The Republican National Convention, which took place during the last week of August, showed that the race for the 2020 presidential election is far from over. Having the luxury position of reacting to the message sent out a week earlier by the Democratic National Convention, the RNC. was able to strategically contrast both parties’ standpoints. While popular media outlets were enthusiastic about the Democratic platform and dismissive about the Republican message, polls are showing that the RNC. was more successful at generating support. A week of democratic speeches was unable to statistically change Biden’s lead, while the Republicans managed to almost half president Trump’s deficit against the Democratic nominee.
The democratic strategy was clear from the outset: make this election all about Trump’s character and his handling of the Corona crisis while showing that Joe Biden is a nice guy. The DNC’s first-day lineup aimed to portray an extensive range of ideological viewpoints that support Biden as their candidate. On the one hand, you had Senator Sanders (I-VT), who used his speech to urge his supporters to vote for the Democratic candidate while also praising the impact that his progressive movement has had on the Democratic platform. On the other hand, you had John Kasich, the former Republican Governor of Ohio, attempted to contrast Senator Sanders and show Joe Biden in a more moderate spotlight. On the topic of racial justice, a conversation was shown between activist Jamira Burley, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, NAACP President Derrick Johnson and author Gwen Carr, and the former Vice-President Biden, in which they criticized Trump’s response to the protests. New-York Governor Cuomo, whose state has the second-worst deaths per million from Covid-19, was brought in to attack the federal government’s response to the pandemic. On this same topic, Kristen Urquiza spoke as well, personally blaming the President for her father’s death due to the Coronavirus. What many believed to be the highlight of the night was the keynote speech given by former first lady Michelle Obama. Her address, in which she painted a grim picture of America, described the current President as “wrong for the country” and “clearly in over his head.”
The following day largely continued the comparison of character between Biden and Trump. Jill Biden, Joe Biden’s wife, described the care her husband has for their family and how Joe extends that care to his job as a public servant. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates contrasted this message by describing President Trump as a person who uses his position to benefit himself while trampling the rule of law, weaponizing the justice department, and defending his friends – it is worthy to note here that Republicans have been making these same claims against the Obama-Biden administration for years. Former President Bill Clinton felt the need to describe that President Trump’s conduct and character allowed chaos to rule the Oval Office during this time of crisis – much can be said about Bill’s behavior in the very same Oval Office. A secondary topic was National Security. Many speakers focused on alleged foreign policy mistakes made by the Trump cabinet, and the latest report suggests Russia believes Trump is the candidate most favorable to them – the same report also indicates that China and Iran believe Biden would be the better candidate for the, but this was left out of the speeches. Obama’s former Secretary of State John Kerry said that Trump doesn’t know how to defend American troops and breaks off ties with allies while at the same time he “writes love letters to dictators” – especially the second part accurately portrays Trump’s massive character flaw of loving those who praise him no matter who they are. Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke of Biden’s experience, and values and Cindy McCain, widow of John McCain (R, Ariz.), talked about the friendship between her husband and Joe, a camaraderie that crossed the party lines. Following this, the convention went virtually to all 57 states and territories to officially nominate Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for President.
Day three was marked by its lineup of prominent politicians. Democrats opened with former US Representative Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) – a victim of a mass shooting in 2011 – and Emma Gonzalez –who was a student at Parkland high school. Both speakers went after the second amendment and demanded gun control. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi both pushed for people to go out and vote, with Hillary – who is not over losing in 2016 – talking about how winning the popular vote can still make you lose the election, a reference to the 2016 election. Nancy Pelosi highlighted the diversity of the House Democrats, attacked Trump’s character, and stated that Republicans are the reason a policing bill and a coronavirus bill haven’t been passed. Former President Obama attacked his successor saying that Trump doesn’t take the job seriously and that as a consequence 170 000 people have died in the US and millions of jobs have been lost – clearly blaming the current President for all victims in the United States, both direct and indirect, due to the current pandemic. At the end of the night, it was Kamala Harris’ moment to accept the nomination for Vice-President. During her speech, she celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and tried to create a comparison between the America she grew up in and Trump’s America. She also talked about her relationship with the Bidens and her connection to Joe’s son Beau, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015, and whom she had known from the time when they both served as Attorney Generals from their states. Another take away from her speech is that she sees the United States as structurally racist and that she and Joe plan on addressing the issue if elected.
The final day was marked by Joe Biden’s official acceptance of his party’s nomination, more than 30 years after he first attempted to run for President. In his acceptance speech, he stated that he would be a democratic candidate but an American president. There are three key takeaways from this night. First, Joe Biden’s candidacy has currently united the party. While the party’s moderate wing had already consolidated behind him, he has given the more radical wing enough to look forward to that they as well stand behind the man. Second, Biden’s personal history is an essential part of his pitch. Joe Biden is a man who has suffered enormous losses in his life: his first wife and one-year-old daughter died in a car accident two weeks after Biden was elected as Senator in 1972, and his son Beau died more recently from brain cancer. This grief has shaped Biden’s character, and according to Jill Biden, it is because of these experiences he would be able to heal the nation. Lastly, there was little focus on policy and more on his character. While the main issues, such as gun control, immigration, and climate change, had been talked about during the previous night, the final day didn’t go into these topics. Instead, Thursday’s message was a call for unity and a testament to Biden’s character. During a virtual panel, seven of Mr. Biden’s former rivals – Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, Senator Booker, Senator Klobuchar, former Major Buttigieg, former representative O’Rourke, and entrepreneur Yang – who all have different ideologies joined together to tell stories about the former Vice-President’s character and his kindness. His empathy was also underscored by a heartbreaking video of Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old with a stutter, who explained how Joe Biden, who himself also grew up with a stutter, helped him feel more comfortable with himself
The next week it was up to the RNC to rebut the remarks made during the previous week. From the onset, it was clear that the production value was higher. By having an in-person location from which speeches were made rather than an entirely virtual convention, presentations ran more smoothly. The first day introduced the contrast that would be further built on the rest of the week: Mr. Trump is an outsider who fights for the middle class, while Democrats are insiders clinging to power and who want to limit individual freedoms. One theme was that this election matters because Democrats want to change America fundamentally. This theme was iterated many times by speakers such as Donald Trump Jr., Matt Gaetz, and Charlie Kirk. There was also an apparent attempt to reach out to black voters; for example, State Representative Vernon Jones (D-GA.) said that black voters should rethink which party they support since Democrats have not come through with their promises. Another critical issue mentioned was the recent riots. The RNC.’s message was simple: while protesting is a right, rioting and violence are not. They contrasted this to the DNC, which had not once mentioned the rioting in the street, and to Democratic officials who are refusing to protect property and guarantee safety. On this issue, a video was shown of the McCloskeys, in which they talked about protecting their home from rioters who had broken into their community but are currently being prosecuted for doing so by what they call a politically motivated District Attorney. The RNC. also played a video in which Governors of blue states told reporters that they received everything they needed from the federal government. At the end of the night, the two keynote speakers, whom many see as the future of the Republican party after Trump, took the stage. Former US ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley attacked Democrats on their patriotism, stating: “Joe Biden and the Democrats always blame America first, Donald Trump always put America first.” She also contrasted the current and previous administration’s approach in the UN, saying that unlike the Obama-Biden administration, the Trump administration stood up for American values. America is safer under Trump then it was under the previous administration. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) explained that “while this election is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the election isn’t just about Donald Trump and Joe Biden.” He attacked Democrats for walking out on the negotiations on his police reform bill, stating that they wanted the issue to campaign on more than a solution to the problem. His speech also pointed out that it is the Republicans who support school choice while democrats and the teachers’ unions are fighting this and that Trump pushed for criminal justice reform while Biden led the 1994 crime bill. Unlike the grim picture of America that was painted by the D.N.C., Tim Scott showed that he’s the living proof of how far the country has come stating: “my family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”
The second night offered an overview of what the GOP is running on. Along with the usual issues such as opposition to abortion and strong immigration laws, Trump’s GOP is less in favor of free-market and less interventionist on foreign policy. The latter was explained by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), an outspoken critic of American interventionism, who highlighted Trump’s push to end “endless wars.” One of the clear messages was “promises made; promises kept,” referring to his 2016 election campaign. The night included a presidential pardon of a former bank robber who has changed his life to aid inmates and a naturalization ceremony of new US citizens. Both Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump gave speeches attempting to humanize their father. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech from Jerusalem in which he advocated on behalf of the President’s foreign policy. He talked about how the Trump administration handled situations in China – which the US hold accountable for the spread of the Coronavirus – in North Korea – where, due to Trump’s policies, North Korea has stopped nuclear testing and firing long-range missiles – and in the Middle East – Where Trump took out Qasem Soleimani and defeated the ISIS caliphate while also taking out its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ended the Iran-nuclear deal, and how Trump kept his promise to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The night ended with Melania Trump’s best speech to date. With compassion, the First Lady talked about the devastating impact Covid-19 has had. In her speech, she also spoke about several challenging topics such as natural disasters, the opioid crisis, and the racial injustice that is part of the country’s history. The First Lady was not afraid to open up about her journey of becoming an American.
The third day focused heavily on the US military and Law enforcement. The election was being framed as an attack on the part of the Democrats on the rights of American citizens. It sketched a picture of the democratic cities, such as Portland, Chicago, and New York, that are currently facing rioting and looting and how if the democrats win the election, this will become a national problem. It also gave a clear message: The Republican party treats people according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin. This is in opposition to the Democratic party’s use of identity politics. Prominent Republican politicians who formerly served in the military, such as Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese political refugee, talked about the values America stands for and how these values are worth protecting. White House Press Secretary humanized Trump by talking about the support he gave her both as a new mom and while she had to undergo a preventative surgery after she tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. The Second Lady Karen Pence celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and her initiative to encourage military spouses, the home front heroes. The night ended with vice-President Mike Pence, who started his speech recognizing the victims of hurricane Laura. He then went on to praise the administration’s response to the Coronavirus. During his speech, the Vice-President echoed the message of law and order, stating that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” He also called Joe Biden a trojan horse for socialism, referring to Bernie’s statement that Joe Biden would be the most liberal President since FDR. His message for the rioting was clear: “The violence must stop. Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. “
On the final day, it was time for President Trump’s very lengthy speech. However, before that happened, Ivanka Trump gave an introductory speech. She used the time to talk about her father’s accomplishments while also noting her involvement. Her address was a little too long and self-indulgent compared to what Trump’s other children had given. But after she finally introduced her father, Mr. Trump could give his speech. He used his moment to contrast his agenda to Biden’s, accusing Joe Biden of taking his marching orders from the far-left politicians. The President warned that Biden’s pledged $4 trillion-dollar tax hike on American families would collapse the recovering economy. He also took a stand against “cancel culture,” stating that America is not built by speech codes and soul-crushing conformity. Instead, it is made by free speech and the opportunity to think for oneself. During his opening remarks, he managed to strike a compassionate note when talking about his recently deceased brother. However, this quickly vanished when he started to attack the news media. He even took a jab at the role of offering empathy as President, stating: “workers who were laid off during the Obama administration didn’t want Joe Biden’s hollow words of empathy. They wanted their jobs back.” The overall theme was law and order; the President put himself behind law enforcement and contrasted the Republican reaction to the violence in the street to that from Democrats, who look the other way.
The RNC. took the fight to the Democrats by attacking their political agenda. While the DNC wanted to make this election all about President Trump and his character, they failed to show the American people a concrete and specific policy plan. This inability to give concrete examples of what they plan to do if they win the election left them vulnerable and allowed Republicans to fill in the blanks. The fact that the recent riots were a central theme during the RNC but weren’t mentioned once by the DNC affected them a lot. While it is of course accurate that peaceful protestors are exercising their rights and should be left alone, it is equally valid that the state’s primary function is to protect life, liberty, and private property. If it fails to do so, it destroys credibility to govern. Recent polling numbers are showing that the riots turn people away from the democratic party, and some believe that if they are not appropriately addressed, they might be the reason Trump gets reelected. The question for the Democrats that remains is whether it is too late to frame yourself as standing against the riots; let’s see how good America’s memory is.