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RNC Night 1: Republicans defend Trump’s record, paint dark vignette of Democratic rule
Ahead of the Republican National Convention’s kickoff on Monday, GOP leaders promised a four-day presentation of President Donald Trump’s “aspirational, forward-looking vision” to contrast with the “depressing, doom-and-gloom convention” they said Democrats staged last week.
But much of the RNC’s first night took on a decidedly dark tone, as speaker after speaker denounced former vice president Joe Biden and claimed his administration would have a ruinous effect on the United States.
“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said. “And the defunded police aren’t on their way.”
“They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe, so they can control how you live,” Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top official on the president’s re-election campaign and girlfriend of his eldest son, forcefully declared. “They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal, victim ideology, to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.”
“This election is a decision between preserving America as we know it, and eliminating everything that we love,” said conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who went on to call President Trump “the bodyguard of western civilization.”
As well as making baseless, dystopian assertions about Trump’s Democratic rival, each GOP convention speaker also effusively praised the sitting president, defending his record from his time in office. Instead of ignoring the coronavirus pandemic — which has infected 5.7 million Americans and killed 177,000 — Republicans made it a centerpiece of the first night.
“As the virus began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most,” Donald Trump Jr. said Monday night. “He delivered PPE to our brave frontline workers. And he rallied the mighty American private sector, to tackle this new challenge.”
Trump himself also made an appearance to speak about the coronavirus, participating in a video with frontline workers who thanked him for his leadership.
However, Trump Jr. and the other speakers offered a cherrypicked version of President Trump’s record on the pandemic, ignoring his repeated dismissal of the virus and comments made in contradiction to his scientific advisers.
As for the more uplifting message promised by Republican leaders, it largely did not arrive until South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s remarks at the end of the night. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said, referring to his grandfather’s time picking cotton as a young man. “And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, was one of several convention participants who sought to court African-American voters, emphasizing Trump’s criminal justice reform package and support of increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). “There are millions of families just like mine all across this nation, full of potential, seeking to live the American dream,” Scott said. “And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality.”
But Scott’s speech was mostly overshadowed by the more dramatic remarks of President Trump’s family members and close allies. Trump himself used inflammatory language when opening the convention earlier in the day with a 52-minute speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, after Republican delegates formally renominated him with an in-person roll call vote. In his remarks, Trump falsely asserted that Democrats are “trying to steal the election,” going on to claim that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if it’s a rigged election.”
Although the primetime portions of both parties’ conventions took place without any audience, most Republican speakers held forth from the same Washington, D.C., auditorium — featuring a Trump-Pence emblazed on the podium — unlike the Democrats, whose speeches came from various locations. Like the Democrats, the Republica speeches were a mix of live and pre-taped addresses.
But the two conventions diverged in their apparent aims: while Democrats took pains to highlight Biden’s centrist credentials, featuring a lineup of prominent Republicans in an effort to seek independent and GOP votes, the opening night of Trump’s convention seemed far more focused on boosting turnout among the president’s base. (The GOP lineup did feature one cross-party speaker, Democratic State Rep. Vernon Jones of Georgia.)
Many of the figures featured Monday were there because they had gone viral among the president’s backers or received lavish coverage on Fox News, such as St. Louis couple Mark and Patrica McCloskey or congressional candidate Kim Klacick. No former Republican presidents or presidential nominees were included on the roster.
The lineup underscored President Trump’s focus on his base throughout his time in office, often speaking about issues that motivate his supporters without bothering to offer complementary messaging for independent voters.
In their convention rhetoric, Republicans followed the president’s lead in reaching for turnout over persuasion: a risky electoral strategy, as evidenced by recent public opinion polls, which show Trump stubbornly trailing Biden by almost ten percentage points.
— “A man in Hong Kong has become the first confirmed patient to be infected with the coronavirus a second time, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong,” NBC News reports.
“The finding suggests that some patients who recover from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may have only short-lived immunity from reinfection. The case will likely also be significant for scientists who have been working on treatments using antibodies from recovered coronavirus patients, and those who have been scrambling to develop a safe and effective vaccine, though it’s too soon to draw any firm conclusions.”
— “Peaceful marches in protest of a police shooting gave way to fires, destruction and looting in Kenosha as a strip of businesses in a central residential neighborhood was consumed in flames early Tuesday,” the New York Times reports.
. . . “A line of National Guard members, called to Kenosha amid rising tension over the shooting on Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black resident who was shot by a white police officer, prevented anyone from getting close as firefighters worked to douse the flames.”
— “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris will be regularly tested for the coronavirus as their in-person campaigning intensifies in the final 10 weeks before Election Day, their campaign said Monday,” Bloomberg reports.
— “Former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake on Monday, upon endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, blasted President Trump as an ‘embarrassment,’ while slamming his claims that Democrats are trying to rig the 2020 presidential election,” Fox News reports.
“Flake’s comments come after he and more than a dozen former Republican members of Congress threw their support behind a ‘Republicans for Biden’ effort being launched Monday by Biden’s campaign to engage potential GOP supporters this November.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will attend First Lady Melania Trump’s remarks to the Republican National Convention at 10:30 p.m. from the redesigned White House Rose Garden.
The House and Senate will meet for brief pro forma sessions. Neither chamber is expected to hold any votes or conduct any business.
The Supreme Court is on summer recess.
The Republican National Convention will continue for its second night, airing from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tonight’s featured speakers will include First Lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and the president’s children Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump.
Other speakers will include Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee turned pro-life activist; Jason Joyce, a Main lobsterman; Myron Lizer, vice president of the Navajo Nation; Mary Ann Mendoza, an “Angel Mom” whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant; and Nicholas Sandmann, who attracted national attention after his 2019 confrontation with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has no public events.
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