CFP20: the alternate
Loyal opposition/bipartisan Republicans against Trump stage a simultaneous convention
By Byron Toben
In theatre and festivals, there are often alternative or “off” counterpart events. For instance, in New York, Broadway theatre begat Off-Broadway, which begat Off-Off-Broadway. In Scotland, the Edinburgh Fringe theatre festival spawned the Beyond the Fringe.
In Montreal, The International Jazz Festival (world’s largest) generated the local Off Jazz festival. It’s Just for Laughs comedy festival (also world’s largest) inspired the Zoo Fest.
Now, this phenomenon has invaded the U.S. political theatre of the quadrennial major political party conventions – or at least on the Republican side.
The CFP urges its viewers to register with them and join ‘the movement to defend our founding principles and fight for a better future for all Americans’.
Welcome to the Convention on Fundamental Principles (CFP20), an assemblage of loyal opposition/bipartisan Republicans who have been disappointed by the takeover of the Grand Old Party (GOP) by what many feel is a cult of authoritarianism, led by Donald Trump.
This alternative Republican convention was staged 100% digital on the same evenings, August 24 to 27, as the RNC. I had watched day one of the RNC and only then became aware of the CFP so switched to its time slots for Days 3 and 4.
The streamed CFP, although also available through Facebook and YouTube, listed 45 speakers, many of note, as well as eight others on special panel discussions and six religious leaders giving interfaith invocations. It was not covered by major TV or other outlets.
I found its participants to be measured and logical even though passionate and dedicated.
The whole seemed to be largely organized by Stand Up Republic, a site co-directed by Mindy Finn and Evan McMullin, both of whom spoke of CFP’s 13 guiding principles. These were based on “We, The People” founding fathers guiding principles like freedom of the press and religion, balancing of powers, equal opportunity, etc.
Political consultant Shermichael Singleton acted as the overall host.
Here is my own list of the more famous speakers, arranged by background.
Former public and party officials
Michael Hayden, Director CIA and NSA
Anthony Scaramucci, White House Director, Communications
James Comey, Director FBI
Michael Steele, Chairman RNC
Christine Todd Whitman, Governor, New Jersey
Mark Sanford, Governor, South Carolina
Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce
Charlie Dent, Congressman, Pennsylvania
David Jolly, Congressman, Florida
Reid Ribble, Congressman, Wisconsin
Penny Slade Sawyer, Assistant Surgeon General
Robert Orr, North Carolina Supreme Court
John McCollister, Nebraska State Senator
Clarence Mingo, Ohio Republican Official
S.E. Cupp, host of CNN’s S.E. Cupp Unfiltered
Founders or leaders of other groups
Dan Barkhuff, Veterans for Responsible Leadership
Jennifer Horn, The Lincoln Project
Mike Madrid, The Lincoln Project
Katherine Gehl, Institute For Political Innovation
John Kingston, Christians Against Trumpism
Nilmini Rubin, Fix The System
Trammell Crow, EarthX
Will Galloway, S.C. Federation College Republicans
Heath Mayo, Principles First
Reed Howard, Biden Republicans
Garry Kasparov, human rights activist and chess champion
Vicki Courtney, evangelical author and speaker
R. Derek Black, advocate for antiracism
Mark Galli, religion journalist
Alvin Jackson, Bishop, Mormon Church
In addition to the featured speakers listed above, there were two special panel discussions.
43 Alumni For Biden, featuring former U.S. officials:
Former Undersecretaries James Glassman (State) Frank Lavin (Commerce) and Jimmy Gurule (Treasury)
Plus former Secretary Rosario Marin (Treasury)
And Young Voters, featuring:
Crystal Zhao Board, Republican Women For Progress
Dustin Wahl, Co-founder, Save71
Elizabeth Broderick, Brigham Young University
Zach Berly, Libertarian candidate, North Carolina
There were also occasional 60-second cameos of “ordinary folk” across the county.
Especially significant to me was a now-famous speaker who was not listed on the initial list. That was Miles Taylor, who has been on the Morning Joe show and other outlets. He was a key figure in the Department of Homeland Security and often in the Oval Office. He left that position on his own – not fired or requested to resign – because his observations concurred with what many credible authors have written, that Trump is lazy and pre-occupied with his own ego and does not analyze studies and reports. Taylor also attests that many of the other assistants to Trump share this feeling but are afraid to speak out.
The CFP urges its viewers to register with them and join “the movement to defend our founding principles and fight for a better future for all Americans”.
Back to the official RNC, which had a large number of Trump family endorsers among the speakers – one (current) wife, two daughters, two sons, one son-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and one son’s girlfriend.
The girlfriend (of Donald, Jr.), Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host, delivered her speech in an empty auditorium but in such loud screeching voice that much was undecipherable.
‘… the official RNC… had a large number of Trump family endorsers among the speakers – one (current) wife, two daughters, two sons, one son-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and one son’s girlfriend.’
In addition to these seven, of course, loyalists vice president Michael Pence, wife Karen Pence, now departed spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, economic advisor Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Senator Mitch McConnell, former UN delegate Nikki Haley, Senator Joni Ernst, Senator Tim Scott, Senator Tim Cotton, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and St. Louis gun-toting couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, among others.
The totality of the messages sounded the same – COVID-19 is solely China’s fault but will soon be conquered, the economy was doing great until the virus but is now recovering finely, we need law and order against a variety of rabble groups.
The lack of a 2020 platform (the 2016 one was just re-adopted) led one commentator to deem the new slogan to be “Make America Great Again, Again” (MAGAA?)
Two questionable settings. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broadcast from Jerusalem, violating both the tradition and regulations that his office should be involved in domestic politics, and the image that the USA should be an honest broker in Middle East conflicts.
‘The lack of a 2020 platform (the 2016 one was just re-adopted) led one commentator to deem the new slogan to be “Make America Great Again, Again” (MAGAA?)’
Trump’s hour-long acceptance speech to conclude the convention was held outdoors in the redesigned Rose Garden (illegal within the White House) with a packed audience of at least 1000 (none or few with masks) and about 50 U.S. flags backing Trump on the stage, the whole a staged de facto rally. There was applause at most every utterance.
While the Democratic party has a growing progressive element within it, it is unlikely that it would generate a future counter convention to the DNC similar to the CFP’s.
Canada’s political turmoils are blessedly mild compared to our Southern neighbour.
CFP20 – Day 1
CFP20 – Day 2
CFP20 – Day 3
CFP20 – Day 4
Feature image: angela n. from Washington, DC / CC BY
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.