On the 21st of July, 2016, Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican Party nomination for president of the United States of America. Throughout the convention arena, avowed nationalists, monarchists, and other dissidents applauded, hidden among the thousands upon thousands of journalists, notables, and Republican delegates in attendance.
The wheezing Republican Party died that day, slain by a golden knight in shining armor, who replaced it with a new party defined by American nationalism and opposition to political correctness. I will end the praise there until Donald Trump formally crowns himself God-Emperor of America, but presidential nominee is a good start.
A friend of mine said the Republican National Convention (RNC) was an alt-right Disneyland. He could not have been more right. There was not a single strain of dissident thought unrepresented in Cleveland: from the Manosphere to Chuck C. Johnson, from Milo to Richard Spencer. Geert Wilders and Nigel Farage even made appearances from across the pond.
This end of the dissident sphere was present too:
— Social Matter (@socialmattermag) July 20, 2016
— Official #NRx (@OfficialNRx) July 19, 2016
I drove into Ohio at the beginning of the week. Over the few days I spent in Cleveland, it seemed as though any and every Internet dissident on race, sex, sexuality, demography, geopolitics, journalism, philosophy, biology, health, and politics could be seen nonchalantly walking around downtown.
Cleveland, one of the dying post-industrial metropolises normally mentioned in the same breath as Detroit and Chicago, never seemed like a bustling place to me during past visits. Aside from LeBron James, what exactly was Cleveland good for? My opinion changed by necessity after visiting during the RNC. For the few days that the media and conservative sector of America descended on the city, downtown Cleveland was as lively as Manhattan or Paris on a good day — but, importantly, without the diversity.
I often bemoan the lack of simple, social, pedestrian public life in America, killed in the womb by car culture, white flight, suburbs, Starbucks, and social atomization caused by a multitude of other factors including mass immigration and forced integration. During Cleveland’s Republican week, however, the city was pulsing with human life on every street corner, almost like a European city. I can’t imagine the 50% black city will return to that kind of real vibrancy (not the kind favored by progressives) after the convention, but that is maybe just a reason to promote more white, right-wing, conservative conventions across the country.
Prior to the convention, discussing what kinds of shootings, protests, riots, and terrorist attacks would overwhelm Cleveland on account of Trump was a real fad among the thinking class. Black Lives Matter, the Ku Klux Klan, ISIS, neo-Nazis, Black Panthers, and so on. Maybe even some “Bernie people.” Everyone was going to get in on the rioting at the RNC. Recent Islamic terrorist attacks in France were not encouraging, and massacres of police officers by lone black gunmen inspired by Black Power/Black Lives Matter ideologies in Baton Rouge and Dallas only heightened the tension.
Security in Cleveland during the week rivaled that in a Moscow airport. Stopping for a meal in a near-empty restaurant a little outside the main stretch downtown, I asked the waitress about the impact of the RNC on business. She told me Secret Service agents had already combed through the restaurant and the area multiple times, and that police officers had occupied several parking lots nearby, as well as bought out restaurants during certain times to ensure there were no crowds in certain areas.
Walking around the very center of the city, you couldn’t go a block without seeing a dozen policemen. Auxiliaries from more than a dozen states were brought in to assist the local police. I remember seeing sheriffs and state troopers from Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, California, and elsewhere — I don’t even remember if I saw an actual Cleveland cop. A crowd of thirty or more policemen in bulletproof vests or “turtle” gear was a common sight. They were often mounted on bikes or horses, just endlessly patrolling the peaceful streets full of non-locals. At any point in time, if you didn’t see a cop in front of you, it meant there was a cop right behind you.
Some lawmen who looked like Blackwater mercenaries straight from Iraq even made an appearance, peering out of long black SUVs with tinted windows, assault rifles nearly totally concealed behind car doors and windows — presumably not to spook civilians on the street too much.
As someone who provided a detailed first-hand account of the only Trump rally to have been cancelled because of violence (in Chicago), and watched online as violent agitators attacked rally-goers in Costa Mesa and San Jose, California, I was partial to the idea that the Republican convention would see some serious bloodshed. Though I was not unique in this view, I tried to temper it knowing that terrorists and agitators never attacked the events you thought they would, and always attacked the ones you didn’t expect them to. France’s peaceful UEFA soccer tournament capped off with a murderous truck attack in Nice during a fireworks display weighed firmly in my mind.
One man who confidently predicted otherwise was our very own Jim:
A long distance outside the [convention], there will be small, and exceedingly peaceful protests. Anyone unpeaceful will be hammered down so hard and fast you will scarcely get a chance to see him.
And he was completely right. Jim said there would be no violence because the many, many law enforcement officers in Cleveland would not feel pressured by left-wing politicians to “stand down” in the face of attacks or riots. Instead, the heavy presence of Donald Trump supporters and the knowledge that the Don himself was in attendance would embolden them to put down lawbreakers as soon as they identified themselves. Loitering on Public Square, surrounded by idle protesters and columns of vigilant policemen, I agreed.
I wondered whether the fact that these thousands of out-of-state policemen didn’t report to local Democratic city administrations might have influenced their behavior. Indeed, looking into the organization of the event, I found that the RNC, as a ‘National Special Security Event,’ was ultimately protected by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security. I have no love for the DHS, but I had a good feeling that the Secret Service men with guns and families at home were really in charge, and knew it. And that they voted Trump in the privacy of a voting booth.
The overwhelming numerical dominance of Trump supporters and men in blue (and black) nipped any funny ideas from the usual suspects in the bud.
The edgiest action came from a few Communist Party USA members who burned an American flag — and set themselves on fire, if I remember correctly. Otherwise the most violent person around was Alex Jones from Infowars, whose main event was a shut-down of the Young Turks broadcasting station and a comical confrontation with Cenk Uygur. A self-aggrandizingly silent sit-down protest started in the fountain at Cleveland’s Public Square by a few blue-hairs and long-hairs almost immediately turned into an African dance slash bongo-drum session. I wish I was kidding, though the transformation was indicative of the Left as a whole and especially their attitude during the #RNCinCLE.
The dissidents I knew — nationalists, paleocons, monarchists, reactionaries, independent journalists, and realists of sex, race, politics, biology, and a thousand other topics besides — walked the streets victoriously and freely mingled with the now-establishment big Trump tent. Meet-ups, happy hours, dinners, lunches, parties, and after-parties in bars, hotels, and restaurants all across the area filled up Cleveland with samizdat activity. The 2016 RNC was the biggest alt-right meet-up I ever attended.
While it was a great feeling to be there and witness the death and rebirth of America’s political right, I am not sure I understand the significance of the event yet. It was significant without a doubt, but what the whole spectacle will mean in a year, or 10 years, or 100 years, is not for me to decide — I cannot even comprehend it. The establishment lost, and sometime between the Milo Yiannopoulos/Geert Wilders cross-over party and the back-to-back speeches of Peter Thiel and Ivanka and Donald Trump (who, 10 years ago, would never have been imagined as Republicans, let alone the headlining convention speakers), something else won.
What that thing was, or what it won, is something history will decide.