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First item on the RNC agenda: Make the case that Trump is okay on race

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) speaks during the Republican National Convention from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in D.C. (Susan Walsh/AP)

One of the most enduring legacies of the Trump presidency will probably be his approach to matters touching on race, and what his words, actions and policies say about the country that elected him.

Republicans spent a considerable portion of the first night of their convention attempting to recast that legacy, making the case that not only is President Trump not racist but that he also will be a better president for people of color than Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Biden is leading Trump with Black, Latino and Asian American voters. Trump and his campaign would like to chip away at that but also to reassure White voters who aren’t comfortable with Trump’s handling of race.

Speakers went about this from a few angles, rebutting the assertions Trump is racist and his policies have been bad for Americans of color and seeking to demonstrate non-White people have a place in the Republican Party.

Herschel Walker, former NFL player, took on Trump’s personal attitudes on race most directly.

Former NFL player Herschel Walker defended President Donald Trump’s character during his speech for the Republication National Convention on Aug. 24, 2020. (Video: The Washington Post)

“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Walker said. “The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist. People who think that don’t know what they are talking about. Growing up in the Deep South, I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”

Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only Black Republican in the Senate, argued “it’s critical to paint a full picture of the records of Donald Trump and Joe Biden.” He gave an accounting of Biden’s own record on race:

This election is about your future. …
Joe Biden said if a Black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black.
Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community.
Joe Biden said poor kids can be just as smart as White kids.
And while his words are one thing, his actions take it to a whole new level.
In 1994, Biden led the charge on a crime bill that put millions of Black Americans behind bars. …
President Trump’s criminal justice reform law fixed many of the disparities Biden created and made our system more fair and just for all Americans.

Kim Klacik, GOP candidate for Maryland’s 7th District, hopes voters in Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs choose her to occupy the seat of the late Democratic congressman Elijah E. Cummings, a frequent Trump critic. The president regularly criticizes Democrats for their leadership in America’s cities, communities Trump usually paints negatively. Klacik argues she and other Republicans can help improve Baltimore under a Trump administration.

“I want Baltimore to be an example to Republicans around the country that we can compete in our inner cities if we reach out to the citizens and deliver real results,” she said. “President Trump is bringing this country back roaring. And he’s bringing the American spirit to life — for all Americans.”

Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son and a campaign adviser who specializes in antagonizing the left, also took on the issue — specifically when it came to police violence against Black people, adding a big “but.”

“What happened to George Floyd is a disgrace,” he said. “And if you know a police officer, you know they agree with that, too.

“But we cannot lose sight of the fact that our police are American heroes,” Trump added. “They deserve our deepest appreciation.”

Scott and Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, in particular made the case for the GOP as a whole as a welcoming place for minorities.

“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country,” said Haley, an Indian American who is arguably the most prominent woman of color in the GOP. She has often argued the party is the best place for people like her.

“My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a Brown girl in a Black and White world,” Haley said. “We faced discrimination and hardship. But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate.”

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley bashed the Democratic Party for saying that America is racist during her Republican National Convention speech on Aug. 24. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Scott credited the Republican Party for creating a space where his family could experience the opportunities that come with being American.

“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said. “And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.

“There are millions of families like mine across this nation — full of potential seeking to live the American Dream,” he added.