On Monday, the Republican National Convention got underway in Charlotte, North Carolina — and even before it shifts into high gear with a lineup of primetime speakers in the evening, the contrast with last week’s Democratic convention is stark. Take, for example, the roll call.
At the traditional in-person political conventions in years past, delegates declared their states’ votes for party nominee from the convention floor. Last week, though, the DNC had some fun with the format, and the result was a delightful highlight reel showcasing the diversity of all 57 states and territories. Also, there was a delicious-looking platter of calamari. As Vox’s Anna North noted:
[The] format allowed states and territories to show all Americans their history, like Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell’s speech from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, or the Oklahoma delegation’s capsule history of the Tulsa race massacre; their connection to presumptive nominee Joe Biden, like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey’s speech in front of the former VP’s old house in Scranton; and sometimes their quirkier side, like Rhode Island’s state appetizer, calamari.
The RNC opted for ... not that. While the DNC roll call showcased the diversity of America and made a point of featuring Indigenous people, Black and Hispanic Americans, activists, and LGBTQ people, the RNC roll call was a procession dominated by older white men, all in front of a white background emblazoned with #RNC2020.
2020 Roll Call of States:— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) August 24, 2020
Left: #DemConvention (AK, AZ, CO & HI)
Right: #RNC2020 (AK, AZ, CO & HI) pic.twitter.com/nJJXbIFJcj
The stark lack of diversity wasn’t the only eccentric moment to come out of the RNC roll call — Vox’s Aaron Rupar has plenty more here — but it sharply underscores the fact that the GOP is an increasingly white party. In the 116th Congress, for example, there are 56 Black lawmakers, and just two of them are Republicans. A similar proportion exists when it comes to gender: There are 131 women in this Congress, and just 24 are members of the Republican Party.
Part of this is because the RNC started planning the virtual aspect of the convention much later
It’s also a good reminder that conventions aren’t all that easy to plan, and the DNC got a head start. Case in point: In June, the Democratic National Committee settled on a mostly virtual event; Republicans moved theirs to Jacksonville, Florida, with the coronavirus still raging. By the time the GOP saw the writing on the wall in late July and canceled the Florida portion of the convention, they were in a time crunch.
Now, the contrast between back-to-back convention weeks promises to be striking. The DNC was slickly produced and frequently uplifting, if at times unavoidably strange in the midst of a pandemic. As Rupar writes:
Whether the RNC will end up going similarly smoothly remains to be seen. But one thing that can be said is that if Trump wanted to have an in-person convention this month, he needed to do the work back in February, March, and April. Instead, he spent that time insisting the virus would go away on its own and passing the buck to governors who lack the resources and jurisdictional authority to handle a pandemic that has shuttered economies and spread like wildfire across state boundaries.
So now, instead of serving as a symbol of Trump’s successes, the RNC will serve as a symbol of everything he’s done wrong.
If Monday’s roll call — and Trump’s accompanying tweeting — is anything to judge by, though, the RNC will be a very different event from the DNC.
The RNC will run from Monday through Thursday, and Trump is scheduled to make an appearance every night of the show. You can follow along with all of Vox’s coverage at our convention hub here.
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