GOP paints grim picture of a Biden presidency
GOP paints grim picture of a Biden presidency
WASHINGTON -- Two of the Republican Party's rising stars, both people of color, offered an optimistic view of President Donald Trump's leadership on Monday, closing the first day of the GOP's scaled-back convention with a positive message at odds with the dark warnings that dominated much of the night.
While other Republicans predicted a national "horror movie" should Trump lose in November, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley tried to welcome new voters to the party to help broaden Trump's appeal beyond his hard-core base.
"I was a brown girl in a black and white world," Haley said, 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."
And Scott, the Republican Party's only Black senator, leveled the kind of personal attack against Democratic nominee Joe Biden that Trump and his white allies could not.
"Joe Biden said if a Black man didn't vote for him, he wasn't truly Black. Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community," Scott said.
He acknowledged that African Americans have sometimes been victimized by police brutality, but later said: "The truth is, our nation's arc always bends back toward fairness. We are not fully where we want to be ... but thank God we are not where we used to be."
Efforts to strike an optimistic tone were frequently overshadowed by dire talk that Biden would destroy America, allowing communities to be overrun by violence.
Donald Trump Jr. painted his father's opponent as part of a movement aimed at stripping the nation of its most basic freedoms.
"In the past, both parties believed in the goodness of America," he said. "This time, the other party is attacking the very principles on which our nation was founded," citing freedom of thought, speech, religion and the rule of law.
"It's almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism," he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida likened the prospect of Biden's election to a horror movie.
"They'll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door," Gaetz said.
The first speaker to take Monday's prime-time podium was Charlie Kirk, a 26-year-old Wheeling native who leads the conservative student organization Turning Point USA. Kirk began his remarks by warning his fellow young people that this year's election is "a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love."
Calling President Donald Trump "the bodyguard of Western civilization," Kirk said he was elected in 2016 to "protect our families from the vengeful mob that seeks to destroy our way of life, our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and values."
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both were renominated early in the day. Then Trump, who was not scheduled to deliver his main address until later in the week, made multiple public appearances throughout the first day of the four-day convention. And while the evening programming was carefully scripted, Trump was not.
"The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election," Trump told hundreds of Republican delegates gathered in North Carolina, raising anew his unsupported concerns about Americans' expected reliance on mail voting during the pandemic. Experts say mail voting has proven remarkably secure.
Trump and a parade of fellow Republicans distorted Biden's agenda through the evening, falsely accusing the Democrat of proposing to defund police, ban oil fracking, take over health care, open borders and raise taxes on most Americans. They tried to assign positions of the Democratic left to a middle-of-the-road candidate who explicitly rejected many of the party's most liberal positions through the primaries. Trump set the tone with unsupported claims about voting fraud and falsehoods about his own record in office.
The Republican convention comes as more than 177,000 Americans have been killed by the pandemic and millions more have been infected. Coronavirus-related job losses also reach into the millions
Trump and his supporters on Monday night touted his response to the pandemic while standing alongside front-line workers in the White House, although he glossed over the mounting death toll, the most in the world, and his administration's struggle to control the disease.
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.
One of several African Americans on the 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."
Polling shows that Black Americans continue to be overwhelmingly negative in their assessments of the president's performance, with his approval hovering around 1 in 10 over the course of his presidency, according to Gallup polling.