life in a basement apartment (while he went to college),  through MS and breast cancer, she has learned to love him more and more. She stayed home and raised five boys, while he worked hard and became rich and successful. Despite his success, he has not forgotten to help others and to support his church. From her perspective, he has lost none of his charm. He “still makes me laugh,” she said. Obviously, he remains the love of her life.

She asked us to love him, too. He is a lovable man, she assured America. And women, especially, would love him as much as she does if they only knew him as well as she does. The crowd went wild, waving signs with big, red hearts emblazoned on them.

Who would shrink from Christie’s “hard choices” with such a lovable president in the White House? Who could be so churlish as to question the policies he proposes? If you don’t trust Mitt Romney to do the right thing, well, you just don’t know the man.

I guess you can fool some of the people all the time. How many remains to be seen.