Following the Democratic National Convention last week, Republicans took America for a hard right turn during the opening night of their gathering on Monday. With speeches largely taped in an empty Washington ballroom, the Republicans were always going to be different from Democrats in their outlook and in who they backed.
But it was jarring to see how drastically they painted two entirely different versions of America. To be clear, this is not two different versions of what America could be like in the future, but what America is right now.
For the Democrats, America is a place that lacks the leadership to address a raging pandemic, economic collapse, and systemic racism.
For the Republicans, America is a country on the verge of collapse because there is rioting in the cities, impending doom in the suburbs, and some concerted effort in the rural areas to prevent people from going to church or owning a gun. As one speaker put it: “Trump is the bodyguard of western civilization.”
But in a larger sense there is one thing both parties agree on: these are dark days, indeed.
Here are three big picture takeaways from the first night of the Republican National Convention:
1. It should be renamed the Trump National Convention
There is no longer a Republican Party. Over the past four years, what was the Republican Party has become the Trump party. This was on full display in the first 24 hours of the convention. After all, the party didn’t even bother doing the most basic thing at a convention: pass a platform stating what the party stood for. Because the party stands for one thing: Trump.
Speaker after speaker invoked Trump over any principles of America or what had been widely viewed as the basic tenets of the Republican Party: strong foreign policy, social conservatism, and fiscal conservatism. Indeed, while tax rates were mentioned, no speaker said anything about fiscal responsibility after years of soaring deficits under Trump.
Even the podium reflected this new reality. Where the Democrats used the convention’s logo, the Republicans either used one that read “Trump 2020″ or “Trump Pence.”
2. COVID was at the forefront of the DNC, but in the background at the RNC
The Democratic National Convention began as almost a national funeral mourning the loss of life during the pandemic that has killed over 170,000 Americans. The Republicans? Not so much. Sure, the pandemic did come up at times, but the cacophony of voices mostly touted Trump’s accomplishments before the virus hit (like the strong economy) or warned of the spread of social unrest in a few American cities.
The coronavirus is dominating American life, but it was downplayed at the RNC.
While the very reason the televised event was taking place was because there is a presidential election in less than 70 days, the back-to-back speeches by former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. blew up social media as a sort of preview to what a 2024 Republican primary race might look like.
Haley’s speech was more traditional Republican fare, with some sweeping praise about the American dream and immigrants (like her parents) and even addressing racism. Trump Jr.‘s speech was filled with the same partisan red meat his father usually serves.
Of course, should President Trump lose in November, what is to say he won’t float running again in 2024 and freezing the field?