Donald Trump is not a subtle man, and the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention reflected that lack of subtlety. Though the theme was "make America safe again," the first two speakers on Monday evening weren’t military veterans, law enforcement professionals, crime victims, or politicians. They were C-list celebrities Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty and Scott Baio from Charles in Charge and Happy Days, and they were there to make the subtext of Trump’s campaign into text.
Robertson did start out with a little subtext, saying, "If you’re a cop risking your life to keep us safe at home, Donald Trump will have your back," implying that Barack Obama doesn’t. But then he made it text. Praising Trump as a guy who tells it like it is, he concluded by saying, "It may not always be politically correct, but when your father is Phil Robertson you’re used to that."
The crowd cheered.
If you’re not a Duck Dynasty fanatic or a connoisseur of obscure political controversies, you may not have picked up the reference. But the issue is that in an infamous 2013 interview, Phil Robertson, Willie Robertson’s father, compared homosexuality to terrorism (he also said it’s "illogical"), that African-Americans were "singing and happy" under Jim Crow in the South, and that the Shinto religion is comparable to Nazism. He was roundly criticized for these statements, and rightly so, because they are repugnant things to say.
Willie Robertson doesn’t know anything about crime control, counterterrorism, or foreign policy. He was up there to press the case that the United States was beset by a dangerous tide of political correctness that was obscuring the important, honest commentary of folks like Donald Trump and his dad.
Up next came Scott Baio who also started out with a little taste of subtext by explaining that being an American "doesn’t mean getting free stuff."
But then he, too, made it text concluding with the following stirring call: "Let’s make America great again, and lets make America America again."
This is exactly what Trump has been saying but not quite saying this whole campaign. Not that Barack Obama’s policies have led to an increase in Americans being killed by terrorists (more died under George W. Bush) or to an increase in the murder rate (it’s gone down) but to a loss of American identity. That the old America — the one before black presidents and same-sex marriage and political correctness — was the real America, and the new more tolerant and more open America is inauthentically American.