CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention has always seemed a strange place to find black people. But when I walked into the room full of Illinois delegates and not one of them was a person of color, the lack of diversity was jarring.
Anthony Anderson, an African-American elected as a Trump delegate to represent the 11th Congressional District, is an enigma. But even he was a no-show at the delegation’s breakfast Monday and is expected to skip the four-day extravaganza.
I was unable to reach Anderson, but last week he told WBEZ News he was not going to the convention out of protest of the Illinois Republican Party not supporting Donald Trump.
Pat Brady, the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, was unapologetic about his decision. “I just don’t think Trump is a Republican and doesn’t stand for what Republicans stand for,” Brady said at the breakfast meeting held at the Marriott where Illinois delegates are staying.
John Adkins, a Trump delegate representing the 17th District, which includes Moline and Rock Island County, has fully bought into Trump’s rhetoric.
“Mr. Trump is now the law-and-order candidate,” Adkins told me, referencing the tragic police shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas.
“Today what the citizens want him to do is to be strong. And we need to have a strong police force,” Adkins added.
But on the opening day of the convention, there was little of substance that would lead anyone to believe addressing the problem is a priority.
In the wake of the police shootings, I had expected the speakers list to change dramatically. But there is not one serious discussion planned to deal with gun violence in America over four days of receptions, parties and meetings.
Bereft of minorities, the Republican Party is acting as if it isn’t their concern.
Next week, several mothers of victims of Chicago’s gun violence, including the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, Cleopatra Pendleton, will be among the speakers at the Democratic National Convention.
All organizers offered during the first hours of the RNC was the fervent prattle of a black preacher out of South Carolina who thanked God — prematurely — for Trump being able to unite the party and the country.
“We can defeat the liberal Democratic Party that keeps us divided,” he prayed.
Trump has been the most divisive GOP nominee in recent times.
The Illinois delegates who came to Cleveland to toe the party line either do not care or have amnesia.