That simple assertion, offered up by Turning Point USA leader Charlie Kirk at the start of the evening, was the fundamental theme of the Republican National Convention on Monday night.
The rhetoric on display Monday night showcased a party of Sean Hannity, not Mitt Romney
“Trump is the bodyguard of western civilization.”
Viewers were presented with two and a half hours that would register as familiar to anyone who has watched Fox News’ primetime lineup, with rhetoric far more reminiscent of Sean Hannity than Mitt Romney. It was a convention where cancel culture was a bigger threat than the coronavirus and socialist revolutionaries were knocking at the gates. It was Trump and Trump alone who could fix these problems.
The convention provided a window into a universe where the key issue confronting the country was the culture war, not the pandemic or the recession that it has caused. A refugee from Fidel Castro’s Cuba compared protests and looting in American cities to the Communist revolution against the Batista regime. “When I watch the news in Seattle and Chicago and Portland, when I see history being rewritten, when I hear the promises — I hear echoes of a former life I never wanted to hear again,” Maximo Alvarez said. “I see shadows I thought I had outrun.” The Democratic Party was, in his words, one of “socialism, communism, and totalitarianism.”
It was a convention where cancel culture was a bigger threat than the coronavirus.
This warning was echoed by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, who claimed “Joe Biden and the radical left are also now coming for our freedom of speech,” and by his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, who went even farther, arguing Democrats want to control “what you see and think, and believe, so they can control how you live.” While Democrats were the party of socialism and totalitarianism, they also represented disorder too — what Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio described as “crime, violence and mob rule.”
Nowhere was this sentiment better crystallized than in a segment featuring Mark and Patty McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who infamously brandished weapons on their lawn at Black Lives Matter demonstrators who entered their gated community. In barely coded language, the McCloskeys spoke of Democrats wishing to “abolish the suburbs” and “bring crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods.” Patty McCloskey darkly warned viewers that “no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.” The threat was not so much Joe Biden as it was a full-fledged cultural revolution.
Of course, these threats were still being held at bay, thanks to Trump, the indispensable figure. One speaker tried to use the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life to illustrate how essential the president was to the country: To her, America without Trump would be like Bedford Falls without George Bailey. He was the “pro-America candidate,” the only one with “the strength” to protect the country from the Democrats.
The evening was not exclusively devoted to the culture war. A doctor praised Trump’s response to the pandemic; a video showed the president meeting with frontline workers; former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott made the case for Trump’s reelection (and set out their respective stalls for potential 2024 presidential bids). But such instances took a backseat to the cultural grievances that were the opening night’s centerpiece: From the first moments of the evening, when a Jon Voight-narrated video proclaimed that “lives matter irrespective of race, color or creed,” to the later clip of Hispanic sisters Madeline and Catalina Lauf describing “the rioting and the crime” in recent weeks as “a taste of Joe Biden’s America,” these were the issues that took center stage on Monday. It didn’t matter about the virus, unemployment, or anything else. There are riots in the street and socialism is on the rise and the one thing that can stop them is Donald J. Trump.