From Monday through Thursday this week, Republican leaders gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and remotely throughout the country for the 2020 Republican National Convention. The event comes one week after the Democratic National Convention and was largely marketed by Republicans as portraying a more positive image of America than their competition. 

The official theme was “Honoring the Great American Story,” but most speakers focused on their support for President Donald Trump’s policies during his first term and painted a grim picture of a potential Joe Biden administration. 

Laura Cox, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, attended the event in-person and spoke with the Detroit Free Press about what she expected from the convention. 

“It’s going to be a very positive tone; we’re going to talk about why it’s great to be an American, we’re going to talk about our history, what makes us great,” Cox said. “We’re going to continue to talk about the strong leadership and the positive effects that it’s had on people’s families, and their businesses and their lives each and every day. And it’s important to talk about who is the leader in those decisions.”

Andrew Schaeffler, LSA sophomore and co-founder of Students for Biden at the University of Michigan, commented on the convention’s tone and what he believes government officials should be discussing. 

“In the Republican National Convention, it seems like the positive tone that they were supposed to have has gone out the window,” Schaeffler said. “I think it just reflects poorly on the fact that we are supposed to be a moment where the parties and the various government officials talk about the future, about positive things, about policies, and it’s been pretty much devoid of that.” 

Monday and Tuesday’s programming featured various speakers voicing their support for President Trump, now officially the 2020 Republican Nominee, some of whom were from Michigan. 

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James — who is currently running against incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., — spoke Monday night in a pre-recorded address. Peters was featured on behalf of Michigan in the roll-call vote during the DNC last week. 

James, an Iraq War veteran, spoke to viewers about the need to re-energize American democracy and secure their rights. 

“I too fought for this country and all Americans deserve to breathe free,” he said. “(They do) not just cling tentatively to whatever freedom the government decides we deserve.” 

James also used this messaging to encourage people to vote against Biden. 

“In 2020, we have a choice,” he said. "To stand up and use our voices and our votes to defend our constitutional republic or to concede quietly to a leftist willing to tear it down piece by piece.”

Other Michiganders featured at the convention include Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who grew up in Detroit; Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee; and Richard Grenell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany and former Acting Director of National Intelligence under Trump. 

McDaniel was previously the chair of the Michigan Republican Party. In her remarks, McDaniel offered a depiction of Trump as a president offering great comfort to the nation. Trump has received much criticism in recent months due to his condemnation of protests following the death of George Floyd and the US’s high number of Coronavirus deaths, now surpassing 180,000.

“In the nearly four years I’ve worked on behalf of President Trump, I’ve seen up close a man who has deep love for family, a man who has reverence for the office of the presidency, a man with an incredible respect for law enforcement and our military,” McDaniel said. “I’ve seen private moments where he comforts Americans in times of pain and sadness.” 

Vice President Mike Pence spoke from Fort McHenry, Maryland to an in-person audience. The crowd chanted “four more years” as the former Indiana governor accepted the Republican nomination for vice president. 

In addition to touting the administration’s achievements, he also praised America and attacked Biden for not doing the same. 

“Life, liberty, freedom and the American flag: those are the ideals that have defined our nation,” Pence said. “But they were hardly ever mentioned at last week's Democratic National Convention. Instead, Democrats spent four days attacking America. Joe Biden said that we were living through a ‘season of darkness.’ But as President Trump said, where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness.” 

Pence concluded by calling for law and order on American streets, claiming too many police have died defending the county and that people will not be safe if Joe Biden is elected. This statement comes as the demonstrations in Kenosha protesting police officer Rusten Sheskey’s shooting of Jacob Black have continued for five nights. Attorneys for Blake’s family say he is now paralyzed.

On the final night of the convention, Trump accepted the nomination and gave his address to a large, in-person crowd at the White House, very few of whom appeared to be wearing masks. 

Trump claimed his administration was succeeding in fighting COVID-19. As of Thursday night, approximately 181,000 Americans have died as a result of the virus. 

“In recent months our nation, and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy,” Trump said. “Like those brave Americans before us, we are meeting this challenge. We are delivering life-saving therapies and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year or maybe even sooner. We will defeat the virus and the pandemic and emerge stronger than ever before.” 

Approximately three months after George Floyd was killed by police sparking nation-wide protests against police brutality and racism, Trump claimed he has aided Black Americans more than former presidents or his competitor. 

“I say very modestly I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president,” he said. “And I have done more in three years for the Black community than Joe Biden has done in 27 years and when I’m reelected the best is yet to come.” 

Among a variety of other issues — including protecting free speech on college campuses — the president discussed the auto industry and manufacturing workers in Michigan, a topic addressed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her speech at the DNC. 

“After those Biden calamities, the United States lost 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs,” Trump said. “The laid-off workers in Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and many other states didn’t want Joe Biden’s hollow words of empathy, they wanted their jobs back.”

Many critics have argued Trump’s White House address was a violation of the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in political activity inside federal buildings or while working. Schaeffler said though some voters may care about this distinction, he thinks many undecided voters will not take it into account. 

“When you start talking about the Hatch Act, when you start talking about using taxpayer dollars for a campaign appearance, there’s a certain swath of voters that … care about this and see that as an integral thing in deciding their vote,” Schaeffler said. “But in my opinion, for every voter that’s worried about corruption, if they haven’t made up their mind over the past three and a half years, I don’t think now is going to be the time.” 

The University’s chapter of College Republicans and the Washtenaw County Republican Party did not respond to the Daily’s request for comment by the time of publication. 

Daily staff reporter Emma Ruberg can be reached at eruberg@umich.edu.

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