2020 Republican Convention: 10 Takeaways

One week after the Democratic convention came the Republican gathering. If the underlying theme of the Dems convention was “Unity: we are in this together,” the underlying theme of the GOP conclave was “Only Trump can save us.” An early speaker described Trumps as the “bodyguard of Western civilization” It was in all regards the Trump show. There were 10 takeaways.

10. Conventional Convention: As compared to the Democratic convention, which was a technological tour-de-force, the GOP convention was your usual convention —  without an audience for the preliminary speakers. (Nonetheless, several speakers — notably Kimberly Guilfoyle and Donald Trump Jr — felt obliged to shout as if they could not otherwise be heard over crowd noise.)

Starting on the second night, the headliners spoke before an audience: Melania Trump, Mike Pence, and Donald Trump.  On the fourth night, the grand finale featured Trump speaking to at least 1500 on the South Lawn of the White House.

9. No Platform: The Republican National Committee said the reason the party has no new platform is the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a scaled-back convention.  In other words, Trump is the platform.

Question: What do Republicans stand for?  Answer: Four more years of Trump.  And unabashed cultural conservatism: “law and order,” “anti (all) forms of abortion,” “school choice” (money for Christian schools), and defense of “your second amendment rights.”

8. The Pandemic is over: After blaming COVID-19 for the diminished convention, Republicans largely ignored the pandemic.  They praised Trump’s initial response to what he called, “the China virus.”  There was no mention of the 6 million Americans who have been infected with the coronavirus and no acknowledgment of the 185,000 deaths.  On Tuesday night, presidential economic adviser Larry Kudlow referred to the pandemic in the past tense: “It was awful. Health and economic impacts were tragic. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere. But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively with an extraordinary rescue for health and safety to successfully fight the Covid virus.”

Republicans have no plan to deal with the pandemic.  And, no plan to equitably distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, whenever it arrives.

7. Democrats are the problem: Rather than talk about the obvious national problems — coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, racial injustice, and global climate change –Republican warned that Biden was actually the return of Fidel Castro; the GOP said he would usher in anarchy, socialism, and (perhaps) communism. Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed  “[Democrats] want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom.”  Donald Trump, Junior, amplified this: “[Democrats are] attacking the very principles on which our nation was founded: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the rule of law.”

Mike Pence called Biden, “a Trojan horse for a radical left,” adding, “Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to unsafe streets and violence in America’s cities.”  Donald Trump called Biden, “the destroyer” and claimed “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

6. It’s Difficult to Humanize Trump: Although Republicans paid more attention to Joe Biden than they did to Donald Trump, they did make a few feeble efforts to to humanize Trump.  Several members of Congress — Jim Jordan, Rand Paul — noted nice things Trump had done for their family members.  Trump’s daughters, Tiffany and Ivanka, asked viewers to “[make] judgment based on results, not rhetoric.”

Melania Trump said: “We all know Donald Trump makes no secret about how he feels about things. Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking… He wants nothing more than for the country to prosper and he doesn’t waste time playing politics.”  No one described Trump as “a nice guy” or “my friend” or even “a decent human being.”

5. Republicans set a bad example.  Through day one and two, Republicans showed four videos of Trump meeting with various groups.  In none of these gatherings did Trump or the participants wear masks; neither did the practice social distancing.  On day two, Melania Trump gave a speech, in the White House Rose Garden, to approximately 100 guests.  Melania, and Donald, did not wear masks; nor did the vast majority of the observers.  The audience was not properly dispersed.  On day three, Mike Pence gave a speech, at Fort McHenry, before approximately 150 guests.  Pence, Donald Trump, and the guests did not wear masks and were not properly dispersed.  On day four, Donald Trump gave a speech, at the White House South Lawn, to approximately 1500 guests.  None wore masks; the guests were packed together like a regular rally.  (It was a “super-spreader” event.)

Republicans are acting as if the pandemic is over.  They are setting a dangerous example for their constituents.

4. The White House became a prop: Breaking with tradition, on night one Donald Trump used the White House as a prop, filming two videos — conversations with the President — in White House conference rooms.  On night two, Donald Trump used the White House for three events: first he used an office as the background to his pardon of a convicted bank robber.  Next, Trump used a conference room to hold a naturalization ceremony  with the assistance of the White House marine guard.  Later on night two, Trump used the White House rose garden as the setting for a speech by Melania Trump.  On night four, Trump used the White House south lawn for his acceptance speech.

These actions violated the Hatch Act of 1939.  Trump was breaking the law in plain sight. (MSNBC anchor, Nicolle Wallace, referred to these actions as “the audacity of the grift.”)

3. Melania Trump: On convention night two, Melania Trump gave a speech in the White House rose garden.   It was low key, compared to the other speeches, and notable because she expressed sympathy for those Americans who have suffered from COVID-19: “I want to acknowledge the fact that since March, our lives have changed drastically. The invisible enemy, Covid-19, swept across our beautiful country and impacted all of us. My deepest sympathy goes out to all of you who have lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering. I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone.”  This was remarkable because previously the pandemic had either been ignored or treated as if it was a past event.

Melania also made a notable pitch for civility: “I urge people to come together in a civil manner so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals.”

2.  Donald Trump:  Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, Trump delivered a long speech — 69 minutes — read from a teleprompter and punctuate with cheers and applause.  For Trump, it was an unusually flat effort.

The speech had three parts.  Trump talked about his accomplishments, peppering the list with distortions and falsehoods.  (Rachel Maddow delivered an epic factcheck of Trump’s list (https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/maddow-corrects-litany-of-falsehoods-in-marathon-trump-rnc-speech-90768453569 ).)

Second, Trump lambasted his opponent: “Biden’s record is shameful.” “Joe Biden’s plan is a surrender to the virus.” “Joe Biden’s agenda is made in China.” “Joe Biden is a Trojan Horse for socialism.”

Third, Trump talked ever so briefly, about his plans for a second term: miraculously end the pandemic, cut taxes and regulations, create millions of jobs, and keep America safe.

1. The missing Republican Agenda: America is confronted with four crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, racial injustice, and global climate change.  In the 2020 Democratic convention, these crises were addressed.  In the 2020 Republican convention, these crises were largely avoided.

COVID-19 pandemic: The GOP treated the pandemic as if it was a crisis that had been solved. In their public events they did not insist on masks or proper social distancing.  Trump promised a vaccine by the end of the year. Trump expressed no sympathy for the 6 million COVID-19 victims or the 185,000 deaths.  (By the way: by November 3rd, 250,000 Americans will have died from the virus.)

Economic recession: Republicans refused to acknowledge the 40 million Americans who are unemployed.  They act as if the economy is growing but last quarter it shrank at a rate of 32.9 percent.  They pretend we are in a V-shaped recovery but it’s actually a K-shaped recovery where only the richest 1 percent are benefitting.  Republicans don’t appear to care about the millions who are losing their unemployment benefits or facing eviction. Trump’s only plan was to cut taxes,

Racial Injustice: Republicans condemn Black Lives Matter.  They refused to acknowledge the tragic death of George Floyd and the maiming of Jacob Blake.  They deny the reality of systemic racism — on night one, Nikki Haley said, “America is not a racist country.”  After that, Republicans ignored racism and focused on “rioters and looters.” Trump said America was beset by “rioters and looters and Democrats call them peaceful protestors.”

Climate Change: Remember that?  On night three of the GOP convention, a major hurricane slammed into Louisiana, while wildfires torched the west.  But no Republican speaker mentioned climate change.

Summary: The 2016 Trump campaign theme was “Make America great again.”  Mike Pence has suggested the 2020 theme should be, “Make America great again, again.”  (Really.)  But it’s clear that Republicans believe their 2020 theme should be: “Donald Trump will keep us safe.”

On November 3rd, there will be a clear choice: Democrats believe in “E Pluribus Unum.”  Republicans believe, “In Donald we trust.”