Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The 2016 Republican National Convention: Conflict and Embarrassment in Cleveland

The Republican National Convention is taking place from July 18-21 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the convention website, the convention is welcoming approximately 2,470 delegates and 2,302 alternate delegates tasked with the responsibility of nominating a Republican candidate for president and vice-president. Additionally, the convention has welcomed approximately 15,000 credential representatives of the media. Archived videos of the convention are available for viewing at C-SPAN.

Donald Trump has officially secured the Republican presidential nomination, winning 69.8% of delegates, according to the Washington Post. However, the nomination process was also characterized by loud Republican infighting. According to the Washington Post, on July 18, anti-Trump attendees chanted "Roll call vote!" so that each state could announce their support for or rejection of Trump. Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack was shouted down by anti-Trump attendees and stormed off the stage. Womack later returned and stated that only six states had demanded a roll call vote, but that seven were needed. Furious, the Colorado and Iowa delegations walked off.

With only two-thirds of GOP delegates behind him and several big-name Republicans declining to attend, the Republicans' call for unity under Trump doesn't sound so convincing. How will Trump unite America if he can't even unite his party?

Republican conflict notwithstanding, the Republican National Convention has been unsettling for many reasons. Bigoted rhetoric, accusations of speech plagiarism, and an atmosphere of anger give us an ugly picture of the Trump campaign and the Republicans who support him.

Melania Trump's Embarrassment

On the evening of July 18th, Donald Trump's wife Melania Trump delivered an impassive speech at the RNC. Immediately, news outlets pointed out that a large segment of her speech was almost identical to a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. People Magazine compared segments of the speech side by side.
Melania Trump, 2016: "From a young age my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life."

"That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Michelle Obama, 2008: "And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them."

"And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children – and all children in this nation – to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

On July 20th, the New York Times reported that Trump campaign employee Meredith McIver apologized for the "mistake" in a public statement. McIver claimed that she included some of Michelle Obama's speech passages in Melania's speech because Melania admired the first lady.

Was the plagiarism due to laziness on behalf of the Trump campaign staffers, or perhaps an act of internal sabotage, as some have suggested? Either way, the embarrassment makes the Trump campaign appear incompetent, or at the very least poor at vetting its speechwriters. Will this be the first of other embarrassing flubs to come?

Right-Wing Rhetoric

Trump's champions at the convention appealed to the audience's longings for safety and status, as well as their darker impulses. Speakers at the convention have not only peppered their speeches with words such as "strength", "unity", and "God", but have delivered an unending stream of bombastic, transphobic, and racist rhetoric.

First, South Carolina pastor Mark Burns delivered the convention benediction, urging Republicans to stand against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. In a video posted by Right Wing Watch, Burns asserted that God was guiding Trump in his benediction.
"Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.

To defeat every attack that comes against us, protect the life of Donald Trump. Give him the words, give him the peace, give him the power and authority to be the next president of the United States of America. In Jesus' name, if you believe it, shout amen!"

Later in the convention, Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson mocked "media experts" for being out of touch with the "regular folks" who support Trump. In doing so, Robertson characterized Trump supporters as rural, working class people who "actually work for a living", implying that their detractors in the media must be effete and snobbish.
"It's been a rough year for the media experts. It must be humbling to be so wrong about so much for so long, but I have a theory about how they missed the Trump train. They don't hang out with regular folks like us, who like to hunt and fish and pray and actually work for a living. Heck, I don't even know that they know how to talk to people from from middle America. I mean, when I tell them I'm from Louisiana, they reall start talking real slow and real loud."
Robertson claimed that a Trump presidency would mean economic strength and safety for soldiers and police.
"America is in a bad spot, and we need a president who will have our back. And I can promise you this: no matter who you are, Donald Trump will have your back. If you're looking for a job of trying to grow a business like I am, Donald Trump will have your back. If you're a service man fighting overseas, or a cop who is risking their lives to keep us safe at home, Donald Trump will have your back."

Next, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn waxed poetic about alleged American superiority, praising America as "the greatest country in the history of the world". Flynn slammed "political correctness" and celebrated American exceptionalism, assuring the audience that America was entitled and obligated to lead the world. A Trump presidency would ensure American dominance, he claimed.
"Our new American century does not risk its future on political correctness and senseless hyperbole ... The time is now to recognize our obligation that we have to the world, an obligation to lead the world with unwavering integrity, renewed strength, and unapologetic resolve, and with Donald Trump in the White House, we will make America great again. America's once traditional undisputed role as world leader is now in jeopardy. It's in jeopardy, folks. The Obama-Clinton duo, it failed our country by defying America's exceptionalism and betraying our nation's history and our founding father's revolutionary spirit that established America on the principles of freedom and democracy."
In a particularly macho and transphobic part of his speech, Flynn sneered at the Department of Defense' decision to lift the ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military. Such "political correctness" over "trivial matters" such as "what bathroom door to open" is less important that the ability to "crush our enemies". He failed to grasp the fact that military readiness and enlightened policies toward LGBTQ service members are not incompatible.
"We must regain our ability to truly crush our enemies and our soldiers deserve to hear from their leaders with clarity and precision. Too often, way too often, our troops are instead distracted by trivial matters about what words to use, what terminology is politically correct, and what bathroom door to open up. My God, my God, war is not about bathrooms. War is not about political correctness or words that are meaningless. War is about winning!"
General Ripper Flynn condemned President Obama and Hillary Clinton as soft leaders who are more interested in "coddling" enemies than instilling respect and fear. In doing so, he appealed to his audience's pride, machismo, and fear (legitimate or not) of declining American influence.
"We are tired of Obama's empty speeches and his misguided rhetoric. This has caused the world to have no respect for America's word, nor does it fear our might. Let me be clear. Coddling and displays of empathy toward terrorists is not a strategy for defeating these murderers as Obama and Hillary Clinton would like us to believe."

Iowa Rep. Steve King took part in a panel discussion with MSNBC at the convention, during which he claimed that Christians and people of European stock have contributed the most to civilization. In a video clip of the discussion, King had this to say to Esquire's Charlie Pierce and MSNBC journalist Chris Hayes.
PIERCE: If you're really optimistic, you can say this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican party's attention, its platform, its public face ... In that hall today, that hall is wired. That hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people. Any sign of rebellion is going to get shouted down either kindly or roughly, but that's what's going to happen.

KING: This whole white people business though does get a little tired, Charlie. I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you're talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?

HAYES: Than white people?

KING: Than western civilization itself. That's rooted in western Europe, eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That's all of western civilization.
This is not the first time King has made offensive statements about race, as Right Wing Watch has observed.

The convention has been disturbing to watch, and that's in addition to the vicious anti-Clinton hatred that I'll discuss in my next post. These Republicans' words show us a party whose divisiveness and intolerance has been laid bare and shamelessly utilized by the Trump campaign. What does this mean for the election? In the event that Trump wins the election, what does this mean for the U.S.?

To read more about the Republican National Convention, visit the following links.

Washington Post: Steve King: The idea that every culture is equal is ‘not objectively true’

New York Times: Questions Over Melania Trump’s Speech Set Off Finger-Pointing

Yahoo News: Trump’s favorite general leads crowd in anti-Hillary chant: ‘Lock her up’

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.