Trump’s convention aims to airbrush his tenure
Washington: At President Donald Trump’s Republican convention, he is welcoming to immigrants, not the architect of some of the nation’s harshest anti-immigration policies.
At Trump’s convention, the coronavirus pandemic has largely subsided, not continued to infect thousands of Americans a day. The economy is booming, not sputtering. Trump is a leader in healing racial strife, not stoking divisions.
Tuesday’s gauzy prime-time programming amounted to an airbrushing of some of the darker and more controversial episodes of Trump’s nearly four years in office — an effort to urgently address the vulnerabilities that have imperiled his reelection prospects just over two months until his November face-off against Democrat Joe Biden.
His campaign and his party were effectively asking voters to believe a polished and packaged portrait of the president more than the unrestrained version Trump puts on display each day.
That version of Trump may energise his most ardent supporters, but it frequently frustrates more moderate Republicans and has alienated some voters, including many suburban women, that Trump wants to win back before Election Day.
The gap between reality and convention rhetoric was particularly glaring on immigration, the signature issue of Trump’s political rise and his presidency. Trump ran for office in 2016 on a platform to dramatically crack down on immigration, both illegal and legal.
Since winning the White House, he has fundamentally transformed the nation’s immigration system, including effectively ending asylum at the southern border and trying to scare people off crossing the border illegally by separating children from their parents.
But Trump’s convention made scant reference Tuesday to those policies and only passing nods to his signature plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the most prominent mention of immigration came during a taped segment in which Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony at the White House, jovially congratulating five immigrants as they were sworn in as new American citizens.
“You’ve earned the most prized, treasured, cherished and priceless possession anywhere in the world. It’s called American citizenship,” Trump said. He made no mention of the fact that he has also systematically made it much harder for people to come to the U.S. legally to work, study or settle in the country.
Trump has long been adroit at creating an alternate reality and is often unconcerned with shifting focus when it’s politically expedient. It’s been a signature of his business life and his rise in politics, and now, as he is nominated by the Republican Party for a second term, he is doing so with the White House as a literal backdrop.
To be sure, political conventions are always aimed at creating a lofty image of a presidential candidate — a days-long opportunity for their party to control their own narrative and shape their own story.
For example, Biden’s convention last week spun his more than four decades in Washington as necessary experience in a moment of crisis rather than the mark of a politician past his prime, as many Republicans contend.
But Trump’s challenge in shifting public perception is made more difficult, both because he is running on a real record from his nearly four years in office and because his campaign is asking Americans to look past many of the crises that are still actively battering the country.