The 2016 Republican National Convention is over! This year, I adapted to watching it on the west coast, where the convention is on from 5-8 p.m. rather than 8-11 p.m. I caught a lot of the speeches on YouTube.
Here are some thoughts:
A. Bernie Sanders was mentioned a handful of times, and never negatively. Donald Trump, Jr. referred to Bernie Sanders’ criticism of immigration over two decades ago, as Bernie feared that immigrants could drive down wages and compete with Americans for jobs. Mike Pence said that Hillary Clinton runs a powerful political machine, then said, “Just ask Bernie Sanders!” And the nominee, Donald Trump himself, said that Bernie tried to challenge a system that was rigged, and that Bernie supporters have a home in the Trump campaign because Trump opposes unfair trade deals, which cost America jobs.
Trump is obviously trying to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters. There are a lot of them, and many of them will not vote for Hillary. I hope, though, that the Republicans’ references to Bernie Sanders at the convention are also sincere, on some level: that those Republicans respect what Sanders tried to accomplish, even if they disagree with Sanders’ policy proposals.
B. Trump’s kids were impressive. That is not surprising to me, since they did give the Trump campaign whatever professional face it had. Trump was crass and shot from the hip throughout his campaign, and there were indications that his campaign was in disarray. But his kids were genteel, well-spoken, and articulate. I think of when Ivanka was greeting various states, and she came to Hawaii: “Aloha, Hawaii, this is Ivanka Trump!” I also respected Donald Trump, Jr. when he was being interviewed by David Muir, the day after the Melania Trump plagiarism scandal. Donald, Jr. candidly admitted that he did not write all of his own speech, since he is not a professional in politics, but he did contribute to it. Now, after he has delivered that speech, many want him to become a professional in politics!
Trump must have been a decent father, for his kids to be as supportive as they are. A good businessman? A good employer? Well, I have read plenty of stories to the contrary on that! But he may very well be a decent father, even if he is closer to some of his kids than others.
C. As I heard speech after speech praising cops, I wondered if I would hear any acknowledgment of the existence of racism. Occasionally, I did. Lynne Patton, the Vice-President of the Eric Trump Foundation, is an African-American, and she lamented that black lives often have not mattered to people. Mark Burns, an African-American pastor, discussed how many African-Americans lacked hope, and he talked about economic renewal of their poor communities. I wish I had seen more of that.
D. That said, the convention was trying, on some level, to be diverse, or to show that the Republican Party can be diverse. There was a Muslim who spoke in favor of Trump. A Sikh gave the opening prayer on one of the nights. There were many African-Americans who spoke. A Hispanic gentleman (apart from Marco Rubio) spoke. A Korean spoke. Eileen Collins, the first female to command a space shuttle, also spoke, though her speech was rather non-political. Peter Thiel, a gay billionaire, said in his speech that he was proud to be gay, and the Republican crowd applauded.
Ivanka Trump portrayed her father as one who is sensitive to women in the workplace and wants to change the rules so there could be equality. Donald Trump in his acceptance speech expressed concern about minority unemployment rates. He stressed the need to protect the LGBT community from terrorism, and commended his audience for applauding him on that. And yet, Trump also reached out to evangelicals, saying that he does not deserve their support, and yet that he would protect their civil liberties.
Part of this may be Trump’s outreach to Bernie Sanders supporters, or even mainstream Americans, who view Trump as a misogynist and a bigot. Trump is also trying to balance different interests. He wants to appear open to LGBT concerns, and he himself may have progressive leanings on that issue, as a New Yorker. Still, the religious right is influential.
The presence of minority speakers for Trump itself is interesting, since they hold positions that many think people in their group would not hold. Many may dismiss them as tokens or as traitors to their group, but they have their own story and reasons for arriving at their positions.
E. I have a hard time hating anyone politically, since I see many of the politicians as characters in a drama, with their virtues and vices. I admit that I sometimes have had a visceral and negative reaction to Hillary, maybe because she comes across as arrogant, and yet I respect her mind and her ability to come up with solutions to the nation’s problems. In terms of last week’s convention, I respected Ted Cruz for refusing to endorse Donald Trump, for Ted is still upset about what Trump said about Ted’s wife Heidi and Ted’s father. Ted does well to stand by his family! That said, I also like how Trump knew that Cruz would not endorse him, yet let Cruz speak anyway. That may not relate to integrity on Trump’s part, so much, as it does to Trump’s desire for drama: he knows how to get coverage in the news, and to keep the coverage going!
F. I have difficulty with the Republican stance and tone on immigration. That was the case even when I was a Republican. I voted for Pat Buchanan in 1996 and 2000, and he made opposition to illegal immigration one of the centerpieces of his campaigns. But I supported Pat on certain other issues.
My problem with what I heard at the Republican Convention is that it carried an implied message of “We have ours, so who cares about anyone else!” We should build a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, and who cares if they are impoverished in their own country! That’s not our problem! It’s theirs! We should put America first! That’s the sub-text that came across to me. Even the speeches that were critical of American interventionism abroad did not express concern for people in other countries and the impact of our interventionism on them, but rather for Americans.
I hope, though, that we could create enough prosperity in this country to go around—-so that we do not have to choose between immigrants benefiting, and Americans benefiting. How, and whether, we can arrive at that point is a good question.
Next week, the Democratic National Convention!