The White House stands ready for President Donald Trump to speak from the South Lawn of the White House on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention, Thursday evening, Aug. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republican convention takeaways: What virus? Fear motivates

August 27, 2020 - 9:50 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump demanded a show for the final night of the Republican National Convention, a spectacle never before seen, an American president using the White House as the official backdrop for such overtly political activity. The federal guidelines about keeping distance, avoiding crowds and wearing masks to fight the spread of the coronavirus were emphatically ignored.

Here are some key takeaways from the last night of the convention:

THE TRUMP SHOW MUST GO ON

Parents and children have been laid to rest without their loved ones in attendance, schools have gone to online-only learning and weddings have been indefinitely postponed to halt the spread of the coronavirus. For fear of infection, many haven’t seen their families in months.

But about 1,500 people gathered Thursday night on the South Lawn of the White House so Trump could accept his party’s nomination for re-election in front of a roaring crowd.

The size of the ceremony violated the guidelines for the rest of Washington, D.C. — by a lot — and was at odds with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The GOP and Trump’s campaign transformed the White House grounds of the South Lawn into an outdoor convention hall, complete with a grand stage, massive Trump signs, rows of white chairs and a blur of American flags, notwithstanding the federal law that prohibits the use of taxpayer resources for partisan politics.

To top it off: Masks were not required, chairs were placed close together, with no room for social distancing, and many attendees had not been tested for COVID-19.

The event could be a preview for how Trump intends to campaign in the fall.

NO ‘SHINING CITY ON A HILL’

In his 2016 convention address, Trump declared, “I alone can fix it.” Four years later, after voters gave him a chance to prove it, Trump is now dealing — or his opponents would say not dealing — with multiple crises.

One thing has been clear: Trump believes that the rhetoric of fear is far more powerful than words of hope.

Trump became a celebrity through highly effective branding, putting his name on buildings, airplanes, helicopters, hotels, golf courses, apparel, water and wine.

It all conveyed a sense of ownership and being fully in charge. But in his handling of the coronavirus and racial unrest that has touched every corner of the country he governs, he has acted more like a tenant, complaining that the landlord should solve all the problems in the house.

His speech to the nation accepting the GOP nomination for a second term was replete with martial language and grave warnings, and his criticisms of Joe Biden were biting and personal. But he offered only a glimpse of what he hopes to do with another four years in the White House.

Trumps address was to go on more than twice as long as Biden's a week ago. And unlike nominees before him, he had inserted himself into the campaign program each of the previous three nights.

No one can say Trump is not betting on himself.

ALL ABOUT THE BASE

Politics is supposedly about addition. For Trump, it's about zero sum.

Trump announced his candidacy five years ago by accusing Mexico of sending rapists across the border and declaring that he alone could revive the American dream.

After nearly four years in office, Trump’s approach hasn’t changed.

While a few speakers at this week’s convention have tried to broaden his support with appeals to independent and undecided voters, for Trump and most of his highest-profile supporters, it’s still about the base and winning by division.

The Democrats' agenda, his remarks said, “is the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee.”

It’s unclear whether the scare tactics will be enough to win back the suburban women and older voters who have chosen to get off the Trump train.

A FLEETING NOD TO A VICTIM

Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, stood out as a speaker for one reason: He directly acknowledged the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by police Sunday.

Carson, the highest-ranking Black American serving in the Trump administration, delivered his remarks to the convention in a prerecorded video. “I’d like to say that our hearts go out to the Blake family,” Carson said. “The images everyone has seen from this tragic event in Kenosha are heart-wrenching. This action deserves a serene response, one that steers away from the destruction of a community that molded Jacob and his family into the kind of man his family and friends know today."

Carson’s comments come as the Trump convention has focused on amplifying his “law and order” message against violence and protests.

QANON ON THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional nominee from Georgia who supports the QAnon conspiracy theory, attended Trump's acceptance speech as an invited guest. Greene posted a photo of herself on the South Lawn Thursday evening hours ahead of of Trump’s remarks.

Greene has a long history of bolstering the baseless pro-Trump theory, which centers on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as “Q” who shares information about an anti-Trump “deep state” often tied to satanism and child sex trafficking. She has also made a series of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments.

Before she ran for office, Greene promoted the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy and speculated that the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was an “inside job.”

Trump has praised her as a “future Republican Star.” Greene’s presence comes after the Trump campaign was forced to pull at the last minute a prerecorded speech by “Angel Mom” Mary Ann Mendoza from Tuesday night’s program after she fired off a now-deleted tweet directing her followers to a series of anti-Semitic, conspiratorial messages.

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