- The 2020 RNC sought to sanitize Trump's record on an array of issues, going all-in to convince Americans he's not racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.
- The convention painted an alternate reality for Americans, particularly in terms of Trump's bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The underlying message of the convention was fundamentally contradictory in that it pitched Trump as the solution to problems that arose or were exacerbated during his presidency.
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The 2020 Republican National Convention painted an alternate reality for the country, portraying President Donald Trump as a tolerant, levelheaded leader who acted swiftly to contain COVID-19.
During his speech on Thursday, Trump said his administration is focusing "on the science, the facts, and the data" to handle the pandemic. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Roughly 1,500 people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House for the final night of the convention and Trump's address. They sat in chairs that were not six feet apart, and many of them were maskless. It sent a message that everything is fine in the US, even as the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate across the country.
Over 180,000 Americans have died from the virus. Millions are unemployed. But these devastating stats were consistently ignored during the convention, which almost made it seem as if the pandemic is over.
Donald Trump Jr. on the first night of the RNC praised his father's handling of the pandemic, stating that he "acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most, he delivered PPE to our brave frontline workers, and he rallied the mighty American private sector to tackle this new challenge."
But this is far from how things played out in reality. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, pushed against expanding testing, and misled the public on the state of the US outbreak. Public health experts have slammed Trump's handling of the pandemic, and polling has consistently shown the vast majority of Americans disapprove of his response to the outbreak.
The convention was well-coordinated effort to sanitize Trump's damning record on an array of issues, from his handling of the pandemic to his treatment of women. The RNC turned the White House into a campaign venue, exploiting the power and grandeur of the presidency to boost Trump's reelection prospects.
To put it another way, it was propaganda for one of the most controversial presidents in modern US history as he fights for reelection after bungling his response to one of the biggest crises this country has ever seen.
The basic message of the convention was inherently contradictory: The US is a nation consumed by chaos and only Trump can fix it — even though he's been president for three and a half years.
Based on what we heard from the speakers at this year's RNC, everything positive in the US is because of Trump, and everything negative is not his responsibility and would only be exacerbated under former Vice President Joe Biden.
The GOP pitch to US voters is that Trump is the answer to the myriad problems in the US that have arisen and worsened under his watch. The paradoxical, perplexing nature of this messaging is encapsulated by the clumsy reworking of Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." The slogan now has an extra "again" so it reads, Make America Great Again, Again."
"With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, and with God's help, we will make America great again, again," Vice President Mike Pence said on the third night of the convention, as he warned voters that the "hard truth" is they "will not be safe in Joe Biden's America."
Pence's speech was littered with incorrect statements, ranging from falsely claiming Biden is for "open borders" to erroneously asserting the former vice president wants to defund police. Speaker after speaker leaned on blatant falsehoods and dystopian rhetoric as they sought to inject fear in Americans while characterizing Trump as a president who will safeguard their liberty and restore a sense of calm to the nation. Republicans warned voters that a Biden presidency would lead to anarchy and "abolish the suburbs altogether."
The RNC was largely designed to appeal to suburban voters who flocked to the Democrats during the 2018 midterms.
Much of the convention was clearly meant to soften Trump's image for Americans who might see him as a callous leader who lacks empathy.
On the second night of the convention, Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony in which five immigrants became US citizens, some of whom were not given a heads up that they would be featured as part of the RNC on primetime TV.
Trump ran on anti-immigrant platform in 2016. His administration has separated thousands of migrant children from their parents and issued a travel ban impacting predominately Muslim countries. The president has consistently prioritized building a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep immigrants out.
The naturalization ceremony was a blatant attempt to wipe Trump's well-documented record of xenophobia from the minds of US voters.
By featuring an array of conservative Black people as speakers, including Tim Scott, the only Black GOP senator, the RNC also sought to whitewash Trump's record on race, and former NFL player Herschel Walker.
Walker, a friend of Trump's, said it hurt his "soul" to hear people call the president racist. "Growing up in the Deep South, I've seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn't Donald Trump," Walker said.
The president has a long, well-documented history of racism. His rhetoric is frequently discriminatory. He has gone after congressional lawmakers who are people of color using racist language on Twitter.
Trump spent years perpetuating a racist conspiracy theory about the birthplace of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and has faced allegations of racism as far back as the 1970s.
More than eight-in-10 Black Americans say Trump is racist, according to a January Washington Post-Ipsos poll.
The president continues to have an extraordinarily low approval rating among Black Americans, resting at roughly 8%, according to Gallup.
Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by 25 women. His approval rating among women is 36%, according to Gallup. Polling has repeatedly shown women strongly favor Biden over Trump, who has frequently made sexist statements and is widely viewed as a misogynist.
The RNC tried to convince voters Trump is actually a friend to women. Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, touted the "countless women executives" Trump has hired. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sang a similar tune.
"For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government," Conway said of Trump. "He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men."
Conway did not mention Trump's long history of commenting on and attacking women's appearances, including via his Twitter account as president. Trump also reportedly once said that you have to treat women "like sh–."
The RNC went relatively smoothly for an event that was thrown together at the last-minute, violated a slew of ethical norms (and potentially federal law), and in which Republicans did not even adopt a new party platform. But the version of Trump the GOP presented to the country over the past few nights does not exist. Republicans succeeded in pulling off the convention without major mishaps, but they can't rewrite history and they can't erase the fact that the US is a nation in crisis under the current administration.
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