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Republican convention offers misleading portrait of Trump’s presidency

The president was presented as a statesman and an inspiration, an almost benevolent force, a friend of black Americans, an unparalleled hostage negotiator and shield against a rising attack on American values ​​after a cohesive first term in a package designed to appeal strongly to conservative voters. It was an impression of Trump that was often at odds with the reality of the most turbulent presidency that has divided in generations – one that critics see as a threat to American democracy itself.

Trump’s most prominent supporters must have projected onto Democrats the flaws his accusers see embodied in his approach to politics.

“We are looking for a nation that rises together, does not crumble into anarchy and anger. We know that the only way to overcome America’s challenges is to embrace America’s strength,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said, in a speech that sent him an already intense primary buzz in 2024.

“We must choose the only candidate who has and will continue to deliver on this vision,” she said.

A more familiar outburst of Trumpism came from the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who mocked Democratic candidate Joe Biden as a “swamp Loch Ness monster.”

“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school against riots, looting and vandalism,” said Trump Jr.

It was a night marked by a constant tension between Haley’s more ambitious approach and the utter anger of the president’s son. In many ways, the well-produced opening night shows much more discipline than Trump typically shows – most recently in a divisive monologue in North Carolina Monday morning, which contained corrosive claims unsubstantiated by evidence that Democrats were trying to steal the November election. The conventional version of the president hardly resembled the daily drama of assaults on the rule of law, divisive racial rhetoric, and erratic leadership that fueled Democratic warnings that he was a threat to American democracy.
And a great convention video featured a deceptive image of a pandemic in which nearly 180,000 Americans have already died, exacerbated by Trump’s neglect and prioritization of his political ambitions over science.
Such contradictions pointed to a truism about Trump that could explain his current deficit to Biden (he’s down nine points in the CNN poll polls.). The scripted and presented version of the president offered on Monday and at fixed events like the State of the Union Address is not genuine and is most likely unsustainable.

In many ways, especially in the scorching speeches of Trump Jr. and in a rooftop tirade from his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, the evening was a familiar base appeal that confused the GOP’s promises with an “uplifting” night. .

Patty McCloskey, who with her husband clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters outside her home, warned with a stern racial suggestion: “What you saw happen to us might as well happen to any of us. you who look in the quiet areas of our country. “

Speakers aim for Biden’s inclusive image

Tim Scott delivers powerful speech on race and the 'America's promise'

The fear-mongering attacks on Biden as a sort of Trojan horse for Marxists and radicals who will burn down American cities and destroy the country could have been a difficult image for moderate voters to recognize.

But the first night also failed to meet expectations of a two-and-a-half-hour equivalent of Fox News’ wilder shows. For culturally conservative voters alienated by Trump’s behavior but not convinced by Democrats, the message could have at least given the president a second look.

There were many more minority faces represented in speeches and videos held at the convention than is typical in Trump’s cabinet and at his rallies.

In a strong speech that will also fuel speculation 2024, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who is black, has targeted Biden’s leadership on the 1994 Crime Bill which he said put “millions of Americans” behind bars.

“We live in a world that doesn’t want you to believe bad news – racially, economically and culturally polarizing news,” Scott said. “The truth is, our nation’s arc still leans toward fairness. We are not completely where we want to be, but thank goodness we are not where we were. We are still striving to be. better. “

Scott’s endorsement may do nothing to improve Trump’s bad reputation among African American voters who are crucial in some of the more contested states that will decide the election. But it could be useful in allaying concerns among Republicans and independents who lean towards conservatives and are drawn to Trump’s populist agenda, but who are embarrassed by his racial rhetoric and demagoguery.

Earlier this week, Trump’s campaign had to counter a strong impression left by Democrats at their convention last week that the president was unfit for the job and that he existed in a whirlwind of chaos, racism and turmoil. furious self-obsession.

It is also necessary to present Trump as possessing a semblance of humanity even though he is never likely to compete with the empathy that is the basis of Biden’s political appeal.

There was praise for President Natalie Harp, a bone cancer survivor who said she was only alive thanks to Trump’s policies on experimental drugs.

“Mr. President, you have done much more than promises made and promises kept,” Harp said.

Andrew Pollack, who lost her daughter Meadow in the Parkland School shooting in 2018, said: “I got to see who he really was. He’s a good man and a great listener. And he goes through the BS.”

Critics of Trump will point to his broken promise to adopt some kind of gun control after the massacre. But Pollack’s message will reach more conservative voters.

The president got a valuable endorsement from Amy Ford, a nurse who has treated patients with Covid-19 in New York and Texas.

“I can tell you without hesitation that the swift action and leadership of Donald Trump saved thousands of lives during Covid-19,” she said.

Ford’s point of view doesn’t fit the whole pandemic response, but for a voter inclined to ignore Trump’s failures, it could have been compelling. And the president was at his most appeasing when he appeared with six freed hostages, which represented one of the few unequivocal successes in his foreign policy – bringing home Americans captured abroad.

While his comment to Pastor Andrew Brunson, detained for two years in Turkey, that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “very good” during the episode was shocking and typical of his worship of strong men, the general impression was of a president who cares about his peasants in peril abroad.

“We got you back,” Trump said in the video filmed at the White House.

Base pumping

Part of the job of a party convention is to light up the base to leave voters motivated to go to the polls. Since the Republican Party has shifted to the populist and nationalist right under Trump, it is no surprise that such calls seem extreme to those who do not share his ideology.

Monday’s events, compared to the first night of the Democratic convention last week – where Michelle Obama spoke openly about racism and warned that “if you think things can’t get worse, trust me, they can.” – served to embody politics and culture dividing splitting America.

But nonetheless, in key vibrant neighborhoods in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the arguments of many who spoke for Trump were likely to resonate if not transform perceptions of his presidency. The short-term test will be whether the messier presentations aimed at Trump’s main voters frightened more voters than those drawn to softer focusing elements.

The long-term test in the two months leading up to the election – as always with Trump – will be whether his own actions and conduct erase this more nuanced narrative. They almost certainly will.


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