By Matthew Miller
Every four years the delegates of the country’s two major political parties convene upon a chosen city to celebrate the official nomination of their respective candidates for president. These gatherings are meant to serve two purposes. The first is to discuss on and to unify behind a political platform. The second is to coalesce behind the nominee who has already clinched the necessary votes during the primary season. The Republican Party succeeded in officially nominating its candidate but the path to the finish line was riddled with bumps, twists and potholes along the way. And attendees did their part to provide the newsmen and political pundits with plenty of fodder.
Last week’s Republican Convention in Cleveland had its fair share of highlights and lowlights. There were the accusations of plagiarism in the speech given by Mrs. Trump, which were quickly denied then dismissed by party members; House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a quite lackluster endorsement of Mr. Trump (this was hardly unexpected as both he and Trump have rarely seen eye-to-eye); and Ted Cruz’s refusal to back the real estate mogul at all which elicited jeers and taunts directed towards his wife of “Goldman Sachs!” for whom she is employed. Lesser known celebrities took the stage to tout Trump’s business acumen and unabashedly politically incorrect style. When the message seemed to veer off course all it took was a reference to Hillary Clinton to get things back on track. Governor Chris Christie did his best to tap into this sentiment by staging a mock trial of the former secretary of state (and maybe to audition for the attorney general spot?).
All in all, the four day affair did not disappoint those seeking an alternative type of entertainment. But strip away the pageantry and raucousness and it becomes clearer that the convention was a chance for Donald Trump to unify the party after a divisive primary season. While he succeeded in securing the official nomination, this discord manifested itself into the aforementioned weak support and his receiving of the most nay votes since the 1976 convention. There was also a notable dearth in attendance of Grand Old Party stalwarts. The list included the President Bush father-son duo, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain. Vanquished rivals Governor Jeb Bush, and Ohio Governor John Kasich were also absent the festivities. This should not come as surprise. Mr. Trump has built his massive following by tossing out the traditional political playbook and giving an unfiltered and sometimes erratic voice to the masses. Deemed as populism by detractors, it has not garnered him much support by the establishment. This reinforces his image as a man of the people, but does little to endear him to those who find Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush more in line with their conservative values.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence is meant to placate this subsection of traditional conservatives. Hailed by Paul Ryan as a “Regan conservative through and through,” Mr. Pence burnished his credentials in front of the Cleveland crowd and touted his fiscally conservative accomplishments of lower taxes, a balanced budget and cuts to the public workforce. His social policies should also please those who lean to the right. He has tried to ban doctors from performing abortions and was integral in the passage of a law that seems to provide a gray area in which business owners can refuse to serve homosexual couples. The decision to tap Pence seemed to have been validated when the arena erupted in chants of “We like Mike,” as the governor’s speech concluded. Trump may have placated those alarmed by his anti-trade rhetoric with his choice of the firmly pro-business Pence. Skeptics on the right might further be mollified by the suggestion of Trump’s campaign manager that the real estate mogul sees his role as president as more chairman of the board with his vice president serving more like the chief executive officer of the country. His deft use of the media may not be his only strength.
Trump concluded the festivities with a speech consisting of ominous undertones which served to bolster his famous campaign slogan and promise to “Make America Great Again.” When he finished, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” bellowed from the arena speakers in what some perceive to be a not so subtle jab at traditional republicans and “#NeverTrump” supporters. Trump may not be the GOP’s first choice, but if there is one thing republicans can agree on, it is that they do not want another Clinton in the White House.