Political Update: Republican National Convention

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the RNC. Photo Courtesy of Dallas News

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the RNC. Photo Courtesy of Dallas News

Republicans from around the nation gathered in Tampa, FL on Aug. 28 for the National Republican Convention (RNC). The convention was ​originally scheduled to begin on the 27th, but due to the approach of hurricane Isaac toward Florida, an abrupt recess was announced by Chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus. This meant the events scheduled had to be rearranged to fit within the new three-day limit. Speakers over the course of the three days included numerous GOP senators, governors, mayors, representatives and the like. At the end of the convention, Mitt Romney formally accepted his nomination as a candidate for the presidential election. 

Tuesday Aug. 28: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gave a short speech, the first half of which was spent referencing his June 5 recall election victory in Wisconsin. “On June 5, voters in Wisconsin were asked to choose between going backwards to the days of double-digit tax increases, billion dollar budget deficits and record job loss, or moving forward,” he said. Walker touted the growing economic climate of his state due to job creation and the reduction of the state deficit. The following night, about 10 minutes into Paul Ryan’s speech, Scott Walker was seen shedding a tear.

Ann Romney took the podium and spoke not about politics or the budget, but about love. “I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family.” This speech served to familiarize delegates and voters with their party’s presidential nominee. The tradition of nominees’ wives speaking at national party conventions began in the early 1940s, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was, however, not speaking to give attendants insight into her husband’s personality, nor to persuade voters for a reelection. She was instead sent to Chicago to speak on behalf of President Roosevelt’s running mate Henry Wallace, who had a low popularity rating at the time. Over the next several decades, speeches made by candidates’ wives have served to describe aspects of their husbands’ personalities that may not be recognized otherwise. Ann described Mitt in a way that humanized him.

Wednesday Aug. 29: Former Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice spoke of America’s strength as a united country, and took the opportunity to convey the image of an America rehabilitated by a global market and fair trade under the leadership of Candidate Romney. She did not specifically call Barack Obama or the Democratic Party to account for broken promises or the slow economic recovery. Instead she instilled a sense of national pride. “The essence of America—what really unites us—is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea, and what an idea it is,” she said. “That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things. That it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.”

Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan spoke for close to 40 minutes, and formally accepted his nomination for candidacy. Some of the comments Ryan made during his speech have caused some confusion for voters, particularly those comments made about the closing of the General Motors (GM) plant in Janesville, WI, Ryan’s home town. Obama gave a speech at the front of the plant in February of 2008, and stated that he believed the plant would be open for another hundred years under his plan. Ryan said “That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

GM announced plans to close the Janesville factory in June of 2008, and manufacturing ended in December of that same year, one month before Obama’s inauguration. In April of 2009 the plant was temporarily reopened, and a small crew of workers finished an order for Isuzu trucks.

Furthermore, the plant has never actually closed but has been in a “stand-by” status, meaning it could be reopened if the economy and GM production recover.

On Tuesday Ryan appeared on the Today Show, and was asked by Matt Lauer to clarify some of the confusion. In his defense, Ryan said “What they’re trying to suggest is that I said Barack Obama is responsible for our plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying, read the speech. What I was saying is the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises.”  

Clint Eastwood speaks at the RNC. Photo Courtesy of The Hollywood ​​Reporter​

Clint Eastwood speaks at the RNC. Photo Courtesy of The Hollywood ​​Reporter​

Thursday Aug. 30: Mystery Speaker Clint Eastwood made an impromptu speech, addressing the convention and an empty chair to his left that was meant to represent President Obama. When Eastwood gestured to the empty chair and announced that he was speaking with Obama, the audience at the convention reacted with a mix of laughter and unease. Eastwood questioned the symbolic Obama about the war in Afghanistan and unemployment, and tried to make a few jokes, stopping mid-thought and asking the empty chair “What do you mean shut up?” His speech was ended with a famous line from one of his movies, started by Eastwood and finished by the audience. “Go ahead,” he said, raising his hands. The audience shouted back “Make my day!”

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney formally accepted his nomination by the Republican Party. Speaking mostly about personal subjects, Mitt tried to relate to the American people. During his speech, he told a story about his parents. “Mom and Dad were married 64 years. And if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist – because every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table,” he said. Then, suddenly, “That’s how she found out what happened on the day my father died – she went looking for him because that morning, there was no rose.” The audience was very moved by this story. Mitt promised a vision of an America that shows more backbone and returns to its former state of prosperity.

Democratic National Convention: The Democratic National Convention (DNC) began Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., and ended yesterday night. Democratic representatives all spoke on behalf of President Obama and their party’s hope for his reelection.

Monday Sept. 3: President Barack Obama delivered a Labor Day speech to members of the United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers in Toledo, Ohio. He pointed out that it was his decision that kept GM and Chrysler from collapsing, something Ryan and Romney opposed. “If America had thrown in the towel like that, GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today,” he said. When Obama ​would point out flaws in his opponents’ actions the audience would boo and hiss. Each time this happened Obama would raise his hands and say calmly “Now don’t boo, vote.”

He spent much of his speech talking about the respect members of the middle class deserve and how they have earned it, “These jobs are worth more than just a paycheck. They’re a source of pride. They’re a ticket to middle-class life. These companies are worth more than just the cars that they build, they’re a symbol of American innovation.” This particular comment elicited loud cheers from the crowd of workers.

Later in the day, President Obama took a trip down to Louisiana to see what he could do for those affected by hurricane Isaac. He spent his time there about 30 miles away from New Orleans walking from house to house, shaking hands with residents and asking them about their experiences. He also pointed out that disaster declarations were made well in advance of the hurricane’s landfall. He said he wanted to make sure officials “weren’t behind the eight ball.”

Tuesday Sept. 4: First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about her husband and his humble beginnings. “When Barack was a senator and a presidential candidate, to me, he was still the guy who picked me up for dates in a car that was so rusted out I could actually see the pavement going by in a hole in the passenger side door,” she said. “He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was a half size too small.”

As with Ann’s speech, Michelle aimed to humanize President Obama and familiarize the Democratic Party with a side of him that would otherwise not be exposed. She also appealed to women voters, talking particularly about mothers and her own daughters. She began wrapping up her speech with the idea that parents who are unable to fulfill their own dreams can make the dreams of their children possible. “If our grandparents could toil and struggle for us, if they could raise the beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, and connect the world with the touch of a button, then surely we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids,” she said.

Upcoming Events: On Wednesday Sept. 5 Bill Clinton will give a speech. Clinton and President Obama have spoken together on many previous occasions. On Thursday Sept. 6 President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be accepting their nominations.​

Andy Davis

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