‘We own this country,’ GOP believes

The Republican National Convention in Tampa often confirmed the argument that these tribal gatherings have outlived their usefulness. The convention’s main function, choosing the party’s presidential candidate, was settled months ago. The vice presidential nominee had been chosen advance, too. No one on the ticket produced a pregnant teenage daughter to spice up the proceedings.

The main speeches didn’t offer excitement much new either. The biggest revelation from Ann Romney’s speech came from CNN bobblehead Erin Burnett, who said it brought tears to her eyes. Let’s hope my former network admits its mistake and either cuts Burnett loose or demotes her to something she can do, like brownnosing corporate executives.

Abiding by the conventional political wisdom that no one votes for vice president, I skipped Paul Ryan’s speech. Clint Eastwood reiterated a key lesson of the Sarah Palin nomination: don’t put someone on the national political stage outside of their comfort zone.

Mitt Romney’s speech played back standard Republican talking points. If you’re looking for heart and soul, try a beginning piano class. The speech seemed designed to soothe, calm and diminish expectations, a political version of the drug Soma in the novel Brave New World.

The most revealing comment of the final evening came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Although he was supposed to be introducing Romney, Rubio followed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s lead and made the primetime speech a commercial for his own upcoming presidential bid.

In the midst of waving the American flag, Rubio exclaimed, “We own this country.” Those four little words neatly sum up the Republican Party and sad state of US politics.

It’s been 51 years since John Kennedy’s inaugural address highlighted how much we owe this country. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” would be considered laughable in today’s puditocracy. What great progress our politics has made.

Itt’s particularly troubling that Rubio’s speech touched on much of what we owe this country. It’s been a safe haven for those escaping revolutions, like Rubio and Romney’s forbears, or those trying to start them, like mine. It gives us rights and opportunities that citizens of other nations can only dream about. Even after a dozen years among the darkest since its founding, the US is still the strongest nation on earth economically and militarily, and the one so many people all over the world want to live in most.

Rather than offering gratitude for these gifts, Republicans consider America a possession reserved for their exclusive exploitation. They shouldn’t be asked be taxes for something they own. Out of greed and fear, these self-styled owners oppose giving others the same opportunities and the tools they’ve enjoyed. Helping your neighbors should be a matter of these owners’ choice, on their terms to their chosen few, not through the broader social contract on which the nation’s foundations are built.

As with so much else during their convention, the Republicans said many of the right things and drew all the wrong conclusions.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.