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Highlights from the 2020 Republication National Convention

Highlights from the 2020 Republication National Convention

Washington, D.C. – The Republican National Convention (RNC) started on Monday with live speeches taking place in a near empty room at the Mellon Auditorium near the Trump International Hotel. A move to host the RNC at the White House drew criticism from Democrats and some Republicans when the idea was first proposed.

While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris headlined a virtual Democratic National Conference, President Trump has held in-person rallies for his re-election campaign around the country throughout 2020. 

Despite the convention’s seemingly uplifting themes, there seemed to be a dark underbelly to the proceedings. Republicans used incredibly ominous language to discuss the country’s affairs. Even with the parade of Trump-loving speakers of color, much of the rhetoric emphasized a feeling of White grievance. 

Night One – “Land of Promise” (streamed from CNN)

A common phrase uttered by many of the speakers was “Promises made, promises kept.” Small business owner Tanya Weinreis said her business was greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to the point where she was considering laying off her employees. She received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan that prevented her from resorting to doing so. In thanking Trump, Weinreis said, “I’m so thankful that my prayers for help were answered.” Weinreis says she is now hiring people weekly.

Other speakers endorsed President Trump’s coronavirus pandemic response as rapid and appropriate. Amy Ford, a registered nurse from Texas, said she went to New York to help at the epicenter of the pandemic. Ford said Trump recognized the threat of the pandemic “early on.”  Ford also said 71,000,000 Americans now have better access to healthcare because of the president’s efforts.

President Trump continually referred to the “China virus” when he spoke on the convention’s first night. The president has been repeatedly told by Democrats and others that his description of the coronavirus smacks of racism. The president also thanked frontline healthcare workers for keeping America “strong and safe.” 

The president ended his remarks with another endorsement of the experimental drug, hydroxychloroquine. Many epidemiologists and public health professionals say that this drug may cause heart attacks as the drug is still unproven. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved hydroxychoroquine’s use in the United States until further testing is done. 

There was a pro-Trump video featuring the president speaking to former Middle East hostages  who thanked him for his help securing their release. It was a night in which the Republican Party, increasingly accused of fostering White supremacy, put their idea of diversity on display.

 In an effort to boost votes by African-Americans, several speakers were invited including Vernon Jones, a Democrat from the Georgia State House. Jones demanded the Democratic Party begin to understand that Black people are “free people with free minds.” He continued that the  “…Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation.”  Football legend Herschel Walker also spoke of supporting the president, praising his efforts on behalf of people of color.  

Throughout the night, there was very little mention of supporting social justice protests in the name of Black Lives Matter. In fact, the president pushed a “law and order” theme whenever he referred to social justice movements. 

Kimberly Guilfoyle, of Puerto Rican heritage, is the National Chair for the Trump Victory Finance Committee. She delivered an incendiary (and many noted incredibly loud) speech that rhetorically belittled values the Democrats hold dear. Guilfoyle accused the Democrats of wanting to “defund, dismantle and destroy America’s law enforcement.” The Republicans have repeatedly said that Joe Biden wants to defund the police. Fact Check–this is not true. 

Donald Trump Jr., the son of President Trump, also delivered a speech on night one. He spoke of the ‘American Dream’ as a reality for many American citizens. Trump, Jr. highlighted his father’s work to create the “lowest unemployment rates ever for Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, women, and pretty much every other demographic group.”

But, Donald Trump, Jr. left out that early inaction by the president is one of the main reasons why the country was not prepared when the coronavirus hit. This lack of preparation meant the country lost its economic footing causing unemployment claims rivaling job losses during the Great Depression. Trump Jr. also accused Democrats of attempts to “cancel” the founders of America. 

Night Two – “Land of Opportunity” (streamed from CNN)

The second night seemed to focus on small businesses and tradespeople. Two phrases carried over from night one into night two: “promises made, promises kept” and “the best is yet to come.”

Myron Lizer, Navajo Nation Vice President, spoke from a reservation in Shiprock Pinnacle, New Mexico. Lizer applauded President Trump’s support for “Operation Lady Justice”, a program which focused on “repairing the relationship” between the Navajo Nation and the federal government. Native-American reservations have been especially hard-hit during the pandemic. 

To add to the evening’s activities, President Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, formerly incarcerated for bank robbery. Since leaving prison Ponder has started a program to help released inmates transition back into society.

Nicholas Sandmann, formerly a student at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, spoke at the RNC about his viral moment on social media a few years ago. During a class trip to Washington D.C., an encounter with a Native American protester resulted in negative national media against the youth. 

Sandmann sued to have the footage reviewed in its entirety. By reviewing the entire footage of the encounter, Sandmann’s version of events ended up being true. During his speech at the RNC, Sandmann said his thought process was “don’t do anything that might further agitate the man banging a drum in my face”, and called the protestors “agitators.” 

Tiffany Trump, daughter of President Trump, focused her speech on her experience graduating during the pandemic as a Georgetown law student. She said she relates to graduates who are having a difficult time job-searching during the pandemic. Tiffany Trump also said Americans should choose their presidential candidate based on “results, not rhetoric.” Eric Trump also spoke in support of his father. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech from night two is currently being investigated by the White House at the time of publication. Speaking to President Trump’s foreign policy, Pompeo said, “This president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world.” Pompeo also spoke highly of President Trump’s support for moving Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pompeo has received withering criticism by career diplomats for his partisan comments while on official government business. 

The last speech of night two was from First Lady Melania Trump. This speech, written by the First Lady, was much more upbeat in contrast with those of the president and other speakers.  Mrs. Trump spoke only of her experience in the White House. 

Melania Trump made it clear she would not spend time attacking the Democrats because “I don’t want to use this precious time to attack the other side, because as we saw last week…that only seeks to divide…”. Mrs. Trump also recounted her own story as an immigrant finding work and a life in America. She highlighted her Be Best initiative, which aims to teach young people about the importance of physical and mental wellbeing.

Night Three – Land of Heroes (streamed from CNN)

Night three seemed to center on the power of women in Trump’s Administration, as well as on the matter of policing. Many of the night’s speakers were women, including South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and Second Lady Karen Pence.

Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 23 by the Kenosha Police Department. As protestors gathered on August 25th, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two protestors on the scene. Though most of the RNC speeches were pre recorded, Vice President Mike Pence’s live speech did not address Blake, nor Rittenhouse. President Trump is reportedly trying to get in touch with Blake’s family.

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem claimed that Democratic cities in the United States are being overwhelmed by “mobs”, referring to protestors in cities such as Portland and Minneapolis. She said Trump is fighting for the “common American”, but did not specify what the common American is. 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also spoke on the third night of the convention. She said that as a woman with a pre-existing condition, she had to have a double mastectomy due to a rare genetic diagnosis that increased her risk of developing breast cancer to 84%. She said President Trump supports people with pre-existing conditions, though the Trump Administration has tried to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since arriving in office. Eliminating this legislation would legally allow insurance companies to resume denying coverage to people, on the basis of pre-existing conditions. President Trump has yet to unveil an alternative to the ACA.

Second Lady Karen Pence’s speech was about the importance of military families in America. She said she supports art therapy as a viable mental health treatment for veterans suffering with PTSD. She also said President Trump and Vice President Pence support military families on a “significant scale.” Trump has repeatedly said that he prioritizes the military, and military families, in his administration.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, thanked the president for including a “record number” of women in his Administration. This is demonstrably false, per data from the Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service —27.6% of his key executive branch include women, and of the 679 confirmed, only 25% were women. This is a lower number than the Obama Administration, at 43%, and the Clinton Administration at 37%. 

Jack Brewer, a former Democrat and NFL player for several teams, said as a Black man that President Trump does not represent the racist divide in the United States at present. He also expressed support for the “All Lives Matter” movement and that when it comes to media reporting on Black and Brown communities, “[they are] confusing the minds of our innocent children.” He referred to the Republican Party as one that freed the slaves, and praised President Lincoln’s efforts in doing so. However, he did not acknowledge the historical swap of Republican and Democratic platforms in the century following Lincoln’s tenure in the White House. Additionally, Brewer did not acknowledge President Trump’s previous exchange with four women of color in Congress, in which he told them to go back to where they came from.

The last speaker of night three was Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States. He said President Trump got rid of ISIS, a terrorist organization still operating in the Middle East, and has been for the past couple of decades. Pence also said Trump provided America the largest tax cut and reform in American history, which is again untrue — for example, Trump’s 2017 tax cut was roughly 0.9% of the GDP, compared to Reagan’s 2.89% tax cut. The Vice President also said the United States is doing 800,000 coronavirus tests per day on Americans. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, health experts have said there should be 5,000,000 tests conducted per day. The Vice president also said both himself and President Trump support the right to protest, but condemn looting and violence. Pence failed to acknowledge that this violence is currently happening in President Trump’s America and are the possible causes.

Night Four – Land of Greatness (streamed from CNN)

Many of the speakers in night four spoke highly of President Trump’s growth of the U.S. economy. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Barack Obama’s presidency saw a growth of about 8.1 million jobs in the last 36 months versus a growth of 6.6 million jobs in President Trump’s first 36 months in office.

Ahead of night four, Department of Homeland Security employees received an internal email, reminding them to not participate in “partisan political activity.” The email was reviewed by ABC News. “It is important that we, DHS employees, are familiar with the policies surrounding partisan political activity to make sure we comply with them,” the email read.

Before the final night of the convention, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said to ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast that she hoped the Jacob Blake shooting would be addressed at the convention. Though many of the speeches by RNC speakers were pre-recorded, McDaniel suggested the RNC should at least mention Blake by name. McDaniel also confirmed the president has been in touch with Blake’s family. 

As they planned to host the last day at the White House, the Trump Administration has been under scrutiny for potentially violating the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that ensures federal programs are regulated in a nonpartisan fashion. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is still being investigated by House Democrats for presenting a virtual speech at the RNC while in Israel on official state business. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made an appeal to “middle America” in his speech, attacking Democrats for “[deciding] how we should live our lives.” He spoke directly to viewers when he said Democrats are trying to “take away your Second Amendment rights” and “defund the police.” McConnell did not acknowledge that Democratic candidate Joe Biden actually does not support defunding the police. Additionally, the Democrats have not tried to take away Second Amendment rights from Americans; McConnell is referring to proposed gun control legislation that would effectively alter the public’s accessibility for certain types of firearms.

New Jersey Representative Jeff Van Drew, who left the Democratic Party to become a Republican, said Joe Biden is “being told what to do by the radicals running my former party.” He described his support for the president in interactions with people at the “local diner.” Van Drew changed political parties in 2020 when President Trump was impeached by House Democrats for allegedly conspiring with foreign powers to impact the 2020 election.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson addressed the Jacob Blake shooting before getting into his speech. He cited Jacob’s mother in saying America should “work together” to demonstrate to the world how Americans “care for each other.” Carson also said “America is great when we behave greatly.” Here, Carson is implicitly denouncing protestors in Kenosha. They have been gathering and marching in Kenosha each night since the Blake shooting, and have since been shot at by an armed militia and private citizen brigade.While protests have tried to remain peaceful, police have sprayed tear gas at protestors. Businesses have also been looted, and cars set on fire. To see more on the Kenosha protests, please visit reporter Brendan Gutenschwager’s Twitter account, @BGOnTheScene

Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, denounced American professional athletes who have been kneeling during the National Anthem to call attention to racial inequality. Praising Trump, Cotton said, “We need a president who stands up for America, not one who takes a knee.” Additionally, Cotton said America is safer “now” than it was before Trump took office. However, one of the overarching themes of the RNC was that American cities (implying Democrat-led cities)—Minneapolis, Kenosha, Portland, for example— are dangerous. 

Ivanka Trump, eldest daughter of President Trump, spoke of Trump’s character with personal language, describing him as a “warrior”. She also defended him against critics on social media in saying, “I recognize my dad’s communication style is not to everyone’s taste…but the results, the results speak for themselves.” Ivanka Trump ended her speech by thanking her father for being “real”. 

President Trump was the last to speak at the RNC, and officially accepted the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the 2020 presidential election in his 70-minute speech. The speech was largely positive in tone, consistently referring to past American achievements to create a sense of national unity. He addressed the destruction of Hurricane Laura by thanking many parties for their involvement in cleanup efforts. President Trump also continued on the theme of unity in his speech, at one point saying the Republican Party welcomes “millions of Democrats, Independents, and anyone who believes in the greatness of America.” However, he also seemed to contradict himself by telling Americans their “way of life” will be “destroy[ed]” if they do not support the Republican Party in the election. Trump also made a promise to have a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, “if not sooner.”

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Lead developer and editor; legal/political reporter for the Current Affairs Times. World traveler. Mac 'n' cheese lover.

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