The Rousing First Day of the Republican National Convention

Joseph Klein, Punctuated by Trump appearances and a diverse set of inspiring speakers.

“Where Joe Biden sees American darkness, I see American greatness,” President Trump said following the conclusion of the Democratic Party’s dismal digital convention. The Democrats presented voters with their gloom and doom vision of America, harping on what they claim is fundamentally wrong with the country rather than on America’s greatness. Their depressing message was delivered in a humdrum setting devoid of live programming. The Republican National Convention’s theme for the upcoming week is “Honoring the Great American Story.”  It is presenting an optimistic vision of an America on the mend from the China Virus, thanks to President Trump’s decisive actions. The convention will conclude with a live acceptance speech by President Trump on Thursday night from the South Lawn of the White House.

The Republican Party National Convention formally got under way Monday in Charlotte North Carolina, with 336 delegates representing 50 states, five territories and Washington, D.C. present in person to re-nominate Donald Trump and Mike Pence for president and vice president. The delegates did so unanimously. The Charlotte portion of the convention concluded Monday afternoon, but not before both President Trump and Vice President Pence appeared live to address the delegates.

President Trump took the stage to deliver an almost hour-long stemwinder of a speech to the delegates. “I felt an obligation to be here,” he said. Shouts of “four more years” broke out as the president began his remarks. “If you want to really drive them crazy, you’ll say ’12 more years,'” President Trump exclaimed. The president hailed America’s economic recovery from the depths of the coronavirus shutdown, which he described as a “super V-shape.” He noted his historic accomplishments to benefit the black community.

However, President Trump also zeroed in on the Democrats’ calls for universal mail-in voting with unsolicited ballots being sent out willy-nilly, accusing the Democrats of  “trying to steal the election.” The president warned that “This is the most important election in the history of our country. We have to be very careful and we have to win. Our country is counting on it.” The president called for unity, declaring that “the best way to bring unity is success.”

President Trump outlined some items on his second term agenda – continuing to build up our military, creating 10 million jobs in the first 10 months, creating tax credits for companies that bring our jobs back from China and other countries, pursuing school choice, and continuing to expand opportunities zones for black communities.

In keeping with the upbeat mood Republicans want to project at their convention, the Village People’s 1978 hit “YMCA” played as President Trump left the stage. It was a not too subtle reminder of one of the president’s most significant trade agreement accomplishments  – the USMCA, known formally as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Monday night’s prime time focus was on America as the “Land of Promise.” Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization, opened the night by calling President Trump the “bodyguard of western civilization.” The night featured speeches from U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who gave the closing address of the night, and former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki  Haley. Other speakers Monday night included U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Donald Trump Jr., Herschel Walker, and Georgia Democratic state representative Vernon Jones.

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Ordinary Americans from diverse walks of life spoke about the real-life positive impacts that President Trump’s policies have had on their lives. The president himself appeared on video alongside doctors, nurses and other essential workers whom he thanked at the White House for their service to the country as it faced the China Virus. President Trump later was shown appearing alongside six former hostages, who the president was able to get released from captivity and sent home. Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was detained in Turkey for 28 years, said the Trump administration “really fought for me.”

The couple who stood their ground on their own property to defend themselves and their home against intruders from a Black Lives Matter protest march, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, also appeared. As Mark McCloskey noted, “Not a single person in the out-of-control mob you saw at our house was charged with a crime. But you know who was? We were. They’ve actually charged us with felonies for daring to defend our home.” The McCloskeys warned that “what you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country.” The message was aimed in part at suburban women concerned about the safety of their families.

Vernon Jones, a black Democrat, declared that “The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave the mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations.” Explaining his decision to support President Trump in the face of fierce opposition from members of his own Democratic Party, Jones added, “We are free people with free minds, and I’m part of a large and growing segment of the Black community who are independent thinkers, and we believe that Donald Trump is the president that America needs to lead us forward.”

Former pro-footballer Herschel Walker, who has known President Trump for 37 years, took umbrage against those who falsely labeled President Trump as a racist. “Growing up in the deep south, I have seen racism up close,” Walker said. “I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”

Maximo Alvarez, a Cuban immigrant, declared that “if I gave away everything I have today, it would not equal one percent of what I was given when I came to this great country — the gift of freedom.” Based on his own personal experience living under Fidel Castro’s dictatorial regime with its false promises, Alvarez had a message about the false promises put forth by today’s Democratic Party. “Those false promises — spread the wealth, free education, free healthcare, defund the police, trust a socialist state more than your family and community— don’t sound radical to my ears,” he said. “They sound familiar.”

Nikki Haley described the United Nations where she represented the United States as “a place where dictators, murderers and thieves denounce America, and then put their hands out and demand that we pay their bills.” The Obama-Biden administration was weak on North Korea and Iran, and turned its back on Israel, she said. The Trump administration took the opposite course and stood up for American values at the UN and elsewhere. “Joe Biden is good for Iran and ISIS, great for Communist China, and he’s a godsend to everyone who wants America to apologize, abstain, and abandon our values,” Haley said, after pointing out that “Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first.” President Trump, on the other hand, “has always put America first.”

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“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” Haley said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country. This is personal for me. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. They came to America and settled in a small southern town. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a black and white world. We faced discrimination and hardship, but my parents never gave into grievance and hate.” Haley recognized that “America isn’t perfect.” However, she said, “the principles we hold dear are perfect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.”

Senator Tim Scott gave a rousing speech to conclude the first night’s convention proceedings. He said that “our nation’s arc always bends back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be…but thank God we are not where we used to be!” He expressed his belief in the “goodness of America” and decried “the radical — and factually baseless — belief that things are worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s.” Scott took apart Biden’s shaky record on racial issues. Scott criticized Biden’s central role in connection with the 1994 mass incarceration crime bill disproportionately affecting blacks that President Trump’s criminal justice reform legislation aimed to remedy, and mocked Biden’s recent race-related gaffes.

Like Nikki Haley, Scott drew on his own personal life experience to extol the promise of the American dream. “My mom worked 16 hours a day to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads,” he said in describing how he grew up in poverty and managed to rise above it. Scott’s grandfather “had to cross the street if a white person was coming. He suffered the indignity of being forced out of school as a third grader to pick cotton, and never learned to read or write.” Scott’s family’s journey “from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime” underlies his belief that “the next American century can be better than the last. There are millions of families like mine across this nation…full of potential seeking to live the American Dream.”

The first day of the Republican National Convention effectively delivered the Republicans’ central message of America’s inherent greatness as a land of promise. The American dream will be jeopardized, however, if Biden and Harris take power and succeed in their quest for a  fundamentally transformed America. The Republicans presented a set of speakers with diverse backgrounds that humanized the face of the party. Biden’s lack of positive accomplishments in solving any of America’s problems during his long 47-year career in public service was highlighted. But the positive case for President Trump’s policies was on full display, often spoken about by ordinary Americans who offered their personal experiences as testimonials.