Chas Goes Right: the Republican National Convention

posted by / Blogs / August 31, 2012

I've never seen a whiter group of people in my life. Killing it, GOP style! #chasgoesright

My flight touched down in the evening at Orlando’s international airport. I walked through the terminal, shoving by chunks, who stopped to gape at DisneyWorld and Dolphin Tale posters, and left into the sticky hot air. It was so sticky. So hot. It felt the way I always think Honolulu should but Honolulu always feels cold, at least initially. I got my car, an eggshell white Fiat, the same that J-Lo owns, and drove through flat uninspired green, though I did love how the Spanish moss draped from the trees. So Gone With The Wind! So the south will rise again! I drove to Clearwater, just outside Tampa, to try and secure a pass for the Republican National Convention. The hottest ticket since I don’t even know when. Since Ponce de Leon found the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine.

I met a man whom I was first introduced to in Finland three weeks back. He had done secret things in Afghanistan and Iraq and had just recently moved to what he called “cracker country.” I later saw “cracker homes” and “cracker food” and “cracker barrel” advertised on billboards. I, mistakenly, had thought “cracker” was racist. Apparently it is not. Now I can write, without fear, that almost all surfers are crackers.

This man, who had worked on political campaigns in the past and also for Hunter S. Thompson, before going dark in America’s dirty secrets, made “cracker country” look good. We drank cold beer at the world’s very first Hooters. We walked down to the beach and felt that warm water. We talked politics and about the Republican National Convention. He pointed out from the balcony and said, “See that building there across the street? That is where the dolphin without the tail from that movie is. They say it has brought over 500 million in tourism to the area but, you know, that dolphin is going to die pretty soon. I’ve got a theory. They are down there chopping the tails off replacement dolphins even as we drink…” It was a good theory. I asked if he could get me into the convention and he said, “No. I used to work for the other side.” I was on my own.

Tampa had been set up so that you could not even get into the town center without a pass from the GOP. Crazed protesters, mostly supporting Ron Paul or against “homo sex”, stomped around. Angry. How was I going to get a ticket? I parked J-Lo’s car and thought. I thought, “I will drink.” And so I went into the nearest hotel bar, a gaudy Hyatt, and pushed between two bad suits, ordered a mojito, and starred at the attractive brunette across from me. She was my ticket. We made small talk and her talk grated. She was from Wisconsin, in Wisconsin’s state senate, and I told her she needed the surf vote. That, if Republicans were going to have any chance to win this fall they had to secure the surf vote. She said, “Oooooh I don’t knowwwww. What does the surf vote need?” I told her clean water and Matt Biolos to be put on the ticket, or at least in the cabinet. She replied, “Sounds like Democrat stuff to me…” And I countered, “You, good woman, do not know Matt Biolos.”

At that moment her blonde, drunk, flirty friend stumbled over holding two pinot grigios. “Who is this?” she slurred in the same Wisconsin grate while eyeing my very nice Costume National pants. This was my moment. “We both need something. I need a ticket and you need the surf vote.” She didn’t even ask what the surf vote was, fumbled in her purse and pulled out a red “suite guest” ticket. She slid it across the bar, “You’re my new best friend, right.” “No” I said. “My wife would not approve of me hanging out with conservatives.” And I darted out before she could retract the gift.

I walked through miles of security, assuming I would be plucked out at some point but never was. I made it into the convention hall, into the suite, and drank Bud Light and watched speeches (Jeb Bush looks chubby. Clint Eastwood looks completely insane). I watched the delegates in totally bizarre costume. I talked with young Capital Hill staffers about Mitt Romney’s deficiencies. I told them he would win hearts if he just went outside, sat on the curb, and drank a Bud Light too. Even though he is a Mormon, they all agreed with sad sad sighs.

While moving down the floor for a better look, I pondered Florida so far. I liked the hot and sticky. I liked the water temperature, even though there were no waves. I liked that I was in the Republican National Convention. Ann Coulter broke my pondering by smashing into my shoulder, spinning around and giving me the eye, before being whisked away by security. My wife does not approve of Ann Coulter but I was starting to have warm feelings about Florida. — Chas Smith

Follow Chas’ Florida adventures on his Instagram, @chasdoesntsurf (#chasgoesright), and here on As with most of Chas’ work, expect to laugh, love or hate.

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  • rogermeras

    ooo yaaa i love politics with my surfing….. barf

  • Adam

    I love the fresh insight Chas. You should find Ari Shapiro of NPR there, talk story and give us your unfiltered thoughts.

  • tom

    chas sounds angry, maybe more surfing would chill him out, why the hate??

  • Jesus

    Gone “eastwooding”

  • Wyatt

    Chas has a potent, original voice and a fresh POV, rare amongst the breed of quasi-articulate writers at the flailing clutch of publications that tell our stories.

    J/K!!!!! But I do hope this essay skates him through sophomore year.

  • Sliding Sense

    Ever hear of a 6 +1 writing rubric? You might need some help in the areas of conventions, word choice, and voice. You would fail a sophomore high school English class. I’m done with this mag being the new haven for Hipsters.

    Time to start a revolution. See you at Starbucks.

  • Nick

    While I appreciate skewering pasty white Repubs as much as the next guy, I hate to inform Chas that he totally blew it. Florida’s Gulf Coast enjoyed a multi-day, mid-period groundswell from Hurricane Isaac last week, which happens pretty much, well, never. I’ve lived and surfed in Florida for 15 and have never seen spots less than a 30-minute drive from Tampa get as good for as long as they did last week.

    Since I presume the purpose of Chas’ trip to Florida is to write about surfing (he is on assignment from Surfing Magazine, after all), he missed a golden opportunity to perform a novel feat: write an on-location surfing story by visiting the beach and talking to local surfers, many of whom were enjoying the best sessions of their year while Chas with flirting with lady Repubs from Wisconsin.

  • Dru

    And conservatives are racist? Racism will never go away if we don’t take it upon ourselves to be non-racist. We can be better than this.

  • Bro

    What does this have to do with anything

  • yeah guy

    @Nick – Chas doesnt surf.

  • Moke 808

    @ Dru. It’s interesting how many people like to call the conservatives/ Republicans racists when it was the Democrats who founded the KKK. Some people tend to forget that part of history.

    In regards to this article, wow what a piece of junk! (And that’s being polite)

    What the hell does the Republican National Convention have to do with surfing?

    I think Surfing mag might be worse that Surfer now!

  • Mik

    @Moke: here’s what Republicans have to do with surfing:

    oil, war, oil, fracking, cars with shitty gas milage, Global Warming, war, propaganda disguised as news, massive debt to China, war, oil, devaluation of the dollar, removal of social benefits, crazy people pushed out onto the streets, a Talibanesque view of women, and, well, war, oil, war. Oh yeah, and lies. Lots of lies. While waving flags, that hypnotize dumb people into voting for the people who hate them for being stupid. Clear?

  • Danker

    @mik. Well said, propaganda disguised as news… So very true, as well as everything else you mentioned…. Although not just republicans, our entire government. 700 billion a year on our military right now, more than the next 4 highest spending countries combined… And that’s with a democrat in the White House. Dig a little deeper bud.