A rising generation of Republican stars offered an optimistic view of President Donald Trump’s leadership along with speakers issuing dark warnings about the country’s future.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s sole Black Republican, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, sought to cast the GOP as welcoming to Americans of color.
“I was a brown girl in a black and white world,” Haley said Monday night, noting that she faced discrimination but rejecting the idea that “America is a racist country.” She also gave a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying “of course we know that every single Black life is valuable.”
The prime-time convention proceedings, which featured a blend of taped and live speeches, focused largely on dire talk about Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in the November election. Speakers ominously warned that electing Biden would lead to violence in American cities spilling into the suburbs, a frequent Trump campaign message with racist undertones. One speaker called Trump the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”
The Republican message featured optimism from those who could represent the GOP’s future, attempts to characterize Biden as a vessel for socialists and far-left Democrats and humanizing stories about the President.
Trump and a parade of fellow Republicans suggested the Democrat party agenda includes proposing to defund police, ban oil fracking, take over health care, open borders and raise taxes on most Americans.
The emphasis on diversity at Trump’s convention was an acknowledgement he must expand his coalition beyond his largely white base.
One of several African Americans on Monday night’s schedule, former football star Herschel Walker, defended the president against those who call him a racist.
“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Walker said. “The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said Democrats will “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.”
Trump and his supporters touted his response to the pandemic while standing alongside front-line workers in the White House.
Organizers also repeatedly sought to cast Trump as an empathetic figure, borrowing a page from the Democrats’ convention playbook a week ago that effectively highlighted Biden’s personal connection to voters.
Those cheering Trump’s leadership on the pandemic included a coronavirus patient, a small business owner from Montana and a nurse practitioner from Virginia.
“As a healthcare professional, I can tell you without hesitation, Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during COVID-19,” said Amy Ford, a registered nurse who was deployed to New York and Texas to fight the coronavirus.
The first day of the 2020 Republican convention began early in the day as Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were renominated by delegates who gathered in Charlotte, the city originally selected to host the convention before the pandemic struck.
Trump paid a surprise visit to the city, where he warned delegates that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” raising anew his unsupported concerns about Americans’ expected reliance on mail voting during the pandemic.
The fact the Republicans gathered at all stood in contrast to the Democrats, who held an all-virtual convention last week.
The Republicans spoke from the ballroom in Charlotte before the proceedings moved to Washington for prime-time.