What Happened at the Republican National Convention 2020?

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The Republican National Convention (RNC) lasted from August 25th to the 27th and saw Donald Trump formally announced as the Republican nominee for President of the United States. This convention took place online due to the constraints of Covid-19. After a rocky start to the campaign trail, with the troubles in Tulsa, it was important that the Republican party came together in a show of strength and unity. Trump’s approval ratings among the Republican base have remained strong, around 87% approval. The RNC was more of a formality than the Democratic National Convention (DNC) as Trump is the incumbent President and hasn’t had to compete for the nomination. The convention still proved an opportunity to present a range of speakers to promote Trump with only two months to go before the election.

There were several key speakers on display over the three days, with Trump taking the unorthodox approach by speaking every single day- breaking from the tradition for nominees to only make a speech once nominated on the last day. There were speeches from Maximo Alvarez, Kimberley Guilfoyle, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump and Donald Trump. There was some commentary that a fair number of the speeches were from Trump’s family members- Kimberley Guilfoyle is the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr (a family connection many might not be aware of). There were several themes that ran through the speeches such as cancel culture and the possibility that a Democrat President would lead to a dismantling of the police. Many of the speakers including Nikki Haley, who had previously criticised Trump while UN ambassador, praised Trump’s foreign policy decisions while President. A few different media outlets observed that this convention compared to the one in 2016 was a lot more pro-Trump and showed a remarkable change in the Republican party as a whole.

Another change was the fact that there was no broad policy platform involved in the convention. Usually, a wide range of policy stances are discussed and presented, the campaign stated that they didn’t want to make big announcements while only a small portion of the party was participating in the convention. The Democrats managed to unveil a 92-page document sketching out some of the issues they would focus on if they win the White House. Instead of these policy indicators, the Republican party opted to support a focus on the America First Agenda’ that had been put forward in Trump’s first four years in office. 

Trump’s speeches covered a range of topics from the benefits to the United States of hard-working immigrants to the prediction that a Biden presidency would be beneficial to China and Iran. Barack Obama’s foreign policy was criticised as the feud between the two presidents continued. With speeches, there is an expectation for embellishment and some soaring rhetoric, but fact-checkers stated that there were more lies told in the first day of the RNC compared to the entirety of the DNC. There was considerable emphasis on painting an image of America as being in a better place now than it was four years ago- despite the increasing cases of Covid and widespread social unrest in many states due to the BLM movement. Right-wing media outlets in America have embraced these alternative facts which only leads to an increasingly partisan split in the American people. It is far more difficult to establish who is telling the truth. Left-leaning news outlets only seem to support Trump’s rhetoric to his followers that there are many fake news outlets and that the establishment or deep state is protecting itself.

Trump’s supporters did sometimes seem to contradict themselves in their praise of Trump. Rand Paul a US Senator praised Trump for his opposition to endless wars while Mike Pompeo praised the tough combative stance against Iran. At one point it was even suggested by Eric Trump that his father had established peace in the Middle East which is certainly a questionable statement. This year’s RNC reflected a Republican party that has united behind one man- Donald Trump. One of the worrying signs of this election is that both parties are warning against electoral fraud and suspicious of the election being tampered with. The rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to see if the perceived champion of democracy can carry out a successful and scandal-free election.

Since the convention, Trump’s campaign team produced a list of commitments which he would attempt to carry out if he wins re-election. This list of aims included getting back to normal in 2021, teaching American exceptionalism, creating 10 million jobs in 10 months and wiping out global terrorists. These are bold claims but it was noticeable that one key promise from Trump’s first campaign was omitted- there is no longer a commitment to building a wall along the Mexican border. Trump has been running a law and order campaign regarding the social unrest of the last few months and promised to increase the funding for law enforcement and tackle ANTIFA harder than ever. Trump is pitching his policies to the same audience as in the last election- the same portion of the electorate that has not lost faith in him in the last four years.  

While the RNC was criticised by left-leaning outlets, that isn’t going to dent the fervent support that Trump gets from his Republican base. If anything the RNC will have inspired his supporters to new heights with the rhetoric of socialism and the dismantling of the police whipping up his base to turn out come November. While polls are showing that Biden has a lead, it is important to bear in mind that they did say the same about Hillary Clinton who narrowly lost on election day. With Covid-19 effecting the way campaigning can be run it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen come election day- will there be a blue wave or will Trump’s base, Nixon’s ‘silent majority’, win him another election?

You can expect more coverage of the US election in the weeks to come and SCAN will have some commentary on the debates that will happen towards the end of September.

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