The 2020 Republican National Convention is the Trump presidency in microcosm: precedent is overturned, norms disregarded, and authorities ignored or dismissed in favor of the men and women who comprise the Trump coalition. It's polarizing and riveting. And the whole thing makes for great television.
The second night of the convention featured high-profile speeches from First Lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Eric Trump. But, once again, the real stars were President Trump and the cast of Americans who had been selected to illustrate aspects of his multi-front war on the political and media elite. We heard from a Maine lobsterman, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, a truck driver from Ohio, and a police officer from New Mexico who adopted the child of a woman addicted to opiates. Nick Sandmann explained how mainstream media outlets defamed him based on a photo that went viral on Twitter. Sandmann brought a bit of meme culture to the proceedings when he "trolled" his media antagonists by putting on a MAGA cap at the end of his speech.
Trump sent many reporters and commentators into a fury when he pardoned a former convict and presided over a naturalization ceremony in the middle of the convention. But the whole thing worked, both as political theater and as campaign strategy. Trump's interactions with normal Americans humanize him and allow him to display rarely seen compassion and to utilize his self-deprecating sense of humor. And the men and women highlighted in these two segments are living rebukes to the critical narratives surrounding Trump on race and immigration. Trump's exchanges with each of the new Americans were charming and amusing. After he finished reading aloud the resume of a new U.S. citizen from Lebanon who is a multilingual psychologist, Trump quipped, "In other words, she can figure me out." Everyone in the room laughed.
Trump welcomed the new citizens to "the great American family." They fit right into this vast, bumptious, diverse, energetic, incomprehensible place. So far, the RNC has served as a reminder that for all of the ravages of the coronavirus, the economic fallout, protests that turn into riots, political correctness, and rising crime, most Americans remain proud of their country. They are eager to work to better their condition. And they are uninterested in the social and cultural agendas of the progressive left.
At the RNC's midpoint, Democrats have reason to worry. The convention has gone more smoothly and winningly than conventional wisdom anticipated. President Trump has stayed on message. The race, already close in the battlegrounds, is sure to tighten. The revenge of the normies may be at hand.