Republicans kicked off their four-day long nominating convention on Monday putting Donald Trump center stage, and arguing that the president has kept all the promises he made while in office.
The theme for Monday night’s events at the Republican national convention is “land of promise.” Republican speakers, surrogates and Trump family members were expected to argue that the president has accomplished the major policy proposals he made during the 2016 campaign and deserves four more years in office, attempting to direct attention away from the administration’s widely-criticized handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 175,000 people in the US and infected more than 5.7 million.
Speaking earlier in the day after officially receiving the party’s nomination, Trump addressed delegates in Charlotte, North Carolina, and claimed without evidence that Democrats planned use the coronavirus crisis to “steal” the election.
“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump told the 336 delegates in the hall, who had traveled to the convention from the 50 states and US territories. “They’re trying to steal the election.”
The majority of speakers at a political nominating convention such as the RNC or the Democratic national convention are usually current or former elected officials. But this year many of the speakers are icons of the conservative wing of the Republican party or family relatives of Trump himself. Donald Trump Jr is slated to speak as is his partner, the campaign aide Kimberly Guilfoyle. A few candidates are speaking as well: Sean Parnell, a retired US army ranger running for Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district, and Kim Klacik, a candidate for the heavily Democratic Maryland seventh congressional district.
Over the next four days the RNC is poised to be the latest example of the Republican party’s complete shift over to a political party centered on Donald Trump. The revised party platform for the convention this year is just an expression of support for the president’s second-term agenda. And none of the featured speakers at the convention are Republicans who have strongly dissented with Trump – a few, like the former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, have instead endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Usually former presidents attend their party’s nominating convention, but former president George W Bush, the only living former Republican president, is not attending the convention or offering a taped video. All three former living Democratic presidents participated in last week’s Democratic national convention.
Both national and statewide polling has shown Trump trailing Biden and although polls have recently tightened, Biden came out of his party’s convention with a polling bump. Trump and his aides are hoping the convention will help shift both Trump’s approval numbers and the national spotlight in the president’s favor.
The convention is also an opportunity for Trump to try to address the crises facing the country and offer optimism. But critics have argued the president is politicizing science; on Sunday, as his administration continued to struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Trump linked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to a “deep state” cabal, and admitted having applied pressure on the agency to fast track new emergency authorization of convalescent plasma to fight the virus, despite the treatment being in the very early stages of testing.
Tensions between law enforcement and protesters are likely to escalate over the next few days following the police shooting of an African American man, Jacob Blake, in Wisconsin on Sunday. As the country faces a national reckoning on racism and police brutality, there too the Trump administration has struggled to ease tensions across the country, instead using divisive rhetoric.
The convention is beginning the day after Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s longest serving aides, announced she would be leaving the administration at the end of the month. Conway said she needs to spend more time with her family. She will also deliver a speech at the RNC.