President Donald Trump opened the 2020 Republican National Convention on a very dark note, delivering a rally-style speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, that began with him teasing the idea of serving more than two terms and ended with him warning that Democrats intend to steal the election.
“If you really want to drive them crazy, you say ‘12 more years,’” Trump began, as the audience chanted “12 more years!” back at him. “Because we caught them doing some really bad things in 2016. Let’s see what happens.”
Trump begins his first speech at the 2020 RNC by suggesting he deserves to serve more than two terms in office pic.twitter.com/NgCuN8kCYu— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
Trump returned to the theme of a stolen election at the end.
“Be very, very careful,” he concluded. “Don’t let them take it away from you.”
"Be very, very careful ... don't let them take it away from you" -- Trump ends his 2020 RNC rally speech in North Carolina on an ominous note pic.twitter.com/xYoCdtD9Xi— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
Trump vowed Sunday night on Fox News that the RNC would be “very uplifting and positive,” yet the speech he delivered on Monday suggested it will be anything but.
Trump is trying to turn his greatest failure into a success story
The coronavirus continues to kill around 1,000 people per day in the US, which has been more ravaged by the pandemic than almost all comparable countries. With more than 177,000 total deaths, the US has 22 percent of the world’s total despite having just 4 percent of the world’s population, and the country hasn’t had a day below 30,000 new confirmed cases in more than two months.
Trump has done little in response but try to shift blame and bluster. Lately, he’s resorted to twisting statistics out of context to make a misleading case that the US’s economic recovery has largely already happened (despite unemployment being over 10 percent), and that other countries like Japan and New Zealand are currently enduring similar outbreaks (never mind that new case numbers in those countries are extremely low in comparison to the US).
On Monday, Trump tried to spin the US coronavirus response into a success story, while offloading all blame for everything that has gone wrong onto governors.
“Many of the governors were totally ill-prepared. Nobody wants to say that, but it’s supposed to work that way: federalist,” Trump said, ignoring that governors lack the resources and jurisdictional authority to handle a pandemic that has spread like wildfire across state boundaries. “We did a great job.”
Trump 2020: It's The Governors' Fault pic.twitter.com/0cTSCwCdw7— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
Because Trump has seemingly convinced himself the worse of the coronavirus pandemic is already in the rearview mirror, he views public health measures like those championed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) of North Carolina to limit the size of indoor gatherings as a conspiracy to hurt him — something he made clear during his speech.
“You have a governor [in North Carolina] who is in a total shutdown mood,” Trump lamented on Wednesday, when in reality, Cooper is simply following the advice of experts the president has ignored.
"You have a governor [in North Carolina] who is in a total shutdown mood" -- Trump still thinks that public health measures to slow the spread of coronavirus are a political conspiracy against him pic.twitter.com/QgMCNJSJE8— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
In truth, the coronavirus pandemic is so bad in many parts of the country that it became impossible for Trump to hold a traditional in-person RNC even in states like Florida where the governor loves him. That forced Republican officials to scramble to put together a mostly hastily organized virtual event that serves as a microcosm of everything Trump did wrong with the pandemic.
It was that event Trump kicked off Monday, speaking before a far smaller crowd than convention organizers had originally planned for.
Trump isn’t even trying to hide that he would not accept defeat in November
Trump may be in denial about many things, but one thing he seems acutely aware of is polls that show Democratic nominee Joe Biden ahead of him. But instead of responding to them by trying to appeal to more voters, Trump is preemptively proclaiming that Democrats are using a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the related demand for increased access to mail voting to rig the election.
“What they’re doing is using Covid to steal an election,” Trump proclaimed. “They’re using Covid to defraud the American people — all of our people — of a fair and free election.”
Trump accuses Democrats of "using Covid to steal an election" pic.twitter.com/VDZVRh8kyY— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
In reality, mail voting is exceptionally safe. A number of states, including deep-red Utah, already have universal vote-by-mail systems that have worked smoothly and with few instances of attempted fraud.
Instead of marshaling resources to facilitate fraud-free mail voting in states that don’t already have systems in place, Trump is laying the groundwork to challenge the election results in case he loses. He’s not even particularly trying to hide it.
“This is going to be one of the greatest scams,” Trump said in North Carolina, referring to mail voting in the 2020 election. “This is the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think. And I’m talking about beyond our nation.”
"This is going to be one of the greatest scams ... this is the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think. And I'm talking about beyond our nation." -- Trump on the 2020 election pic.twitter.com/hdo9QbbPVt— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 24, 2020
If this sounds like the stuff of authoritarian nightmares, it is. But authoritarian nightmares are apparently the stuff of the 2020 RNC.
“12 more years!”
Trump’s impromptu trip to North Carolina came following an RNC roll call where state delegates tried to outdo themselves in their praise for him while offering off-the-top attacks on Biden. That came hours after the RNC announced it would not be putting together a 2020 platform beyond announcing the party’s ongoing support for Trump.
As off-the-wall as it was, Trump’s speech on Monday was well-received by his audience in Charlotte, which responded with applause and shouted insults aimed at various prominent Democrats. That’s not a surprise — nearly four years into the Trump presidency, the party more than ever stands for little beyond the president’s self-interest.
But what is notable is that Trump is barely trying to conceal he’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to power. No accusation is too outlandish, no lie too big. He’ll challenge the results if necessary, and shred the Constitution by serving more than two terms if given the opportunity. And if you don’t believe me, just take his word for it.
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