[The tone of this note is a bit less restrained than that I generally strive to maintain in these pages; today, I just can’t help it.]
I confess it: I didn’t watch the Republicans’ Convention. After the first few minutes of the first night, I decided that I don’t have enough life space left to squander any of it observing what seemed certain to be four nights of an alternate universe – a genteel way of saying, “four nights of lies.” (I instead spent one of the evenings reading Mein Kampf passages in which the then-future Fuhrer describes the importance, approach, and target populations for effective propaganda, and am confident that I learned more about propaganda from he who made it an art form than by simply watching the Republicans practice it.) The snippets of the Convention speeches that I saw while carrying on over the last few days fully confirmed my initial impressions.
One unnerving note: a kind and elderly soul we know well, who before the Republican Convention indicated that she was going to vote for Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden because she is repulsed by President Trump’s aberrant behavior, but wanted to watch the Republican Convention because she wanted to “listen to both sides,” told us during the last four days that she was reconsidering voting for the President after hearing of all he had done for the nation. It was a stark reminder: even after the last four years, a broad segment of our citizens – even those who are not habitual Fox and alt-right media followers – understandably have terrible difficulty internalizing the notion that the leader of our nation – the President of the United States — and his cohort will simply stand before our people and lie, and lie, and lie.
Another note: how quickly we become anesthetized to atrocity. I would submit that the shooting of Jacob Blake was every bit as malevolent an abuse of power as the murder of George Floyd (although Mr. Blake, unlike Mr. Floyd, was “only” paralyzed rather than murdered). We all saw the tape. The officer, gun drawn, followed Mr. Blake out to his car. It is alleged that there was a knife in the car. Under the circumstances presented, I would suggest: If so, so what? Mr. Blake was apparently seated in the driver’s seat, the officer – on high alert, gun drawn – hovering above him. Even assuming that Mr. Blake had gotten the knife in hand – as far as I know, not established — how, given the two men’s relative positions, could Mr. Blake have realistically done serious harm to the officer? Aren’t officers supposed to be able to deal with situations like this without shooting an alleged suspect in the back, seven times? The outrage in white middle America nonetheless seems incredibly muted compared to that which attended Mr. Floyd’s killing. I have seen reports – which I admittedly can’t confirm, since I didn’t watch – that the Republicans made no reference to the officer’s conduct toward Mr. Blake at any time during their convention. They appear confident that too many of our citizens are instead becoming preoccupied with the danger that protests over police malfeasance may do to their lawns.
All that said: I have also seen any number of pundits, including those that in no way support the President, indicate that the Republicans put on four nights of television that could well have been effective with swing voters in swing states. As anyone that reads these pages is aware, I have thought and continue to fear that the contest between Messrs. Trump and Biden is going to be perilously close. This campaign seems likely to be particularly akin to a professional prizefight. Mr. Biden landed some effective blows last week in what was, practically speaking, Round One; the President countered this week in Round Two. Last Monday morning, on the eve of the Republican Convention, I recorded Mr. Biden’s respective swing state leads over Mr. Trump as depicted in FiveThirtyEight.com. While given polls will reflect different results, it is the trends that matter. I would suggest that the extent by which FiveThirtyEight.com’s findings show a week from today how much Mr. Biden’s lead over Mr. Trump has (inevitably) narrowed will be the measure of the effectiveness of the Republican Convention. I would further venture that there will then be little movement in public sentiment until we citizens get a chance to see the two candidates square off against each other (perhaps another fitting boxing allusion) in the first debate on September 29.
I also understand that during their Convention, the Republicans sought to cast the Coronavirus in the past tense during their gathering. Do you think it’s behind us?