The first batch of 12 announced speakers included Trump, first lady Melania Trump, the president’s two adult sons, his two daughters, Vice President Pence and Pence’s wife. With half of these Trump family members (although his adult sons were supposed to stay out of politics while running the family business), this lineup reflects the degree to which the administration is run by and for the benefit of Trump’s family. The Pences and Trump’s relatives must say nice things; it’s a bit embarrassing when time is filled with people who work for the president and/or stand to inherit money from him.
We should also get ready for a White pity party. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the wealthy Missouri couple charged with a felony for brandishing weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters, are scheduled to appear, as is Nick Sandmann, the former high-schooler whose encounter with a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial was captured on video, which went viral. He later sued media outlets (including CNN and The Post, which settled with him) for coverage that he said was defamatory.
The Republican Party is poised to project itself as the party of White grievance, claiming victimhood while simultaneously venerating symbols of White nationalism (e.g., the Confederate flag). Trump’s supporters feel that they are the oppressed (despite Whites’ advantages in virtually every economic and social metric) and that Trump is fighting for them to prevent loss of white supremacy. At a time when far more nonwhites have died of the pandemic and Black men and women are killed in proportionally much greater numbers than Whites, this is perverse and stomach-turning. This is a party overwhelmingly White and largely male courting mostly White, male voters. (Republicans got only 9 percent of the Black vote in 2018 and lost the female vote by nearly 20 points.)
The convention, though, is going to be happy, happy, happy. The economy is going great! Trump has got this pandemic whipped! Expect the next few days to be an effort to carry out the false narrative that Trump has been a great success. What, if anything, will be said to the roughly 10 percent of unemployed Americans (“Find something new”?) and more than 173,000 families who have lost a father, mother, child or other loved one to covid-19 — people who died without the comfort of family members to hold their hand. The forced optimism and nothing-to-see-here attitude about the calamity all around us is likely to mollify true believers but leave everyone else more convinced than ever that Trump is delusional.
One benefit of having the first lady, Karen Pence and two Trump daughters speak is that it suggests that Republicans have, well, have lots of women among their supporters! Women, that is, named Trump. So far two female senators, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, are scheduled to speak. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) certainly is not on the schedule as she tries to run as far from Trump as she can, seeking to escape her votes to confirm antiabortion-rights Supreme Court justices and to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial. (Republicans have to work harder to get women from the House since they have only 13 female members, compared with 88 Democrats.) There will no doubt be plenty of fire-breathing, Russian-propaganda-spewing White male members of Congress, including Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio. This is not a convention designed to expand the president’s support. Trump has given up on extending his party’s appeal beyond the MAGA crowd, to whom this convention appears designed to appeal.
Since the administration has so few nonwhites and women, Trump is bringing back his former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, to speak. Organizers have also brought in the sole African American Republican senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina. Republicans are kidding themselves and attempting to make their White supporters feel better by showing off a few nonwhites and female speakers. It is certainly not for the benefit of people of color, who by overwhelming numbers see Trump as a racist xenophobe dedicated to suppressing the vote so white supremacy can endure just a bit longer. It is all part of the nonreality show that seeks to portray the Republican Party as something it is not.
In sum, in contrast to Democrats, whose ideological spread reached from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to lifelong Republicans, Trump is throwing a party for the MAGA cult. This convention is about soothing his supporters but, most of all, about soothing himself. It may well horrify a good deal of the electorate.
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