"You are now being watched by 30,000 drones," Second District congressional primary candidate Blaine Richardson dramatically told the 3000 people assembled at the Republican State Convention in Augusta on May 5. Referring to pilotless aircraft, the tall, red-faced, retired Navy captain from Belfast was reciting President Obama's sins.
After Richardson's speech, I asked him for details. He hedged: "The FAA just authorized 30,000 of them over our airspace." He added: "They've got the GPS location of your house."
Probably Google has my house's GPS location. The next day, when I saw Richardson on the Civic Center floor wearing a shiny black top hat (looking like he stepped off a Monopoly board), I made that point. He responded: "I have 200 acres and I like to take a leak on trees. Wouldn't that look good!"
The guy is paranoid, right? Here's the kicker: not entirely. Even paranoids can be partly right. I did research and — guess what — although there aren't 30,000 drones over America yet, Obama has signed a law pushed by the Drone Caucus and lobby (I am not making that up) encouraging drone use outside the military. There are currently only about 300 drone licenses in the US, most for law enforcement, but many thousands could be flying within a few years — for private surveillance, too. The ACLU is worried.
Don't get the idea Republicans are averse to surveillance — of the right people. Describing the Tampa national party convention in August, the Maine convention program brags of expanded surveillance to control protesters, including $1 million spent on "video linkages between ground police and helicopters." Occupy: better watch out for those drones. Tampa police also will cordon off parts of the city "to keep protests limited."
After proclaiming he'd eliminate Obamacare, Richardson told his many fellow veterans present, "You deserve the best health care," neglecting to mention that VA care is pure socialized medicine.
He wasn't indirectly praising socialism, of course, which was the convention boogeyman. Speakers were universally pro-corporate and pro-rich (a/k/a "the job creators"). The 2012 draft party platform paranoiacally equates "the socialist agenda" with "progressivism."
"God bless you, God bless the state of Maine, and God bless America," said state Senate president Kevin Raye, Richardson's opponent, as he closed his speech. Others closed their speeches similarly. God was omnipresent. A Ron Paul supporter, a new Republican whose father was a Jew, told me he winced when the clergyman giving the invocation Saturday invoked not just God but also Jesus.
The convention's capture by a tribe of marijuana-legalizing, rural, Ron Paul libertarians indicates some GOP diversity — if these folks integrate (or are allowed to integrate) into the party. But the convention provided little other evidence the party was becoming inclusive.
It is vehemently Christian. "Protect the American legal system from Sharia law," exclaimed the draft 2012 state platform. A big threat to America, Sharia law. The platform actually (re)adopted at this convention, though, was the even-farther-out, 2010 Tea Party platform, with its pro-Austrian Economics, anti-UN, no-freedom-from-religion planks.
The anti-immigrant theme was common in the speechifying. Even with the Ron Paul people added in, the party seemed whiter, older, more male than ever — as national polls suggest. When Governor Paul LePage nastily denounced welfare recipients, everybody stood up and gave him a huge ovation. I looked around for the lynching party.
A convention theme was "It's time to take our country back." Mitt Romney's slogan is "Believe in America." The message is: Obama, progressives, liberals, Democrats, people not like us — they're not American.