The parallel convention was NOT seen: a gathering of the super-wealthy in yachts, millionaire-only dinners, even a special train; wealth of such stupefying immensity and power as to be dangerous in its implications for a democracy.
Did the multi-billionaire gambling king Sheldon Adelman make it?
He needn’t worry about being late and not having a room; he’d just buy the hotel. He has already spent $41.1 million of his $24.9 billion casino fortune and promised to spend as much as $100 million against President Obama.
A consortium of millionaires and billionaires led by the fabulously oil-rich Koch brothers reportedly has pledged to raise and spend $400 million against Obama before November, much of that from nameless donors.
Such an aggregation of wealth is more visible because of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which allows corporations and individuals to spend unlimited amounts, much of it anonymously.
Essentially, the ruling says corporations are people and can speak longer, louder and on more media than other citizens; they can buy up all the TV time while the average Joe has to sit there and watch negative ads wash over him.
Hundreds of lobbyists, corporate executives, trade associations and donors awaited the thousands of conventioneering delegates.
Inside the convention hall, the normality of the democratic process was unfolding: excited delegates happy to support party and candidates, some in funny hats and outlandish costumes, wildly cheering every inanity from speakers.
That view of the pageant of democracy was altogether wholesome and appealing in its honest emotion, loyalty and somewhat exaggerated enthusiasm. In their embrace of party and candidate, divisive fractures were forgotten.
The embrace of the candidate by his wife, Ann Romney, was especially attractive. She is smarter, prettier and more bouncy than most women her age, and the Mitt she described you’d want for a best friend.
No wonder the law discounts testimony by spouses, but I’m prepared to believe most of her description of the man she married. Everything I’ve read pictures him as handsome, smart, able, energetic and thoroughly decent.
It would be surprising if only a handful of the 61 members of the Tea Party Caucus were among the delegates enjoying the free food and entertainment and going home with lifelong memories.
The Tea Partiers’ vision of themselves is appealing, too, in its romanticism. They see an America of the early 19th century where most citizens farmed or lived in small villages, reading the Bible and the Constitution by candlelight.
Overlooked by the almost exclusively white “movement” is the unpleasant fact that four million were slaves in the early 1800s.
It may not have occurred to most of them to ask who funded what became a national movement with a national convention and election campaigns, which required millions of dollars and hundreds of experienced staff members.
They may not have wondered what their invisible sponsors wanted for their money.
Among the identified Tea Party sponsors is media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who supports their anti-government, anti-regulation, ant-tax agenda through his public-relations arm, Fox News and Wall Street Journal editorials.
Other important sponsors probably unknown to rank-and-file Tea Partiers are David and Charles Koch, who made their billions in oil and related industries and who have been generous to extreme right-wing causes.
The billionaire brothers come by their way-out views naturally. Their father, Fred, was on the top governing body of the ultra-kooky John Birch Society, which in the 1960s believed communists swarmed everywhere like termites.
David Koch is a poster boy for the demented ultra-right. Opposing Reagan in 1980 as the vice presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, he not only opposed Social Security but advocated repeal of welfare, dismantling all federal regulatory agencies, the FBI, CIA and public schools.
His views apparently do not appear lunatic to the so-called movement he helped spawn. His and brother Charles’s motives are clear: they want no federal regulation threatening his oil-based industries or taxes reducing their billions.
The Tea Party is just one, currently a dominant one, of the fissures dividing the Republican Party. One of the reasons for welcoming the nomination of Mitt Romney is that he’s so, so … normal.
H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.