The first night of the Republican National Convention was, all in all, sensationally effective — and effective in ways that the mainstream media and its Twitter chatterers clearly found it impossible to understand.
America’s opinion leaders loathe Donald Trump so much that it remains a great puzzlement to them how he can retain the support of even 42 percent of the population, rather than, you know, zero.
The implicit theory they share is the “deplorables” theory — that anyone who wants Trump to be and remain president is, at root, a bad person or someone too easily tempted by false promises and evil lies.
If they had ears to listen, they might be able to understand it better after tonight. The message of Night One was twofold.
First, the case was that Trump has done many things to help individual people in extremis — working to release hostages, deregulating certain types of medical treatments, fighting entrenched interests, and leading a strong economy until COVID came along to kill it.
Twitterati laughed at the supposed awkwardness with which Trump interacted with frontline COVID workers and hostages, but what they missed was Trump’s good cheer as he talked to them. These exchanges were actually less weird than the ones last week in which Biden talked to party activists over Zoom.
And second, the case was that Democrats are supporters of urban chaos and socialist policies that will make American lives less safe and will help immiserate the American middle class.
Nowhere was that clearer than in the joint speech of the St. Louis couple who were seen in a Twitter clip standing in front of their house, the husband brandishing a gun against a Black Lives Matter march. They pointed out that the BLM people were undisturbed by the cops, while they found themselves under arrest.
Their message — this could happen to you, home owners — surely struck a chord with Americans who own guns as protection. Stats tell us that 43 percent of all Americans live in a gun-owning household.
That’s a lot of people. Trump’s hope for reelection is based on getting those people to turn out in greater numbers than they did in 2016, to offset Democratic gains. And the Democratic message — that cops are bad and rioters are good — plays right into Trump’s hands.
The Democrats also may have done Trump a favor in spending four days last week talking about America’s supposed grave sins — structural racism, polluting, and the like. Speaker after speaker last night hammered them with tried-and-true Republican patriotism.
Most effective was Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, whose speech concluded with these words:
“Growing up, he 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. Yet he lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate. Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
Nikki Haley, child of Indian immigrants, elaborated: “America isn’t perfect. But 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….We seek a nation that rises together, not falls apart in anarchy and anger.”
If Trump can turn this election around, it will be because these ideas resonate with the Americans the media have lost the power to hear and to whom they no longer even attempt to speak.
One more point about both conventions: Necessity is the mother of invention, and necessity may have done both political parties a service.
As was the case with the Democrats last week, the pandemic-created need to substitute intimacy for scale broke the sclerotic mold in which the GOP’s quadrennial gatherings had been frozen for decades.
Speeches flowed quickly without the interruptions of a roaring crowd. The filmed material didn’t seem like filler, as it did during conventional conclaves, which gave the parties an unalloyed opportunity to craft the presentations of their messages in ways that make the electoral choices more comprehensible.
There was a wacky freshness to the Democratic confab. Shockingly, given the Democratic advantage when it comes to A-list showbiz glitz, the GOP event was more efficiently produced and more authoritative.
But — and here’s the surprise — they really grabbed our attention.
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