In the Belly


MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, 8 P.M.–Republicans look just like ordinary Americans (do I repeat myself?). Behind me in line to pass through the third security checkpoint, an extremely fat man with white eyelashes is complaining about the quality of today’s free luncheon–cold beef, Guinness, and creme brulee. It’s positively Dickensian. I walk into the convention hall and am immediately transported back to the dreariest bits of high school–Girls’ State regional conventions and debate tournaments. They are voting by acclamation to nominate Dubya and before I can stop myself I shout, “No!” People look around to see who said it and so do I.

When I start trying to interview people, they are uncommonly obnoxious. Only one out of every three I approach will give a straight answer–maybe it’s the Dean sticker on the back of my notebook. Their favorite parts of the convention so far? Concerts by Travis Tritt and Sara Evans (who?) and of course, Arnold’s speech. Protesters bothering them? No, not at all.

“The first night, we went to a Broadway show, and a protester walked up to me and said, ‘Go home, we don’t want you here,’ ” admitted a very sweet lady delegate from Georgia. “It seemed silly to me. If we don’t come here, that doesn’t mean Bush won’t get nominated.” This same fine woman admits to being a moderate and (gasp!) pro-choice. “I don’t think anybody’s for abortion,” she says. “But I think if we outlaw it poor people won’t be able to get them and rich people will.”

Maybe Republicans are ordinary people after all.