Trump, GOP seek to rebut Democratic narrative on night one
President Trump and the Republican Party sought to rebut the previous week’s Democratic convention on the first night of their own event, which cast the president as an empathetic leader and his party as diverse.
Monday night’s GOP convention featured a mix of ordinary Americans and celebrities, mainstream political figures and Trump loyalists, who took turns beating back against what they characterized as misconceptions about the president that they say have contributed to a dark picture of his administration.
Speakers repeatedly sought to humanize Trump, who made two appearance himself at the 2 1/2 hour televised event, once with front-line health care workers and once with hostages his administration had helped return to the United States.
The Republican National Convention’s first night featured a host of female speakers led by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. The night’s headliner was Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who cast Trump as a champion of Black people and Democratic nominee Joe Biden as someone who sees Black voters as monolithic.
Polls show Trump trailing Biden badly with both Black voters and women, though the president is doing better than previous GOP nominees with Black voters.
Scott invoked two Black Americans, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, whose deaths at the hands of police have sparked nationwide demonstrations and talked about working side-by-side with Trump on “opportunity zones” for low-income communities. Like other speakers, he cast Biden as a politician enthralled with his party’s left wing and warned his election should shift the country toward socialism.
Speakers also took aim at the Democratic drumbeat that Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is enough to end his presidency at one term. The U.S. is approaching 180,000 deaths from COVID-19, and has more cases than any other country in the world.
Speakers at the GOP convention proclaimed that Trump had reacted swiftly and authoritatively to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Let me be clear so that the media cannot twist my personal story to fit their narrative: As a health care professional, I can tell you without hesitation, Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during COVID-19,” said Amy Ford, a nurse from West Virginia.
In addition to Scott, the GOP convention featured a Black Republican candidate in Baltimore who slammed Democrats for taking Black voters for granted and a Democratic state House member from Georgia who said he was attacked within his party for supporting Trump.
The former NFL star Herschel Walker talked about his long-running friendship with Trump and about how it angered him to hear people call the president a racist.
“Growing up in the Deep South, I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump,” Walker said.
At their convention last week, Democrats called the president a racist and blamed him for inflaming the racial tensions that have exploded across the country since Floyd’s death.
The Republicans sought to cast their party as one that is growing in diversity, even though there are only two Black Republicans in Congress and one of them, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), is retiring this year.
“Joe Biden believes we can’t think for ourselves — that the color of someone’s skin dictates their political views,” said GOP House candidate Kim Klacik, who is running for the seat once held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). “We’re not buying the lies anymore — you and your party have ignored us for too long.”
Scott gave an unsparing critique of Biden’s own remarks about Black people and his record on racial justice.
“In 1994, Biden led the charge on a crime bill that put millions of black Americans behind bars,” Scott said. “President Trump’s criminal justice reform law fixed many of the disparities Biden created and made our system more fair and just for all Americans.”
Polls show Biden with about 90 percent support among Black voters. The Trump campaign is seeking to win over Black voters at the margins, believing that even cutting a little bit into Biden’s lead could pay off in metro areas in key battleground states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Haley, a GOP star who is widely viewed as potential 2024 presidential contender, shared her own story of overcoming discrimination and hardship as the daughter of Indian immigrants.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” Haley said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
Polls show a significant majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the virus, which has emerged as the biggest obstacle to his reelection.
Ford, the nurse from West Virginia, touted the changes made by the administration to expand access to telehealth. G.E. Ghali, a Louisiana doctor who has recovered from COVID-19, praised the administration’s decisions to grant emergency use authorization to remdesivir and expand access to convalescent plasma as treatments for patients who have been sickened with the virus.
The convention also featured testimonials from individuals who received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program established by coronavirus relief legislation.
Republicans aired a video that showed comments from Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo downplaying the risk of the virus early on, while asserting that Trump took action while others were not sounding the alarm. Trump himself has repeatedly come under fire for minimizing the threat of the virus by claiming, among other things, that it will “disappear.”
“President Trump truly moved mountains to save lives, and he deserves credit,” said Ghali.
And while Biden sought to cast himself as a return to decency and normalcy, Republicans on Monday night played up Trump as an empathetic figure who connects with suffering people in private.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in a 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, argued Trump’s response to the massacre was unfairly characterized by the media.
“I got to see who President Trump really is,” Pollack said. “He’s a good man and a great listener, and he cuts through the BS.”
Six former American hostages who were freed during the Trump administration offered their gratitude to Trump during a pre-recorded segment from the White House.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) recounted how the president reached out after the congressman’s nephew was killed in a car accident. Trump inquired about Jordan’s family when the two were on the phone a few days after the accident, Jordan said, and even spoke briefly with the victim’s father.
“That’s the president I know,” Jordan said. “That’s the individual who’s made America great again and who knows America’s best days are in front of us.”