Fear and Loathing in Tampa

From cash-hungry strippers to protesters dressed as vaginas, your gonzo guide to the Republican National Convention

As Republicans prepared to renominate Richard Nixon for president, journalist Hunter S. Thompson had a moment of clarity inside his Miami Beach hotel room.

"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves," Thompson wrote in his classic Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. "We are really just a nation of 220 million used-car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."

Now, 40 years later, the Republican National Convention is returning to Florida. On August 30, Mitt Romney will don a sleek suit and flash his Vaseline smile to a sea of pale-skinned delegates in Tampa. He will compliment the city on hosting the four-day, $123 million orgiastic event. And he will implore the crowd to obey the banners hung from the rafters: "Believe in America."

Outside the towering Tampa Bay Times Forum, meanwhile, ornery unbelievers will be confined like cattle to designated protest zones. There will be Black Bloc anarchists, Code Pink soccer moms dressed as giant vaginas, a poor people's camp called Romneyville, and tens of thousands of Ron Paul fanatics descending like libertarian locusts to devour whatever scraps their septuagenarian savior tosses them.

Barred by city officials from bringing masks, puppets, or tricycles, the malcontents will be surrounded by 4,000 heavily armed police officers—not to mention a city full of conservatives with concealed weapons and a distaste for godless liberals. More than 35,000 diehard believers will jet into town for a week of GOP glitz, gluttony, and gun worship. They'll be joined by 15,000 headline-hunting journalists and another 15,000 protesters.

The RNC's return to the Sunshine State is no fluke. For Romney and the rest of the party, Florida is the future.

Since Nixon's days, conservatives have transformed Florida into a hellish post-governmental wasteland. Here, Super PACs run wild through suburbs in foreclosure, people trust in only God or their Glocks, and the poor are left to literally cannibalize one another on the nightly news. But hey, there's no state income tax!

As in '72, Florida is the template for a right-wing takeover in 2012. Pay attention, America, because this crazy, collapsed state could soon be yours, too.

Americans have long known Florida as the tacky tropical paradise where grandparents go to die, a peninsula of endless sandy beaches and unlimited cottage cheese. Then came the 2000 election, and like a maggot-infested mango, the Sunshine State was revealed to be full of crap.

The backwardness goes way beyond blowing the election and ushering Dubya into office. Decades of conservative dominance in the capitol have made Florida into a dystopian test kitchen for Republicans' craziest ideas. Mass deregulation coupled with hacked education budgets has made Ponzi schemes the state's biggest industry. More than a million residents are packing heat. And murder is essentially legal thanks to the Stand Your Ground law.

But all the evidence you need of Florida's dysfunction comes from a quick study of the state's fearless leaders—the ones America will soon meet via cable-news broadcasts from Tampa.

Let's start at the top: At the head of the crazy parade is Governor Rick Scott. His poll numbers read like a thermometer in Reykjavík. For good reason. With his pale, shaved head and unblinking eyes, he looks—and governs—like Lord Voldemort.

Scott's shadiness preceded his election by decades. As a young lawyer in Texas, he turned a $125,000 investment in two hospitals into a massive health care empire. Then the feds came sniffing around. They accused Scott's company—Columbia/HCA—of billing Medicare and Medicaid for bogus lab tests and charging the government for luxuries such as Kentucky Derby tickets. When the investigation went public in 1997, Columbia/HCA's board booted Scott, but not before handing him $10 million in cash and $300 million worth of stock. Three years later, the company pleaded guilty to 14 corporate felonies and paid the government a record $1.7 billion in fees.

You'd think the stink from the largest Medicare fraud case in history would stick to Scott, but in 2010, he ran for governor and dropped more than $75 million of his fortune to recast himself—like Romney—as an entrepreneur. He won by just 1 percent over Democrat Alex Sink (a candidate so bland she's best remembered today as the great-granddaughter of a Siamese twin circus performer).

Scott's two years in office have been a nightmare of GOP talking points turned reality. First, he pushed through a law requiring drug tests for welfare applicants, saying it was "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction." Instead, taxpayers have subsidized $200,000 worth of tests, many of them conducted by a company owned by Scott's wife. Capitalism! (Oh, and so far, only 2 percent of the tests have come back positive.) Never mind the fact that the law is likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

Scott didn't stop there. He also required drug tests of every state employee (because society falls apart if the dudes at the DMV smoke a joint once in a while) and signed a truly bizarre law banning doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. He let local governments steamroll the Everglades and then rejected a $2.4 billion high-speed rail system between Orlando and Tampa (which was to be paid entirely by the feds and private businesses). Why? Because trains are communist, you pinko.

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30 comments
JPMcMahon
JPMcMahon

Well, the convention is over, and only about 300 protesters showed up rather than the 15,000 predicted in your article. There are a lot of reports out there that the strip clubs actually made far less money while the convention was in town than they would have made during a normal week. When you write your companion piece about the Democratic convention in Charlotte, I hope that you don't waste over half of the article talking about stuff that really didn't turn out to be of any consequence to the event like you did with this one. Maybe you should do like Hunter S. Thompson did, and actually go to the convention and write about it afterwards.

Zoiks
Zoiks

This is a great article.  The "stand your ground" law is a great example of how what these anarcho-fascists do in their Florida "test lab" can spread like a cancer through the nation. 

defrockedbitterapost
defrockedbitterapost

"Believe in America" from a tax fraud that closes companies and lays off workers and sends their jobs to third world countries while he pockets tents of millions of dollars each time all while refusing to pay taxes, hiding his money in secret numbered bank arrounts.

 

These Republican dung heap Christians are evil. Every one of them. They don't "believe in America," they believe in war crimes, baby killing for Jesus, and treason of every country they infest.

elawgrrl
elawgrrl

@craigtimes jerks - however, if that keeps a few carpetbaggers away I'll take it!

organicsulfur
organicsulfur

Organic sulfur can make those stupid enough to go the the Fear and Loathing Party smart enough to vote for Anonymous over Mutt or Jeff.

If you have your health, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,is a cake walk.  Mutt or Jeff just want to make your sickness profitable to the one percent, we don't need no guns to let reason and the almighty dollar function.  Want to scare a CEO, whisper boycott in their ear.

Hunter Thompson received a 1776 belt buckle from this artist, advertised as "bullet proof."  Fear and Loathing is what drives the republicans, democrats as well, left brain triggers, "you nigger!"

Organic sulfur addresses stupidity, born or acquired from the fear and loathing of our vaccination program based on a lie, and profit.  Somebody pays, too often our children or parents.

It could be too late for Tampa, we will send the sulfur punch crew, and are taking applications for those who wish to be a citizen, and a Republican.

Organicsulfur@sisna.com is the Cellular Matrix Study and the Campaign headquarters of Anonymous for President, the third parties best hope to avoid "fear and loathing."

Gill Scott Heron, died not from Heroin but from the fear and loathing in that hospital, his words ring on, the revolution will not be televised, but we win.

As Hunter S. Thompson said in some interview, if we would all vote, all of us, we can prevail.

The Name of Anonymous will be revealed the day before the election, who can Mutt and Jeff attack?

We are 270,000 since Hunter S. Thompson referred to the one percent, they are still the one percent when it takes  two to tango and 3% to rule.  Isn't greed interesting?

Anonymous  for President 2012.

 

@

 

ejstembler
ejstembler

@joelintampa Wow, that article is bad

BeerTampa
BeerTampa

@joelintampa @bobbuckhorn seems like this story was more about FL and the governor than Tampa.

thommyberlin1
thommyberlin1

Re-e-e-e-e-ally. I'm a Floridian. I've been fighting against these bastards longer than anyone I know. While these charges are mostly true, it is not the native Floridians who should shoulder the blame for these imported fucks, and I'll be damned if I get painted with the same brush. Watch the polls Michael, and mind the sharks.prusin, you wouldn't know a fascist if he fell on you.  (hey... fascists are conservatives... dumb ass)

prusin
prusin

Redner should be looking at the current CinC (Barry--BarackHussein Obama, Jr.--FrankMarshall--Davis-Soetoro) for a Reich style takeover of the U.S. Barry is for certain a Marxist with National Socialist leaning tendencies. For all those on the left who don't see it, well, you are in for a big surprise when you become an unemployed state slave, and/or a slave to the state (super high taxation) if you are employed. Redistribution always brings everyone down to the lowest common denominator (the poorest individual), which is what we are about to become under Barry Hussein Soetoro if he is elected to another 4 year term.

prusin
prusin

Mandvi is a "native son" (of Florida) from Mumbai, India, via Great Britain? EGADS! Who writes this nonsense? You cannot be native unless born here. Mandvi is not native, unless your being racist here in describing him as a "native.' Where I come from that, also, often, means "primitive." V V wouldn't be making a funny would it? If so, it's not humorous.

prusin
prusin

I've never heard so much scare tactic drivel about anything in my life. The scariest part of page 2 is that there are leftists and anarchists who talk about riots, and bloodshed, fighting, and mayhem if they don;t get to do what they want where they want to? Really? Of course, "rule of law" long ago died in the U.S. thanks to leftist introductions of rights (job, Health Care, housing) that don't exist w/o the responsibility to provide them yourselves by working your tail off if necessary. Even the right to keep & bear arms comes with the responsibility to do so in a manner consistent with the constitution, and within the parameters of not only protecting others rights, but making sure you do not intrude on their right(s). The Republicans have as much a right to "peaceably" assemble as do the protestors. But the protestors instead threaten anarchy, rioting, mayhem, death? That's the left for you.

lesheight
lesheight

I've lived in Florida my whole life of 50+ years and you've got the place down cold.

prusin
prusin

How can a law to test applicants to a give away program (welfare) be unconstitutional (4th Amendment)? If one doesn't wish to take the test, they need not apply for the welfare. But, you;d think the VV would want people to get drug tested if it helps them become productive citizens n the long run, right? Apparently, not. It would prefer people be drug laden, future suicide s, to them getting any real medical help with their addiction problem. Huh! Sounds a bit ridiculous to me.

prusin
prusin

A bit hoplophobic Village Voice? Why the EMPHASIS on guns so often in the article? Why the belief that Republicans are all of one mold, and all pro-gun, or anti-gay? And what makes the VV so willing to believe that anyone with a gun is going to get into the Republican convention? I would be more likely to see a Democratic nut job outside the convention trying to see if they can pop off a few rounds at some Republican. As to your contention that we are all willing to kill any opponent, I would really like to see where you get your false statistics, or, is this purely rhetoric to scare people away from the Republican Party? Yes, thinking minds know what is what regardless of the drivel this paper sometimes promotes as fact. As for Hunter S. Thompson quote, I've yet  to hear more drivel from the LameMainStreamLeftMedia in a long time.

Fresh_Pineal_Gland
Fresh_Pineal_Gland

The illustrator, Rick Sealock, is channeling Ralph Steadman beautifully. Great work!

encyclomedia
encyclomedia

... I'm so happy journalism is still alive ~ thank you VV!

GreatMartin
GreatMartin

When the hurricane hits will the preachers blame the Republicans for His wrath???

Tessa
Tessa

Amazing story, loved it, shared it about 4 times already on Facebook and I just got to the last page. Bravo! Excellent reporting by the VV as always!!

Jen Setteducato
Jen Setteducato

Wish HST was here today to comment on this year's circus, er, election.

repete86
repete86

@villagevoice as someone who lives here, I think that you're being too nice to this strange time capsule of the worstworst of the 1960s.

Flaman
Flaman

Miller seems to have caught the right drift of the State of Florida particularly well.  Especially our esteemed Governor who made his fortune off purloined government  welfare payments.  The saddest aspect of this hilarious essay is the hollowness of the protesters:  Abortion zealots and know nothings.  Alas, the pending hurricane will steal the show.  Well written.

vito33
vito33

The trees are the right height!

j_swinbanks
j_swinbanks

@lukebuckmaster @villagevoice Agreed, great article.

LiveWithUsNYC
LiveWithUsNYC

@villagevoice are there any rnc viewing parties for liberals in the city?

igmo123
igmo123

 @thommyberlin1 LOL....ooooooo...scary.....you reek of flop sweat and fear, the signature scent of the poseur's cabal...man up tommy, this clown is done.  There's a poll being conducted in early November...watch it.  

leaf
leaf

 @prusin I don't believe that you understand either Marxism or National Socialism. How could a Marxist (far left) have National Socialist (far right) tendencies? If your comment is full of logical inconsistencies and displays a lack of knowledge, then why should people listen to what you say?

 

Moreover, the President's name is Barack Hussein Obama, not "Hussein Sotero". Choosing to refer to him by a name you know to be incorrect is not only rude, but makes it sound like you think that implying someone to be of Middle Eastern, East African or South Asian descent is an insult. It makes you sound like you don't think of Obama as being as American as you are. All of those things reflect badly on someone, but it's not President Obama.

prusin
prusin

 @leaf  I understand Marxism/Socialism, communism, NAZIism quite well, It is you who apparently have been misled. Socialism/communism, and National Socialism are two sides of the same coin. Both are socialist in nature. At their core belief is socialist policy where all work together for the betterment of the community. Who guides those depends on the path they follow. In Germany, following Hitler led to World War, concentration camps, and millions of dead. Communism such as that practiced by the Soviet Union resulted in the deaths of tens of millions from starvation, and purges. In the u.S. Republicanism with a Constitution as it base is the right, It is a right that determines individual freedom , and rights. See, once upon a time i thought similar to you. I believed what the 'tards who teach today taught me until I got schooled myself. Then I learned something else, something problematic; that being that the public education system, the LameMainStreamLeftMedia, the socialist party (Democratic Party) are all in cahoots to revise history. You are just a dupe for them. 

 

What I call Barry Hussein, or whoever he may be (he called himself Barry Soetoro in high school), has no bearing on truth, because the truth is, no one knows who Barry Soetoro is. He may not even know himself, except for knowledge he is a devout Marxist with totalitarian NAZI tendencies.

 
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