Madeline Nowicki: Make America Work Again?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 9:15pm

CLEVELAND — After a Monday filled with delegate dissidents and spousal plagiarism, the Tuesday slogan of “Make America Work Again” seemed prescient. The Republican National Convention needed to get back on track — it, too, needed to work. The theme of the night was supposed to be economic issues, highlighting the Republican platform for job safety and growth. With high-profile speakers such as Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie, the night held promise for at least the acknowledgment of concrete policy changes.

Immediately, it became clear that this would not be the case. McConnell truly did not use his position as Senate majority leader to advocate for changes to entitlement programs or typically conservative goals. He used his position from behind the podium instead to rail against Hillary Clinton, highlighting mainly her flip-flopping and her private e-mail server scandal. He didn’t describe his goals, the party’s goals or Trump’s goals for actually beating Clinton. Rather, he just seemed to care a heck of a lot that she didn’t win.

Chris Christie launched what he called a “prosecution” of Clinton. Listing off Clinton’s record, fact-checked by the New York Times, he incited a gleefully raucous electricity into the air, spurning chants, dances and squeals from Trump-drunk supporters fueled by hatred, fear, lack of education and the July heat. Attendees sitting near me in the stands stood up and danced, clenching their fists in the air and tossing their heads back as if they finally were understood. Chris Christie, the governor of a state with the third highest per-capita income in the nation, didn’t discuss policies for economic mobility. The governor of a state with the second-highest concentration of millionaires in the nation didn’t mention his plans for making more of the country into millionaires, much less his plans to reduce regulations for businesses and millionaires alike. He didn’t outline anything concrete. Christie basked in his own spectacle, failing to shed light on the policies of the man under whose shadow he will permanently reside.

Trump’s daughter, Tiffany, focused on her father’s leadership qualities as a businessman, rather than any actual substance of how he could translate them into a quality economy. Donald Trump Jr. talked about how his dad ensured he knew how to lay drywall and carry a hammer and be a real salt-of-the-earth construction worker. He said this while dressed in a shirt with a literal blue collar and failed to provide insight into how his father would share the great secrets of construction with the rest of America. General manager of Trump Winery, Kerry Woolard, mentioned Trump’s ability to work under pressure, without delving into any specifics on Trump’s or any other plan to ease the pressure of the working class in America. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia talked at length about how Clinton dislikes the mining industry and how this will ruin the economy of Capito’s state but failed to point out what Trump would specifically do differently.

Making America work again could have been a catchy twist on Trump’s slogan-filled dilettante of a campaign, if not for two key flaws. First, America was put back to work already. President Obama did exactly that, which is why the country now experiences only a 5.5 percent unemployment rate as opposed to nearly double that during the Great Recession. America is at work and is continuing to do so with job growth continuing steadily as it has over the past several years of Obama’s administration. Second, the Republicans failed to coalesce around any real strategy for putting Americans to work. Apart from blue-collar pandering from millionaires, platitudes about leadership qualities and demonizing of the opposition, the Republicans failed to coalesce around any economic issue at all. The only strand of unity that ran consistent throughout the night was a distaste for Secretary Clinton. I’m not sure how disliking an opponent is a legitimate party platform, much less one that will put America to work. If increasing American jobs was as simple as increasing hatred for public figures, unemployment would have been extinct long ago.

Madeline Nowicki can be reached at nowickim@umich.edu