Pandemic, racism, and personality cult: the messages of the Trump and Biden conventions.

After two weeks of cross-accusation speeches between Republicans and Democrats, there were no significant changes in the polls. The former vice president is still up by 4 to 10%.

UNITED STATES – A moment after Donald Trump finished his inaugural speech from the Capitol Mall in January 2017, former President George W. Bush turned around and said in the ear of the candidate who lost that election, Hillary Clinton, “Well, that was some strange shit”. The anecdote was recalled by Ryan Lizza, one of Washington’s leading analysts, in his column in Politico magazine. It was also mentioned earlier in two books by prominent journalists.

A conclusion that is very likely to have crossed many people’s minds after watching the reality show put on by the Republican Party in this unusual convention season of 2020, when the pandemic is at its height.

A week earlier, the Democrats had held a convention in which African-American women took over the spotlight. Despite both parties’ efforts, the polls are showing that none of the events moved the amperemeter of preferences. Biden is leading by four to ten points, but may still lose by the electoral college indirect system’s mathematical calculation. A copy of what was happening four years ago at this point in the campaign.

Breaking all the rules about not using the federal government’s headquarters for campaign events, Donald Trump gave a 70-minute speech on the South Lawn of the White House in front of some 1,000 guests who did not keep their social distance or wear masks to avoid contagion. The president repeatedly misrepresented his record on the coronavirus, part of a broader attempt to minimize his lapses in office and draw attention to his opponent.

Trump accused Biden and the Democrats of not taking a firm stand against protesters who caused riots on the streets of major U.S. cities during protests against racism and police violence. He also accused them of wanting to replace U.S. capitalism with a socialist economic system. And he presented himself as the defender of traditional American values and an uncompromising ally of the police. “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or give free rein to the anarchists, agitators and violent criminals who threaten our citizens,” Trump launched, standing on a stage framed by the august backdrop of the White House. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or allow a radical movement to dismantle and destroy it. And that, I assure you, will not happen”.

Immediately, it all ended in a grand finale with fireworks launched from the Washington obelisk, operatic aria sung from the Roman balcony, and the audience laughing and hugging with unfavorable joy at the death of 180,000 people from a pandemic that continues to ravage the country.

Thus ended four nights of a hybrid convention, between the virtual and the physical, in which speaker after speaker insisted on softening Trump’s image by assuring him that he is neither racist nor sexist. He is a person of empathy and good character.

This was reaffirmed by almost all the presidential family members who did not shy away from giving their speech. And Vice President Mike Pence spoke of Trump as “a leader of ‘Churchillian’ character for his actions in the most challenging moments. All of this was intended to persuade most voters who believe that the president mishandled the coronavirus crisis. With few exceptions, almost all the speakers who mentioned the virus avoided the scale of its devastation and what is likely to be a slow and painful recovery of the economy.

It was all about sweetening Trump’s image, who had been hit hard in recent weeks by his positioning as ‘the king of law and order fighting anarchists who burn down cities.’ They hardly managed to do so. Some Democrats were a little nervous, but it was all so exaggerated that they barely convinced any of the doubters.

The polls do not show changes like those that were traditional after the conventions. Between 1948 and 1992, the average swing had been 3% in favor of the candidate shown on the television cameras at that time. In the case of Jimmy Carter, the 1976 Democratic convention gave him a winning momentum of 12% voting intent among the undecided.

It seems to be a phenomenon of the past. In this age of extremes marked by political and social rifts, positions are taken in advance. What happened in the last week also marked the divorce between the traditional militants of the Republican Party and the trumpet stamp that seems to have taken over that political structure. The right-wing moderates were not present at any point during the convention. Neither former President Bush Jr. Nor former candidate Mitt Romney were invited.

“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that comes second to my responsibility to my country,” said John Kasich, a former governor of Ohio, who joined other former conservative lawmakers in switching sides and calling for a vote for Joe Biden. “That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this [Democratic] Convention. In normal times, something like this should probably never happen, but these are not normal times. I’m sure some Republicans and independents can’t imagine leaping to support a Democrat. They fear that Joe will make a sharp left turn and leave them behind. I don’t believe that because I know the kind of person. He’s reasonable, faithful, respectful,” Kasich said. He was joined in his position by former Republican Congresswomen Meg Whitman and Susan Molinari, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. They insisted that Trump is the wrong choice to criticize his inability to unite the country during a crisis.

The Democrats made a not-so-eminent convention. It was pretty dull and without much substance. They didn’t try hard enough to highlight Kamala Harris as the youngest black woman to dynamically underpin Biden’s experience. And being virtual, they missed the opportunity to improve the candidate’s chances in states that can still turn one way or another.

The original idea was to take the convention to Milwaukee to take back Wisconsin, a state that usually votes for the Democrats in presidential elections, but which in 2016 ended up being won by Trump and sealed Hillary Clinton’s fate.

In the next two months, Biden will have to decide whether to maintain this moderately successful quarantine campaign or go out and have a “mob bath” and risk a massive coronavirus outbreak.

All this, while the rest of the country was going through other channels. The hurricane that flooded Louisiana again; the shock of the arrest of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of killing two protesters who were protesting the shooting of African-American Jacob Blacke by a cop in Kenosha, Wisconsin; NBA basketball players were refusing to play for police brutality against Black people; the pandemic that continues to kill Americans at a rate of one a minute.

In the end, The conventions went by without any glory in these realms of reality, and November 3, the day of the vote, seems as far away as a galaxy, very far away.

For Times Media Mexico
Patrick Flannery in Erie Pennsylvania

The Yucatan Times
Newsroom

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