The Irish Times view on the US presidential election: Trump launches counteroffensive

Republican convention was less a party event than a cross between a Trump family Thanksgiving do and a lavish TV reality show

President Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention: “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.” Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention: “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.” Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

 

Donald Trump’s characterisation of the choice facing America was apocalyptic. “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens,” he told America from the White House garden, accepting the Republican nomination for president on Thursday. “And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it. That won’t happen.”

Shockingly one of his closest aides, Kellyanne Conway, who spoke on Wednesday night, suggested on Fox News on Thursday that she regarded scenes of public disorder in Wisconsin as politically useful. “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns,” Ms Conway said, “the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”

The Democrats want to “abolish the suburbs”, fan the flames of inner-city disorder, are soft on crime, drugs, immigrants, anti-guns and police, and want to keep the US in lockdown, Trump told America. His rival, Joe Biden, is a “destroyer of jobs” and a “Trojan horse for socialism”.

It was classic Trump invective, if muted for being closely scripted, but bearing little relation to the truth about either his own record – no mention of the US’s 180,000 pandemic dead – or that of Biden and delivered with his usual contempt for convention and covid-19 rules. The use of the White House as a platform breaks with a strong tradition of separating public administration from politics, while the packed 1,500-strong audience of mostly unmasked people put the Oireachtas golf event into the halfpenny place.

The Republican convention was less a party event than a cross between a family Thanksgiving do, addressed each night by one or more of the Trump clan, and a lavish TV reality show with fireworks, music and special guests, fashioned by the master of the genre. Of the Grand Old Party there was little sign, no past presidents, and few old party stalwarts to sing his praises, no “platform” or manifesto to debate or to dissent from.

Certainly no dissent. The takeover is complete, the party of small government and free trade is now that of rampant nationalism obsessed with national pride, sovereignty and immigration. Its representatives, replaced or holding their noses in abject surrender, a form – one writer suggests – of “Stockholm syndrome”. This is going to be a nasty, very personal election with Biden holding a consistent seven to nine percentage point lead in the polls. The Real Clear Politics polling site has him ahead on a pretty certain 211 of the 270 votes needed in the electoral college; Trump is on 115, with 212 a toss-up. But the vagaries of the system and volatility of these times mean the outcome in November remains uncertain.

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