President Donald Trump packed the first night of the Republican convention with his fiercest House allies, culture war figures, and rising stars eager to follow him into the White House.
The production took on a dark tone, with Republicans warning about lawlessness and chaos if Joe Biden takes over the White House.
Here are the key moments from the first night.
Charlie Kirk: Trump is the ‘bodyguard of Western civilization’
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk called Trump the “bodyguard of Western civilization” in remarks mirroring Trump’s inaugural “American carnage” speech as he kicked off the Republican National Convention.
Kirk decried Democrats as selling out the country to China and cancel culture, issuing a dark message of a nation in decline. Kirk introduced Trump as a defender against Democrats’ attacks on American morality, saying he was “elected to protect our families from the vengeful mob that seeks to destroy our way of life, our neighborhoods, schools, churches and values.”
Kirk’s also mirrored Trump’s recent messaging as a “law and order president,” describing an “American way of life” as one where hard work, honor and respecting the law are paramount. He also rebuked cancel culture — a common rallying point for Trump’s team particularly championed by Kirk’s youth organization.
“The American way of life means you speak your mind without retribution, without being kicked off social media by a self-righteous censor in Silicon Valley,” he said.
School teacher bashes unions for turning schools into ‘war zones’
Rebecca Friedrichs, a long-time public teacher in California, slammed teachers unions, saying that unions are using their “radical agenda” to turn schools into “war zones.”
Friedrichs, who previously sued the California Teachers Association, accused unions of rewriting American history, specifically saying that unions “pervert the memories of our American founders.”
Friedrichs, who argued unions are “subverting our republic so they try to undermine educational excellence, morality, law and order,” said it was the Obama administration and then California Attorney General Kamala Harris who argued against her case in court. “Their comrades labeled us spawns of Satan and slandered us in mainstream media,” she said.
‘Not nice’: RNC chair takes on Biden’s character, policies
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sought to challenge Democrats’ focus on Biden’s affability.
“They think he’s a nice guy,” she said. “Let me tell you, raising taxes on 82 percent of Americans is not nice. Eliminating 10 million good-paying oil and gas jobs is not nice. Policies that force jobs to flee our country or allow abortion up until the point of birth are not nice.”
Trump, she said, both empathizes with everyday Americans and is “tough,” particularly on foreign policy and immigration.
“President Trump is always going to be tough when he is fighting for the American people because nice guys like Joe cared more about countries like China and Iran than the United States of America,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel is the niece of Trump detractor Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to convict the president in the Senate impeachment trial and has said he will not vote for him in November.
Gaetz bashes ‘woketopians’ and cancel culture
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz went after “woketopians” as he cast November’s election as an existential battle for the country and Biden as a puppet of the left.
“We must fight to save America now or we may lose her forever. Joe Biden might not even notice,” Gaetz, one of Trump’s fiercest supporters in the House, said. The congressman mocked a movement urging progressives to “settle for Biden,” asserting that “they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced and directed by others.”
Calling the hypothetical movie a “horror film,” Gaetz painted a dark picture of the country if Biden were to be elected, asserting that Democrats would empty prisons, take away citizens’ guns, and allow the MS-13 gang to flourish. He also blasted California’s recent rolling blackouts, contending that “a state that cannot keep power running for its own people should not send its junior senator to be vice president.”
Gaetz espoused a message of American exceptionalism, declaring Trump a “visionary” and rebuking cancel culture for coming after the country’s founding fathers.
“Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson are immortal precisely because of the pull they have on our imagination. You cannot cancel a culture that loves its heroes,” he said, adding that “the dangerous left need America to be weaker to accomplish their goal of replacing her.”
Medical professionals laud Trump’s Covid response
Two health care workers touted Trump as a pioneering leader who “moved mountains” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, despite widespread criticism about the Trump administration’s approach to combating the virus.
Amy Johnson Ford, a nurse from rural Virginia, and Dr. G.E. Ghali, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, touted Trump as having acting decisively on defeating the pandemic. Ford praised Trump for expanding telehealth in rural areas, while Ghali applauded Trump for pushing treatments and testing through normally lengthy regulatory timelines.
“Let me be clear, as a health care professional, I can tell you without hesitation Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during Covid-19,” Ford said.
Ford and Ghali’s remarks were interspersed with a narrator listing a number of Trump’s favorite talking points on the coronavirus responses: from shutting down travel from China to pointing figures at the initially contradictory messaging from the CDC. Videos showed prominent Democrats, from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, downplaying concerns of the virus early in the pandemic.
“One leader took decisive action to save lives, President Donald Trump,” the narrator said. “Banning travel from China and coronavirus epicenters, Biden charged xenophobia. But President Trump was right.”
Trump thanks front-line workers for coronavirus response
Trump spoke with front-line workers who have helped the nation during the coronavirus pandemic on Monday night, including healthcare professionals, truck drivers and small business owners.
The president thanked each person for their contributions during the past several months fighting Covid-19. Two of the attendees said they had contracted the virus and recovered with the help of medical care like antibiotics and cough syrup.
“I won’t even ask you about the hydroxychloroquine,” Trump said, referencing a drug that multiple studies have shown is not effective against the virus. “It’s a shame what they did to that one. I took it.”
Trump also assured a postal worker at the roundtable, who delivers mail to a senior community, that “we’re not getting rid of our postal workers.” Trump earlier this month acknowledged that he is skeptical about providing additional funding for the Postal Service because of his concerns about mail-in voting this fall.
Jim Jordan: Dems ‘won’t let you go to school, but they’ll let you go loot’
Rep. Jim Jordan, another fierce ally of the president’s, argued that Trump has delivered on the promises he made in 2016, despite the economic hole the country is in as a result of the pandemic.
He also painted a bleak picture of a country run by Democrats, urging voters to “look at the positions they have taken the past few months.”
“Democrats won’t let you go to church, but let you protest. Democrats won’t let you go to work, but let you riot. Democrats won’t let you go to school, but they’ll let you go loot,” he said, contending that Trump “has fought against each of their crazy ideas.”
Jordan also sought to humanize the president, recalling that when the congressman’s nephew was killed suddenly several years ago, Trump reached out to offer his condolences and “took time to talk to a dad who was hurting.”
“That is the president that I’ve gotten to know the last four years,” Jordan said. “A president who shared private moments like this with soldiers, victims of violent crime, and people who’ve had businesses destroyed by the mob.”
‘Far-left Democrats’ made Parkland shooting possible, father of slain student says
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, said policies implemented by Democrats in his Florida district are to blame for his child’s death.
“Gun control laws didn’t fail my daughter, people did,” Pollack said, adding that the school ignored several red flags related to threats made by the shooter. “Far-left Democrats in our school district made this shooting possible.”
Pollack commended Trump for taking action to prevent future school shootings by establishing a commission that issued recommendations to make schools safer. “I truly believe the safety of our kids depends on whether this man is re-elected,” he said.
Guilfoyle roars campaign talking points
Forcefully speaking from the lectern with hands to the air, Kimberly Guilfoyle punctuated the convention with a lively address warning about the “cosmopolitan elites” of the Democratic Party.
Guilfoyle, Trump’s national campaign finance chair and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., characterized Democrats as the party of cancel culture and open borders. She praised Trump as not only a political but also a cultural savior ready to defend the American dream.
They were largely standard talking points for the Trump campaign, but her bombastic delivery immediately lit up social media.
Guilfoyle also repeated common Trump talking points on immigration, calling herself a first-generation immigrant from Puerto Rico, though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens. She also used California as an example of Democrats’ agenda run amok, calling it a land of “immense wealth, immeasurable innovation” that Democrats turned into “a land of discarded heroin needles and parks.”
Guilfoyle is the ex-wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The two were married when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco.
‘I’ve seen racism up close … and it isn’t Donald Trump’
As Trump trails Biden by a huge margin among Black voters, several speakers tried to defend Trump’s record on race and sought to portray Black voters as free thinkers not beholden to the Democratic Party.
“Growing up in the Deep South, I’ve seen racism up close, I know what it is, and it isn’t Donald Trump,” said Herschel Walker, the former NFL player, who added he has known the president for 37 years, when the then-business mogul bought the New Jersey Generals pro football team.
Several politicians, including a Democrat, also vouched for the president and maintained that his support was growing among Black Americans.
“The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation,” said Vernon Jones, a Democratic politician from Georgia who is currently a member of the state House of Representatives.
He said that Black people have been “forced” to be part of the party for decades.
“I have news for Joe Biden: We are free, we are free people with free minds, and I’m part of a large and growing segment of the Black community who are independent thinkers, and we believe that Donald Trump is the president that America needs to lead us forward,” said Jones, the only Georgian speaking at the convention this week.
Biden has a massive lead among Black voters, with recent polls averaging a 75-point margin.
St. Louis couple who aimed guns at protesters deliver defiant address
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple facing weapons charges for brandishing guns at protesters on their street, delivered a warning on Monday night.
“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country,” the couple said in a defiant video from their home.
What ensued was a grievance-filled appeal to suburban voters during a dark convention, with the couple rebuking the Black Lives Matter protesters at whom they waved guns as “Marxist liberal activists” and “criminals.” They issued the condemnations despite initially issuing a statement of support for the racial justice movement through their lawyer as protests rocked the country earlier this summer.
“Not a single person in the out-of-control mob that you saw at our house was charged with a crime,” Mark McCloskey lamented. “But you know who was? We were. They actually charged us with felonies for daring to defend our home.”
Cuban-American businessman compares Biden to Fidel Castro
Maximo Alvarez, a Cuban-American businessman, gave a teary speech which decried Communism and compared Biden to Fidel Castro.
“I have seen people like this before. I have seen movements like this before. I’ve seen ideas like this before, and I am here to tell you, we cannot let them take over our country,” said Alvarez, who came to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan in 1961.
He compared Castro’s “empty promises” about free health care and education to Democrats’ campaign talking points.
Directly after, the RNC played a video that described Biden as being part of the “radical left” and quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as saying that the Biden campaign’s compromises with liberals will make him “the most progressive president since FDR.”
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