Old themes made a comeback on day two of the Republican Convention.
But it was setting, as much as message, that gave standout power to first lady Melania Trump’s Rose Garden address.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cancel culture continues to get the focus
Yesterday’s speakers gave cancel culture roughly equal weight as the coronavirus pandemic sweeping America.
Today’s speakers were equally eager to emphasise their belief that Democrats are trying to police and restrict what Americans are allowed to think.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 43 seconds1m 43s Kentucky teenager Nicholas Sandmann says he will fight against ‘cancel culture’.
Nick Sandmann, the teen in a Make America Great Again hat who went viral for an encounter with a protester in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 2019, returned to that backdrop to tell his story of being the focus of “the full war machine of the mainstream media”.
“I learned that what was happening to me had a name. It was called being cancelled. As in annulled. As in revoked. As in made void,” he said.
“Cancelled is what’s happening to people around this country who refuse to be silenced by the far left. Many are being fired, humiliated or even threatened. Often, the media is a willing participant. But I wouldn’t be cancelled.”
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Tiffany Trump, who unlike her older siblings has largely stayed away from politics in the past four years, claimed “the media”, “technology” and “even our own government” was trying to “control” Americans.
“For our education system it meant sacrificing civil debate, by creating an atmosphere where students with contrary opinions are too afraid to speak. Many students find themselves suppressing their beliefs to fit into the acceptable groupthink,” she said.
Just before day two of the convention began, Republicans removed Mary Ann Mendoza from the speaking schedule. No official reason was given, but hours earlier, social media posts from Mendoza supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory were being widely circulated.
You’re going to hear a lot about the Hatch Act
Ethics experts and Democrats had raised plenty of concerns about the Hatch Act in the lead up to the Republican Convention, mostly concerning Donald Trump’s use of the White House lawn for his own acceptance speech on Friday.
In short, the act is supposed to ban public servants from using their job, or federal government property, to contribute towards the success or failure of a political party.
The events of day two poured further fuel on the Hatch Act fire, as the apparatus of the American Federal Government featured again and again at a political convention aimed at ensuring the re-election of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump conducted a naturalisation ceremony during the convention.(Republican National Convention)
Mr Trump appeared twice, once to pardon former bank robber-turned activist Jon Ponder and once to conduct a naturalisation ceremony.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a pre-recorded speech from a taxpayer-funded trip to Jerusalem for official State Department business, breaking a long-standing tradition from sitting secretaries of state to avoid the conventions.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 22 seconds2m 22s Mike Pompeo’s Republican National Convention speech
And Melania Trump gave her speech from the newly renovated White House Rose Garden, while referencing the respect she had for the “people’s house”.
As president, Mr Trump has immunity to the Hatch Act, but other government officials, like Chad Wolf (who officiated the naturalisation ceremony) Mike Pompeo and the public servants who prepared the Rose Garden for the first lady’s speech, do not.
Biden was accused of nepotism as three Trumps got speaking roles Donald Trump’s daughter Tiffany was one of three family members to speak on day two.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)
Plenty of speeches at the Republican convention so far have featured attacks on Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But none turned a blowtorch to the Democratic nominee as sharply as former Florida attorney-general Pam Bondi.
She played the same role she did during Mr Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, trying to highlight alleged misdeeds by Mr Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine and China and accuse the former vice-president of nepotism (there is no credible evidence of wrongdoing from either Biden in Ukraine or China).
Pam Bondi repeated Mr Trump’s debunked claim that Joe Biden wielded his influence as vice-president to benefit Hunter’s bosses at a Ukrainian energy company.(Reuters: Carlos Barria)
“When you look at his 47-year career in politics, the people who benefited are his family members, not the American people,” she said.
“How many American families would be allowed to get away with this? Why should there be one standard for the elite political class, and another set of rules for the rest of us? When millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump, they knew he’d be different, and he is.”
Notable was the fact that Ms Bondi was the warm-up act for three Trumps — the President’s children, Eric and Tiffany, and his wife, Melania.
Tiffany said “my father” was the only person to challenge “the establishment”, while Eric (who remains an executive of the Trump Organisation), closed his speech with a personal appeal to “Dad”.
“I miss working alongside you every day but I’m damn proud to be on the front lines of this fight,” he said.
“I am proud of what you are doing for this country. I am proud to show my children what their grandfather is fighting for. I am proud to watch you give them hell. Never stop. Continue to be unapologetic. Keep fighting for what’s right.”
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. Eric Trump’s message to his father.Melania delivers rare public speech “Whether you like it or not, we always know what he is thinking,” Melania Trump said of her husband.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)
Melania Trump is often seen by her husband’s side, but in a sharp contrast to the other Trump family members, she very seldom joins in on the campaign stumping.
As the only first lady to grow up speaking a language other than English, she’s often communicated loudest with her facial expressions, physical gestures, and even her clothing (remember “I really don’t care, do u?”).
Melania Trump has often let her fashion do the talking.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)
It’s too early to say whether she’ll take the mic more often, but her 2020 convention speech felt pretty on-brand with the team’s messaging.
She jabbed at the media while praising her husband.
“No matter the amount of false media headlines … Donald Trump will not lose his focus on you,” she said.
She chided the Black Lives Matter protesters.
“I ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice,” she said. “Instead of tearing things down, let’s reflect on our mistakes, be proud of our evolution and look to our way forward.”
And she delivered a “special message” to women, whose slipping support is a red flag for the campaign.
“In my husband, you have a president who will not stop working for you and your families,” she said.
Her 2016 convention speech was reportedly plagiarised from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. The 2020 version was so compatible with the Trump message it left no-one in doubt of its authenticity.
Two different approaches to coronavirus
And yet Melania did stray from the Trump campaign in one notable way, opening her speech with a sentiment that few speakers have yet to voice during this convention.
She said her sympathies were with those who had lost loved ones to coronavirus.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering,” she said.
“I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone. My husband’s administration will not stop fighting until there is an effective treatment or vaccine available to everyone.”
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. Melania Trump addresses the spread of COVID-19 in the US.
In doing this, Melania acknowledged the threat of the virus was still present, which went against the predominant narrative we had heard from this convention so far.
But her own message on that front was undermined by the optics of her delivery.
Few members of the crowd that had gathered in the White House Rose Garden before her were wearing masks.
As she finished, they stood up from their socially distanced chairs to greet each other with hugs and handshakes.