The 2020 political conventions have drawn to a close with the dramatic (and late night) end of the Republican Convention. And what a show each party presented.
Last week we discussed the Democrats’ effort based on two criteria, technical and content. We’ll do the same for the Republicans.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) broke new ground technically with this production. The bulk of the time for the first 3 ½ sessions was a series of testimonies by a vast variety of people, mostly non-politicians, who told their personal stories. All were interesting, many were gripping – like the widow of the retired police chief in St. Louis who was killed by the rioters, or the young Congressional candidate, who rose from his wheel chair to salute the flag, or the young ex-Planned Parenthood staffer who was appalled by what she saw in a live abortion – and the list goes on.
From a technical point of view, the variety of settings for each presentation, the musical interludes, and, most of all, the pacing of the program was exceptional. The only way so many speeches could have been packed into the time allowed depended on strict discipline of timing, variety of material, insertions of video clips to dramatize the speaker’s prose, and of the settings – all of which were exceptional. This discipline included even time limits on usually long-winded politicians – one of the more impressive features of the program.
The program ended with a brief but spectacular fireworks display and a closing few songs featuring tenor, Christopher Macchio, although the lateness of the hour may have made this segment harder to appreciate.
In all, the technical framework of the convention set a new standard for this type of program, using many of the techniques of documentaries for live presentations. Actually, it is hard to imagine anything but a state-of-the-art production for a man who topped TV ratings for years.
Like last week’s content, the content of either party tends to be controversial, appreciated by the advocates, scorned by the opposition. So, it is with this convention. As a sympathizer with the Republicans, my vies are colored by my own preferences.
That having been said, I was very impressed by the messages of this convention. Among the most impressive features were the number and variety of the presenters. Most were ordinary Americans, whose stories varied in content, tone, accent, and perspective. All, of course, came to the same conclusion – they were voting Republican. The interesting part was the individual starting points. Especially interesting were the Black endorsements, some from Democrats. Also impressive were the young men and women who are the future of the party, led by Nikki Haley, Rand Paul, and Tim Scott, among several others.
The last half of the last evening was devoted to Donald J. Trump, sitting 45th President of the United States of America. The earlier testimonials were a mixture of endorsements of the President, criticisms of the Biden/Harris ticket, and explanations of generic preference for either the Republican party or specific issues, especially reasons for Black support for Trump over Biden. This last segment was devoted to endorsements of Trump by a variety of people, ranging from ordinary Americans to politicians. Finally, the President himself gave his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
The speech was an indictment of the Democrats’ prospective policies, Mr. Biden himself, based on his half century record of public service, recap of Mr. Trump’s own record of the past three+ years, and his plans for the future. His agenda is mostly well known, although he supplied a surprising detail of some of the planned initiatives. His tone was somewhat subdued compared to some other speeches, but he covered a wide range of subjects. As expected, his speech was very long.
While we on the subject of Mr. Trump, here are some observations I would like to share. I recently had occasion to watch some of his 2015-16 debates. There is no question that he was a brutal, bullying candidate. Never have I seen such behavior before in a formal setting like a presidential debate. It was prompted, I believe, by his distain for all politicians, especially in national office, although he also criticized Dr. Ben Carson as being “low-energy”. Looking back, I think that it was this behavior which gained him a bad reputation among many otherwise open-minded people. I believe he is still paying for that period, even though it did not stop him from winning both the nomination and the election.
I believe that Donald J. Trump has experienced some significant changes since he became President. One of the most significant changes has been his attitude towards politicians. He quickly realized that he needed their support in order to get done some of his most important priorities. He has succeeded in converting some of his most offended victims (but not the Bushes) as well as virtually all the Republicans in Congress from enemies into fervent advocates. Prime examples are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He even persuaded Dr. Carson to join his cabinet. Since taking office, he has turned into a great advocate of the Republican Party, campaigning religiously for Republican candidates throughout the country. He has accepted the mantle of head of the Party and pursued it with his characteristic vigor.
Another area of his life has also seen change in my opinion. That is his private life, particularly his personal conduct and his religious practice. Like many other presidents, (not all) he has “grown into the job”. His life is now lived in a glass house – everything he does or says is noted and publicized. He cannot afford to be seen in any questionable behavior. He has become a straight arrow.
He also has, I believe, become more aware that he depends on a force beyond his or anyone’s control. Never known to be particularly religious, he is now seen praying in church and in public, seen as a strong advocate of freedom of religion, and generally deserving of the strong support he received from the evangelical community. Some would say he is masquerading. I believe he is sincere, influenced perhaps by Melania. Sincere or not, it is hard to contest the behavior.
The case for a Trump electoral victory was strengthened by the 2020 Republican convention, with its message of hope, prosperity and equality. We will see how long it lasts.