A week after the Democrats convened under a platform that could best be summarized as “We’re not Donald Trump’s party,” Republicans approved a platform that essentially said, “We’re all-Trump, all the time.”
And that describes the opening night of their convention, along with its side theme: Whatever frightens Grandma.
Citing a need for brevity brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican National Committee approved a one-page statement that essentially renewed its 2016 platform — along with a curiously passive-aggressive call for “the media to engage in accurate and unbiased reporting.”
You know you’re in for a wild ride when newsmakers complain about biased reporting even before they have made some news to report.
Frankly, I found plenty to disappoint me in both conventions. First, the Democrats seemed to have learned too little from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss. They failed to show much appreciation for the working-class voters, particularly in the economically troubled upper-Midwestern Rust Belt states that provided enough Electoral College votes to put Trump over the top, despite his losing the popular vote.
For all the attention presidential nominee Joe Biden and other Democrats paid to such issues as diversity, climate change and gun safety, they curiously paid little attention to factory workers and others displaced by structural changes in the global economy. Those changes have cost tens of thousands of factory jobs and contributed to surges in family upheaval, opioid addiction and other hazards that have caused what some social economists call “deaths of despair.”
Trump may sound more like a used car salesman than a social scientist, but he knows people well enough to hear rage and resentment. He also knows how to express both well enough to make crowds knowingly nod their heads and applaud in a way that says, “Here’s a guy who hears me.”
Yet, the GOP paid little attention to the economic hopes of their own voters and would-be voters compared with the vast and spirited attention they paid to fears — and in a way that, like the president often does, sent fact-checkers scrambling.
Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, were attacked as part of a Democratic Party now controlled by its “far-left radical” wing that’s pushing a socialist agenda, riots, antifa and efforts to “defund the police,” despite Biden’s and Harris’ repeated denials of that position.
Several speakers also accused Biden and Harris of the by-now-standard accusations of wanting to ban fracking, take over health care and open borders, none of which was true.
But as much as we expect lies in political rally speeches, the bigger surprises came from such rising nonpolitician stars as Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who gained fame from a viral video of them waving and pointing guns at Black Lives Matter demonstrators marching past their St. Louis mansion. Never mind the controversial shootings of unarmed African Americans that led to the rise of movements such as Black Lives Matter.
On an evening dominated by Trump, we cannot forget Donald Trump Jr., who in the fashion of his father, claimed against all evidence that Biden and Harris want to “cancel the founders” of this nation. Catchy, but false.
But Junior was outshouted by his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who endorsed Trump Senior at top volume, as if speaking to a stadium crowd instead of an empty room.
By comparison, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley sounded blessedly sane, although hardly free of bombast. Saying the vision of such moderate Democrats as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was socialist (“and we know that socialism has failed everywhere”) echoed Ronald Reagan among others, arguing against such now-popular programs as Social Security and Medicare.
But Haley and fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott, currently the Senate’s only Black Republican, offered the most memorably appealing reminder of the pre-Trump Republican Party’s voices of reason. Remember those days?
I won’t point fingers. There’s plenty of blame to go around in both parties. After Hillary Clinton lost touch with the long-term jobs issue, Trump has raised more divisive questions than solutions. Election years can be a terrible time for our political leaders to try to come up with good answers and real solutions to complex problems. But we have to start somewhere.
Clarence Page wrote this piece for the Chicago Tribune.