A parade of Republicans is set Monday night to acclaim President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and call for his reelection. But the main event is the finale for the evening, Trump himself unleashing attacks on his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.
Party stalwarts renominated Trump earlier Monday for a second four-year term, with the U.S. leader appearing shortly after at the convention site in Charlotte, North Carolina. He called the November 3 vote “the most important election in the history of our country.”
He contended that the only way Democrats could defeat him is through a rigged election using mail-in ballots sent to voters.
“They’re trying to steal the election,” Trump declared without evidence. “Suppose they don’t mail them to Republican neighborhoods.”
Trump’s speech Monday night is the first of four straight evenings he plans to speak to the mostly virtual convention, in Charlotte and Washington, culminating Thursday with his renomination acceptance speech at the White House.
His oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., one of the U.S. leader’s staunchest defenders, is addressing the convention Monday night, as are Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, and Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Trump, as president, has been a vocal supporter of gun ownership rights as sanctioned by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But as many Democrats call for limitations on gun ownership, Republicans are bringing the issue to the fore with a pair of controversial speakers, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a St. Louis, Missouri, couple who brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters as they walked past their mansion in a June demonstration against racial injustice.
The McCloskeys said they felt threatened by the protesters, but a St. Louis prosecutor charged both with a felony, unlawful use of a weapon.
Other speakers include three Republican congressmen, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio, all of them among Trump’s most fervent conservative advocates on Capitol Hill.
Democrats last week conducted their convention entirely virtually, with a collection of taped and live presentations, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Republican delegates in Charlotte are subject to regular temperature checks and daily testing for COVID-19. All were required to be tested before they left their states, and throughout the convention they are wearing devices to enable contact tracing. A total of 336 delegates gathered at the convention to renominate Trump.
The size of the Republican gathering is downscaled from past conventions, just not as much as the Democrats’ conclave. Gone at both party conventions are the thousands of delegates who have crammed into arenas and stadiums at quadrennial gatherings in years past.
"I live 15 minutes from the arena, and yet I'm not going to be part of it," Sarah Reidy-Jones, the vice chairman of the Mecklenburg County GOP, told VOA.
Reidy-Jones was one of North Carolina's delegates to the convention, but because of the downscaling, the closest she would get to the convention center was dropping off a fellow delegate there Sunday morning.
"It's really emblematic of everything shutting down right now across the country," she said.
Biden, as he accepted his party’s presidential nomination last week, contended that Trump had created a “season of darkness in America” in which he had failed to control the unrelenting pandemic while millions of workers have lost their jobs. “We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege,” Biden said.
Trump claimed that “the Democrats held the darkest and angriest and gloomiest convention in American history.” He accused them of “attacking America as racist and a horrible country that must be redeemed.”
But he wasted no time in attacking Biden after the delegates cast their votes to renominate him.
As he has often done in recent times, Trump attacked his Democratic opponent as a puppet of the radical left, warning that if the former vice president is elected in November, “Your American dream will be dead.”
Republicans are billing their convention "Honoring the Great American Story." The Trump campaign said that each night will include remarks from political leaders as well as "everyday Americans whose stories are filled with hope and patriotism."
All three living former Democratic presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – along with 2004 nominee John Kerry and 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, spoke on behalf of Biden at the Democratic convention. But neither former Republican President George W. Bush nor 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who now is a Utah senator and a Trump critic, is on the Republican convention schedule.
More than two dozen former Republican lawmakers announced their support for Biden as the Republican convention started.
Democrats released an ad mocking the Republican convention just as Republicans staged counter events last week while the Democrats met.
“Welcome to the RNC, Republican National Chaos,” the narrator says in the 30-second spot, which opened with a scene of downtown Charlotte. “Because Trump is meeting the COVID moment with job-destroying incompetence and deadly mismanagement, students and teachers are left to themselves, the jobless left without a lifeline, grandparents left to die alone, an economy left to perish.
“Because Trump has no plan for COVID, nothing will change, because Trump won’t change,” the narrator continues. “Enjoy the convention.”