By Luis Meiners
The Republican National Convention doubled down on the “law and order” discourse, while attempting to make Trump appealing for a broader public in light of dwindling numbers in the polls. It took place in a moment marked by the outrage sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, and the murder of two protesters by a far right milita member. In this context, Trump called to “defend the American way of life”.
Behind the narcissistic one man show and the blatant denial of reality, the main theme across the convention was the “defense of America” threatened by radical anarchists and marxists. According to this narration, Biden and the Democrats have become the “Trojan horse” for left wing extremists. The strategy is twofold. First, it aims at stirring the most right wing elements of his base. This part seems to be working, as polling numbers show that Trump voters are more enthusiastic than Biden´s. The second aspect is to win over white suburban swing voters by biting into their fears.
It’s all about Trump
In 2016 Trump ran a right wing populist “insurgent” campaign, selling himself as a defender of ordinary people and an outsider against the establishment. The fact that he won both the Republican primary and the general election was a symptom of the deep crisis of the US bipartisan regime. It reflected the growing polarization in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis.
Then, much of the Republican Party saw him with distrust and refused to support him. But this year´s RNC was all about Trump. Several of his family members were amongst the lead speakers and the praises for his leadership skills filled the nights. The convention delegates didn’t even vote on a platform, and settled for a statement saying the party would continue to support Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Nevertheless, several Republican strategists fear that following Trump has taken the party on a path that has reduced its social base and wish to see the party appealing to a broader coalition. The mid-term election sounded the alarm in this sense. This has been recently underlined by a series of victories in the Republican primaries of candidates with links to groups that push far right conspiracy theories, like the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia.
Down-ballot candidates fear that a rhetoric considered as too fringe, too extreme, could cost them their local races for Congress. That is why many republican candidates have distanced themselves from Trump, or are trying to run locally focused campaigns. Some prominent republican figures have publicly backed Joe Biden and are betting on a recomposition of the Party after November.
A right wing “law and order” agenda
One of the highlights of the first night of the Convention were the McCloskeys, a couple that became famous for “standing guard” at the front of their mansion while waving their guns at a Black Lives Matter protest. They framed the general theme of the convention. “Out of control mobs” descending upon quiet suburban communities. “Radicals” and “Marxist revolutionaries” in control of Joe Biden´s party. Presenting Trump as the defender of “american” values, and stoking fears of chaos and disorder. Their presence is also an attempt to further normalize right wing vigilantism and militias.
On the third night Pence echoed this speech saying “we will have law and order on the streets of this country”. The agents of “law and order” were also subject of praise and recognition throughout the RNC. Several speakers defended the military and the police, and Trump highlighted the endorsement of his candidacy by the union of the NYPD.
Another important issue of the RNC was the opposition to abortion and reproductive and sexual rights. Abby Johnson, a prominent anti-choice activist, called Trump “the most pro-life president we have ever had”. Several other speakers referred to the “unborn children”. Religious references were a constant presence throughout the convention, trying stirr the christian base.
In terms of foreign policy, one of the outstanding issues was the defense of the genocidal state of Israel. Mike Pompeo symbolically spoke from the city of Jerusalem, to which he referred as the “city of God” and “the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland”. In his acceptance speech Trump remembered that he moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Another central aspect of foreign policy was the “tough on China” approach. Several speakers, including Trump, said China would be held accountable for the coronavirus, battered the democrats for having a “soft approach” towards China, and promised greater commercial tensions.
Biden – Harris, a “trojan horse” for socialism?
A central aspect of the RNC was painting the Democratic Party ticket as a step in the road towards socialism. This included traditional conservative pictures of the problems of “big government”, and explicit red-baiting. Trump referred to the influence of Sanders and other progressives on the platform. In this way, they attempted to win over moderate voters.
But this picture of the Democratic Party and its presidential ticket is far from reality. For example, despite the fact that Sanders, AOC and others joined the task forces that elaborated the platform, none of the main issues put forward by the Sanders campaign have been incorporated into it. Biden explicitly opposes Medicare for all, one of Sanders signature proposals that is extremely popular. Trump also said Biden supports defunding the police, when he has openly and vocally opposed it. On foreign policy Trump and Biden accuse each other of being soft on China. And Harris´ record on Israel isn’t far from the Republicans.
With the Democratic and Republican conventions over and the basic talking points of their campaigns set, it can easily be seen that the main concerns of the working class and the people will not be addressed. As a historical rebellion continues to unfold facing mass state repression and white supremacist violence, the need and opportunity to build an independent organization are clearer than ever. Socialists have to meet the moment and build an independent party.