GOP Convention Nurtures Nonsense, But Outside, People Talk Issues

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

CLEVELAND (PAI)--Inside the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump made himself "grate again" on our nerves.

Outside the convention hall, people were interesting, thought-provoking and in some cases, inspiring.

The first time Trump came on stage, it was with highly orchestrated special effects, appropriate for a presidential candidate hiding his actual goal: capturing the White House to institute polices that would further enrich billionaires like himself.

He walked onto the convention platform from the rear, emerging through a cloud of artificial fog. Through the magic of stage lighting, a shining halo surrounded his silhouette. As the music swelled, a podium slowly rose from the ground as Trump came into sharper view.

All of this was for the purpose of Trump giving a speech to introduce his wife, Melania, who, in turn, gave a speech introducing Trump. Later, it turned out that whoever wrote the speech stole a lot of it from a speech given years ago by Michelle Obama.

The show went downhill from there.

Speaker after speaker offered no plans for alleviating today's ongoing economic crisis. Instead, in lockstep, they attacked Hillary Clinton, blaming her for every problem facing the nation, problems which were actually created by the right-wingers the speakers represent.

Former New York GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani was particularly virulent. He screamed and flailed his arms for nearly 20 minutes as he lied about Clinton's record. "I was waiting for the men in white coats to drag [Giuliani] off," wrote Daniel Hubbard in the Huffington Post.

If the convention itself was a showcase for viciousness, nonsense and thoughtlessness, people outside the hall were serious about trying to grapple with important issues. That included a Trump-supporting Teamster from New York, Gahan Haskins.

Haskins stood alone in Public Square amid speeches, rallies and demonstrations promoting just about every possible point of view, proudly wearing a T-shirt saying "Teamsters for Trump." We asked how unions would fare under a Trump presidency. The GOP platform is rife with attacks on workers and unions.

"Great, because Trump will bring business and money back to this country," Haskins replied. Union members can always negotiate better contracts if the companies for which they work are doing well, he contended.

Trump has also made a big deal about his opposition to jobs-losing “free trade” pacts, one of the few areas where he agrees with organized labor. Haskins’ union has waged a multi-year battle to keep unsafe Mexican trucks and drivers, allowed by the “free trade” pact NAFTA, off all U.S. roads.

So how will Trump will bring business back to the U.S.? Haskins replied he believes Trump will require that Americans own the companies that do business in America and that those companies will be required to hire Americans.

When we pointed out to Haskins that Trump has many businesses overseas and often brings in foreign workers to build his projects in the U.S. at rock bottom wages, he replied Trump operates like all American businessmen, that he's a "member of the club."

"But," Haskins added, Trump "is calling out the members of the club," exposing the way they are hurting American workers. Trump is doing this, Haskins believes, because now that he has all the money anybody can use, he wants power. To get power, Haskins said, Trump will change his current business practices and promote programs that help American people.

Haskins did not discuss Trump's anti-union record nor the fact that by being a billionaire he already has tremendous power. But Haskins was disappointed that Democratic President Barack Obama had "blown his mandate" and did not include universal health care in the Affordable Care Act.

Haskins said he is sure that if Trump gets a big enough mandate from the American people he will carry through with his promises. One of the most important of those promises, Haskins said, is banning "illegal" immigrants, who Haskins believes are stealing American jobs and driving down wages.

Just outside the foreboding gate leading to the convention hall, we ran into an unfamiliar sight at the Republican convention: a union member proudly sporting his union's shirt.

Tyson Geiser, a Steelworker, has worked at Cooper Rubber and Tire in Findlay, Ohio, for five years. "That's my job," Geiser said. "The Steelworkers is my livelihood. They let me contribute to the union movement." He was in town to cover the events for Steelworker Local 207's newsletter.

Geiser, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., during the Democratic primaries and "ultimately a Clinton voter," is nervous about the "30-40 percent" of his local who he estimates support Trump. "Trump's messaging on trade is working because folks aren't thinking logically. All of Trump's suits are made in Malaysia.

"He should talk to” Ohio Democratic Sen. “Sherrod Brown about getting his suits made in America," said Geiser. He was referring the Keystone Tailored Manufacturing plant, a union shop in Brooklyn, Ohio.

While Haskins, the Teamster for Trump, was singing his candidate's praises in Public Square, a group of young members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were singing union songs nearby. They were cut short when Alex Jones, a far right talk show host, rushed the stage and tried to knock them to the ground. Jones is known for his conspiracy theories.

The police quickly separated Jones from the singers and the hundreds of people gathered in the square outside the Republican convention resumed their discussions, grappling with issues and ideas that were being ignored inside the convention hall.  

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