On the first night of the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage and talked about the future of America's children. She talked about hope—about a belief that America was already great and why, above all, the nation needs Hillary Clinton now more than ever.
"You see," she said, extolling Clinton's work on children, health care, and her years of advocating for women, "Hillary understands that the president is about one thing and one thing only: It's about leaving something better for our kids."
The attitudes on Cleveland's streets and in the hall of the Republican National Convention last week couldn't have been more different from the speeches at the Democratic National Convention. In Philadelphia, Democratic speakers talked about a $15 minimum wage, breaking glass ceilings, and tuition-free college.
At the Republican National Convention, all around us, hundreds of cops roamed the streets. Tall, black fences corralled protesters. A few blocks away, inside Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, Republican delegates spent the week listening to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn promising Trump will "Make America Safe Again."
On night three of the convention, a boy around 14 years old strolled down a Cleveland sidewalk with his family, looking bored. He wore a white T-shirt. "Hillary sucks but not like Monica," the shirt read. "Trump that bitch.""BLOOD COMING OUT OF HER WHEREVER"
Republican policies that erode women's rights are nothing new. But in Trump's Cleveland, a more gleeful, shameless misogyny is on full display. Delegates are buying pins that read "KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts... Left Wing." It's a fitting tribute for a man who has called women "dogs" and "fat pigs."
Some of the protesters at the DNC share a similar, seething hatred of Hillary Clinton. At the DNC, some protesters claim they'd rather sit out the election altogether, and chant, "Lock her up."
The Republicans must be pleased. The national Republican Party platform, adopted during the convention, calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, overturning the Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage, and passing legislation that would apply the Fourteenth Amendment to "unborn children."
For women's rights, Ohio—under the watchful eye of a so-called sensible Republican, Governor John Kasich—offers a preview of those antiabortion policies. Here, the state has enacted 18 restrictions on abortion, according to Planned Parenthood. Along with restrictions on abortion clinics and cuts in funding, Ohio has restricted funding for rape counselors who advise survivors. The state received an "F" grade from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Trump, while wishy-washy on social issues, has picked a VP who is anything but. And in Trump's America, that VP—not Trump himself—is actually in charge.
According to a New York Times report, during his VP search, his son, Donald Trump Jr., told an adviser to Kasich, that Trump planned to put his VP in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. In other words, according to the Times, whoever Trump chose would be "the most powerful vice president in history."
The person he ultimately chose, Indiana governor Mike Pence, is an ultraconservative, known for signing laws allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people and restricting access to abortion. One particularly draconian law Pence signed enacted Texas-style clinic regulations and required people having abortions to pay for the cremation or burial of the fetus.
"I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican," Pence told the RNC crowd in Cleveland, "in that order."
A pseudo Pence presidency could lead to the nationwide adoption of the restrictive, anti-woman environments seen in Indiana and Ohio. The government would prioritize "religious liberty" over LGBTQ civil rights. With Planned Parenthood defunded, low-income people would have less access to STI testing, breast cancer screenings, and abortions."WELCOME, FRIENDS OF COAL"
On the night Donald Trump is set to speak at the RNC, the Kentucky Coal Association and Murray Energy Corporation, the biggest private coal mining company in the US, hold a private reception ahead of Trump's speech in an air-conditioned Cleveland bistro. "Welcome, Friends of Coal," the sign reads.
Trump's RNC speech does not disappoint his backers. "We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy," he says. "My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and steelworkers of our country out of work—that will never happen when I am president."
Trump has not yet outlined how he will suddenly turn a failing coal market into a thriving one. Making coal into a lucrative industry would require not just reversing the Clean Air Act, but actively subsidizing coal production. As a global commodity, coal is no longer as attractive as it once was. Even China—yes, China—is backing away from burning coal.
Not that it matters. Fox News segments that lend credibility to climate-science deniers have been airing for more than a decade. In Trump's America, the state is financed by big polluters. In Trump's America, you can forget about hearing the words "climate change" mentioned in any scientific capacity at all."LAW AND ORDER"
It's upwards of 85 degrees in the shade, and about 40 protesters in Cleveland's Public Square have braved the heat on Thursday. But on each side of the square, rows upon rows of cops in riot gear are standing watch, still as statues. Thousands of them are here this week, from New Jersey, Indiana, California, and Texas. There are more police officers than protesters. There are more police officers than almost anyone else.
The scene could have been ripped from a movie about a dystopian future—or from real footage of a totalitarian past. After all, there is one big historical precedent for a fringe candidate who's used funding from a battered industry to seize political power. In 1932, the Nazi party became the plurality in German parliament after winning election financing from wealthy steel manufacturers, including one who owned several newspapers.
As Trump takes the stage in Cleveland, Linda Sarsour is 300 miles east, driving home from a trip to the White House. Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, has just introduced President Obama to two Syrian refugees who have been relocated to Brooklyn after spending months in Malaysia. The refugees are in the car when Trump takes the RNC stage and his voice comes in over the radio.
"We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place," Trump shouts. "We don't want them in our country."
Instead of "pivoting" and backing away from his proposal to ban Muslims—all Muslims—from entering the United States, he doubles down.
"I was so hurt for [the refugees], that they have to hear that, that this is the man we're allowing to compete for the highest office of this land," Sarsour told The Stranger. "I wasn't shocked by him, but I became more afraid."
But something else about Trump's speech bothers Sarsour, too. Over and over again, she hears Trump promise to "restore law and order to our country."
"Do you understand what Trump and his supporters mean by 'law and order'?" Sarsour asked her followers on Twitter. "More criminalizing and terrorizing communities of color."
It's not difficult for Sarsour to imagine law and order under a Trump presidency. She's already seen it. After 9/11, the New York City Police Department systematically spied on Muslim communities. A decade later, the Associated Press reported on how the department's "Demographics Unit" mapped Muslim neighborhoods.
The NYPD's treatment of Muslims eventually resulted in a lawsuit, then a settlement to curtail the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities. But Trump has called for reviving this kind of spying on American citizens.
Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani offers another clue as to what restoring "law and order" might look like under a Trump presidency. Giuliani—who looks like he's angling for a spot in the Trump administration—came to power in 1994 via a "tough on crime" platform. He helped architect a system of racially biased policing that has been replicated all over the country.
Under Giuliani's governance, the NYPD cracked down on minor infractions—graffiti, riding bikes on the sidewalk, public urination—and greatly expanded the practice of stopping and frisking young Black and Latino men. In 2013, a federal judge found that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices were unconstitutional, violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of New York City citizens. The following year, activists drew a link between Giuliani's legacy and the death of Eric Garner, a father of five who was selling loose cigarettes when police put him in a fatal chokehold.
Today, Trump is also using "law and order" speech to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. At the RNC, Trump's supporters wear "Blue Lives Matter" pins. In Louisiana, "Blue Lives Matter" has actually been written into law; police officers and first responders now qualify as a "protected class" in the state's hate-crime statute. Under a Trump presidency, it's not difficult to imagine this policy could spread. Statutes designed to protect the most vulnerable members of society could be applied to a powerful, well-armed apparatus of the state.
This type of ideology is not conservative; it's fascist. But the thousands of hollering Trump fans in Cleveland don't appear to care about the distinction. It's now obvious that the Republican Party has lost control of Donald Trump. The party, or what remains of it, only exists to enable a bigoted narcissist with dreams of authoritarian rule.
"Law and order," Trump repeats on TV. History, we have learned, can repeat too. As Michelle Obama said at the DNC, "We cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best."
We cannot afford four to eight years of Trump's America. It is up to us to stop it.