The Republican National Convention in Cleveland was an event of grim messages and hatred for Hillary Clinton. An analysis.
The nominating conventions of the two main parties in America are traditionally staged as a show to have the greatest possible outside effect for the presidential candidates. After an acrimonious months-long primary battle, party members and the defeated candidates are supposed to rally behind the nominee and guarantee him or her their support for the coming campaign against the other party’s candidate.
At the four-day Republican National Convention in Cleveland, none of this was apparent. The party is still torn between endorsement of, and opposition to, its candidate, Donald Trump.
There was plenty of proof of this. Already on the first day, Trump’s opponents protested but were shouted down by Trump’s supporters. On the second day, the day of the vote, opponents failed a second time, in this case, they failed at an attempt to change the voting rules. That Ted Cruz, Trump’s rival in the primaries, still received a considerable number of votes, spoke volumes.
Then Cruz had his big appearance on Wednesday. In his speech, he refrained from expressing his support for Trump, which is normally expected from the speakers at the party convention. He was audibly booed from the stage for his statement that voters should follow their conscience.
Conflict with John Kasich
Paul Ryan, chairman of the convention and speaker of the House of Representatives, went about it more subtly. In his speech, the name Trump appeared only once, and it was clear that he did not enjoy delivering his speech. As a young politician who can, however, influence the fate of the party in the future, he likely saw it as his duty to at least attempt to reconcile the party’s divisions.
Ryan was also one of the few influential party members of Congress that came to Cleveland. Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, presented a speech which also failed to sparkle with wit. Newt Gingrich, who actually already belongs to the party’s past, showed himself as a foreign policy hawk. Both Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey who was defeated by Trump in the primaries but then quickly attached himself to him, as well as the party chair Reince Priebus, primarily attacked Hillary Clinton in their speeches.
Christie, Cruz, and Ben Carson were also the only primary rivals of Trump who were in Cleveland. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was in fact in Cleveland and met with delegates and other party members. He had, however, announced before the beginning of the event that he would not set foot in the Quicken Loans Arena, which in turn earned him rebuke from the Trump camp.
This fight could still have serious consequences, as Ohio is one of the states that Trump must win in order to become president. If he screws up with the popular governor, winning Ohio will be very difficult.
There was nothing to be seen of the other primary rivals like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush in Cleveland. They, like Cruz, are clearly betting that Trump will lose in November and are positioning themselves for the time after.
Another conspicuous feature was the negative mood of the convention. Many speakers painted a grim picture of America, for which they held the Democrats responsible. They attacked Hillary Clinton sharply, as they claimed that under her as president everything would become even worse. Actually, the delegates demanded that she even belongs in prison as they were whipped up by Christie. How Trump plans to win undecided voters for himself with such a dark picture of America remains a mystery.
The only positive aspects of the convention were presented by Trump’s family members and a close friend who presented him as a loving, empathetic person, as a father and good husband. The plagiarism scandal of Melania Trump, Trump’s wife, caused huge outrage in the media, but will probably only go down as a footnote in the history of this convention, as it hardly bothered Trump supporters.
In the end, the party convention seemed to serve primarily as propaganda for the white working class voters who helped Trump gain the party’s nomination. These angry people were visibly comfortable in the fired-up, Clinton-hating atmosphere.
However, if the Democrats manage to paint a positive picture of their party, the country, the future of America and their candidate next week at their convention, with which they can score points with moderate voters, then Trump’s chances of being elected president of the United States in November will be one thing above all else: grim.