I think Tina Dupuy, a syndicated columnist for LA Progressive, best captured the lasting impression that Americans and the rest of the world will have of the Republican National Convention in 2012. Observing that the downtown area of Tampa was in a literal state of lockdown, she wrote, “the Convention was a post-Apocalyptic dystopia of what the world could be if Republicans were completely in charge: Scared (mostly) white people in a militarized labyrinth of blockades in strategic dead ends … all for your protection.”
It was also like that around Tropicana Field (aka “the Dome”). The stadium, used for professional baseball, was the site of a pre-convention party for RNC delegates and their friends. Many blocks around the field were ringed with high fences; police seemingly armed for war lent an air of a military takeover. For what? To keep protesters away from Republicans.
It’s unlikely that security was this tight in Berlin in the mid-1930’s. The effect was grotesque, as well as sickeningly expensive. It was America looking to be under martial law.
A few features of the security gone wild included:
* Security checks inside secured perimeters within partitioned areas. Was this third layer designed just in case a Houdini-worthy mischief maker tried to sneak in?
* Heavily armed police brigades moving around in roving gangs.
* More than 400 buses with police escorts shuttlling official visitors to and from convention sites.
* A ratio of protesters to security forces of what seemed 500 police for every protester. Two arrests were made all week.
Many officials no doubt had a role in turning Tampa’s downtown into what looked like a war zone. However, nobody was more consequential to the creation of the “post-Apocalyptic dystopia” than Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.
I know Bob Buckhorn. I ran against him for mayor of Tampa in 2003. We participated in over forty debates during six months of the campaign. Neither won of us won - another candidate entered late in the race and prevailed. Unlike Mr. Buckhorn and three other candidates, I did not even want to be mayor. I cared more for the forum that my candidacy enabled. I ran on a REAL wellness agenda. I called for a city that would be “Four F - fun, fit, free and functional.” My 50-plus position papers described this agenda.
I billed myself as “the oldest, fittest, fastest and prettiest of all the candidates.” Most of that boast was true.
Anyway, in the course of many breakfast, lunch and dinner gatherings, debates and other forums, I got to know the candidates, and Bob Buckhorn was one of my favorites. I did not agree with his platform or his past role as a city council member, but we got along well and I liked him personally. I still do.
At first, I was disappointed that Bob created and defended a police state atmosphere for the RNC. I think it would have been better if there had been disorder in a free society that peace in a totalitarian environment. After all, there’s order in the streets of Saudi Arabia, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
But, as days passed and the memory of the RNC convention faded, a revelation came to mind. It hit me like a thunderbolt: my friend Buckhorn deliberately wrecked the RNC. The reason he created the over-the-top security fiasco was to show undecided voters the kind of country we could expect if Republicans take the White House.
Since he is a Democrat, you might think the Republicans would have been wary. But, for some reason, they did not suspect that Buckhorn would "pull a fast one." And yet, in a masterstroke which Cicero, Rasputin or Rove would envy, he put in motion the kind of over-the-top security overkill that offered an accurate image of what a Romney/Ryan takeover would look like in the streets of America. He gave us a taste of a police state. It was costly, unnecessary, ugly and undemocratic.
If the convention were indeed a model, as Buckhorn claimed, it was a model - a showcase. Anyone who got close to the Dome in St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa now understands what a totalitarian America would look like.
Nice work, Bob.