The Cleveland carnival commences

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Andy Sandy wears an RNC hat and pair of American flag glasses while walking around, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention starts Monday.

CLEVELAND - Not to go all H.L. Mencken on you right off the bat, but the Bard of Baltimore pretty much nailed political conventions when writing about a Republican one held here in 1924.

He wrote that the convention will open with a windy speech by "some dreadful mountebank" and then "another mountebank will repeat the same rubbish in other words."

I'm not totally prejudging the Republican National Convention (OK, maybe a little), and Lord knows Democrats next week also will talk tons of trash, but some things haven't much changed in 92 years - or in 80 years.

Check this out.

Other than 1924, the only GOP convention in Cleveland before this one was 1936 when the Party of Lincoln (think he's spinnin' in his grave?) nominated Kansas Gov. Alf Landon to challenge incumbent Franklin Roosevelt.

Here are excerpts from the 1936 platform: "America is in peril;" "The powers of Congress have been usurped by the President;" "The rights and liberties of American citizens have been violated."

Sound familiar?

Expect to hear versions of same this week. And blasts at President Obama and Hillary "extremely careless" and/or "crooked" Clinton and, for the umpteenth time, all about Benghazi, immigration, trade, and barrels of bluster and bombast on Donald Trump's plans to "Make America Great Again."

There might even be a mention from the GOP platform that the viewing of pornography is causing a "public health crisis."

Where's Kathleen Kane when we need her, right?

Still, we're looking at history here. And maybe the oddest convention ever in maybe the oddest political year.

Whoever thought a convention would nominate a candidate two-thirds of voters don't like or trust?

Whoever thought we'd get two candidates heavy majorities don't like or trust?

Whoever really thought this convention would be Trump's?

Or that its best-known-name speakers would include Trump's children and rejected GOP candidates such as Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben "Obamacare's-the-worst-thing-since-slavery" Carson? You ready for the dulcet droning of that guy?

And what about that GOP boycott?

No Mitt Romney, no John McCain (the party's last two nominees), no Lindsey Graham, no "Little" Marco Rubio; and no Bushes, not former Presidents George H. W. or George W. and certainly not "low energy" Jeb.

And Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, in a reelection fight in a state where Trump is expected to do well, isn't here.

It's like a Ringling Brothers circus without the elephants.

Oh, wait, Ringling Brothers stopped using elephants - in May, after 134 years, due to animal-rights laws.

Now the GOP stopped using its "elephants," past party leaders, after more years than Ringling, due to this party's circus behavior.

And Mike Pence? Trump/Pence? Sounds like a brass musical instrument.

Question is, does it play a tune that attracts a whole new voting audience and defies the nation's demographics that all but preclude a Democratic win?

Or does it, for the GOP, just play taps?

The goal of this convention is to make Trump at least appear more acceptable to a broader range of voters than angry white guys with high school educations and somehow build (excuse me) a wall against losses with women and people of color.

To that end expect ringing rhetoric about jobs and rising incomes for all and stronger national security and better policing to make everyone economically stronger and every family safer. Just don't expect specifics.

Which leads to another Mencken take on conventions: He wondered if they'd become "carnivals;" he suggested time could be better spent "playing marbles or getting drunk."

Yes, I say. To both.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer