The US Republican Congress is all about the person of the president. Donald Trump is hailed like a messiah.
“Four more years!” Shouts the small crowd. Donald Trump answers with a big grin. It’s Monday afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Remnants of the Republican Party, who have become the Trump Party over the past four years, have just given him an official nomination for a second term in the White House.
It is the prelude to the four-day Republican party congress. Traditionally, dozens of speakers extol the character, résumé and politics of the candidate during such events. He only announces himself at the grand finale with a speech of thanks. But Trump does it differently. He will fly in every day or tune in via video.
His party conference is a one-man show. This is a stark contrast to the Democrats’ event the previous week. There were political stars from both the left and the right of the Democratic Party, as well as numerous Republicans and three former presidents.
With the Republicans there is only Trump and those who sound like him. Not a single internal party critic comes to the microphone. Many of them ostentatiously stayed away in 2016, at the previous Trump coronation spectacle. This time they have become bolder. A few hours before the start of the party conference, several dozens of them – including former congressmen and former Trump staff – are calling for the election of Democrat Joe Biden.
Originally, Trump’s party conference was to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina. But when the (democratic) authorities there made a mask requirement, safety clearances and reduced numbers of participants, Trump punished them with a partial relocation to Jacksonville, Florida. At the end of July, when even the Republicans in Florida who were loyal to the Trumpets were looking for ways out of the risk of infection among tens of thousands of party conference guests and Trump fell far behind Biden in the polls in Florida, the President backed down again and canceled Jacksonville.
Instead, a small part of his party conference takes place in Charlotte and a large part in the US capital Washington. As with the democrats, it is a virtual party conference. But it’s not the perfect show from the previous week, with light and heavy elements, politics and entertainment, music and video in rapid succession.
Because of the president’s back and forth, the Trump show has to be organized at the last minute. The result is slower, more conventional and more cumbersome. In two seldom interactive moments on the opening day, Trump welcomes groups of thanksgivers to the White House. The first are “indispensable employees” who praise him for his leadership skills. The second are former “hostages” who are allowed to say that without him they would continue to be imprisoned in Iran, Turkey or elsewhere.
Outside of logistics, too, Trump’s party congress has an unfortunate star. His inner circle is crumbling. The day before the start of the party conference, his longtime advisor Kellyanne Conway announced that she was leaving at the end of the month. Conway was important to Trump’s defense. She called his lies “alternative facts”.
Simultaneously with the start of the party convention, one of Trump’s allies falls out of favor with evangelical Christians. Jerry Falwell, who established strict family rules as the head of a fundamentalist university, is said to have been involved in an erotic love triangle. In 2016, Falwell was Trump’s transmission belt to millions of fundamentalist voters.
And in Trump’s own family, after his niece, his sister has also turned away from him. At the start of the party congress, it is known that she calls her brother “cruel” and “lying”.
In 2016, Trump announced an “American comeback”, introduced himself as president for the “forgotten men and women” and promised to “bring back” factories. Today unemployment stagnates at the highest level in decades. And the number of people infected with corona has exceeded 6 million. More than 181,000 people have already died from it. The United States, with just 4 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of all corona cases worldwide.
Trump’s message is that he has been more successful than any of his predecessors. Unimpressed by the facts, the opening speakers also say that Trump has strengthened both the economy – including the labor market – and the country’s international standing. They say with a President Biden, the US is threatened with anarchy, chaos, violence and socialism. With Trump, however, “the best is still to come”.
The president had promised a positive party convention. Instead, a white couple from St. Louis, Missouri, stood in front of their house with guns drawn as a Black Lives Matter demonstration passed them on Monday. During their video appearance, Mark and Patricia McCloskey warn of “violence and mob rule” if Biden wins. It remains Trump’s secret how he wants to win voters beyond his radical base with such messages.
Only two Republicans express independent thoughts. Both mention racism in the US, which most Republicans ignore. Both avoid the angry, backward-looking tone of their party friends. The black US Senator Tim Scott talks about his grandfather, who never learned to read or write. He describes his own path as follows: “From the plantation to the congress.”
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley calls herself a “proud daughter of Indian immigrants”. Both sound like they’re thinking about the post-Trump era. And as if they believe the Republican Party can survive him.
Trump’s family, on the other hand, sounds like communist hunter Joseph McCarthy has resurrected. Former Fox News announcer and current campaign worker Kimberley Guilfoyle warns in her almost screaming speech against a deserted auditorium, the Democrats want to “control thinking” and “enslave people”.
Her friend, Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr., speaks with sparkling eyes of the “virus gift from the Chinese Communist Party”, calls the Democratic presidential candidate “Peking-Biden” and describes the US election in November as an alternative between “church, work, and school” and “riots, looting, and vandalism”.