Of all the political stunts ever recorded, the recent threat by Democratic pressure group American Bridge has got to rank among the lamest of the lame.
If the 2016 Republican National Convention is held here in Las Vegas, the group promises to send an army of camera-toting “trackers” to capture on film any rowdy behavior with the world-famous Las Vegas Strip as a backdrop. According to a story in Politico by Mike Allen, “American Bridge’s efforts … would be looking to capture everything from the late night carousing of politicians to simply filming candidates who claim to be the bastion of family values entering and exiting bars and casinos.”
The video would be edited and packaged in a “war room” and then quickly posted to the Internet.
And, quoting from Politico’s CEO Report, Allen adds: “Some party leaders are worried about the potential for after-hours trouble, by aides and by their bosses. If you’re a candidate, you probably don’t want a Democratic tracker taping you as you frolic on the Strip.”
Yes, frolicking on the Strip. The horror!
Las Vegas is in the mix to host the convention along with seven other cities, including Dallas and Phoenix. If we’re chosen, the eyes of the political universe will be fixated on the Las Vegas Convention Center for the better part of a week. And Las Vegas is considered a front-runner because our city does conventions like no other, has more than enough hotel rooms for the event and boasts plenty of after-hours entertainment, ranging from the family friendly to the adult.
The American Bridge threat should be seen in context — does anybody think trackers aren’t going to go to whichever city is finally chosen and look for misbehaving delegates, candidates or staffers? Does anybody think Dallas has no strip clubs? Or that there are no bars in Phoenix? Or that some reporters will do the tiredest of the cliche story and interview strippers in whichever city is finally chosen to ask if they’ve seen an uptick in American-flag-pin wearing customers?
Instead of growing annoyed at the American Bridge threat, we should be saying “So what?”
First of all, I know many Republicans, and the ones I know enjoy hanging out and arguing politics over beers. (We sometimes call it a “beer summit,” in honor of the hard work that President Barack Obama put in bringing peace between the Cambridge Police Department and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.) There’s nothing wrong with a consenting adult — even those who professes to embrace “family values” — drinking and having a good time. They’re called adult beverages for a reason.
Second, let’s not forget the fact that there is undoubtedly plenty of debauchery that goes on among the delegates and candidates at the Democratic National Convention, too. Just because far fewer Democrats offer platitudes to “family values” (and then occasionally live down to those lower expectations) doesn’t mean a rogue Republican group couldn’t come up with lots of footage from whatever city ultimately hosts the Democrats.
Third, let’s acknowledge that the American Bridge threat represents the downward direction of our politics — let’s see if we can catch a Midwestern Republican drinking from one of those yard-long margarita glasses with the Mirage volcano in the background! Or maybe a tee-totaling delegate from Alabama lifting a mojito and smoking a cigar at Casa Fuente! Gotcha!
It’s petty and ultimately meaningless. Instead of focusing on private matters that ultimately affect nobody but the person involved, we ought to be focusing on what the candidates and policymakers are perfectly willing to say right into the camera in prime time, ideas that could ultimately affect all of us.
Whether Las Vegas is chosen by the RNC (and it ought to be for myriad reasons), this threat from American Bridge should play no role in the decision. Las Vegas should stand or fall on its merits. Yes, we’ve built a reputation for sin and excess. Yes, we market that and reap some negative rewards sometimes. But there is literally no better place in America to hold a convention.
And delegates, if you’re worried, we’ll be glad to serve up milk or club soda instead of whiskey. Just ask your server.
Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.