In Depth

Key moments from first night of Republicans’ ‘dark convention’

Delegates warned that Democrats will ‘disarm you, lock you in your homes’ if Donald Trump loses in ‘rigged election’

The US Republican Party’s 2020 convention has opened with claims from multiple speakers that the country will be doomed if Donald Trump loses the upcoming election to his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The launch of the “dark convention” on Monday night saw Republican leaders arguing that re-electing the incumbent “is the only way to save the country from falling into socialism, economic ruin, violence and anarchy”, The Guardian reports.

With Trump trailing in national polls as his approval rating slumps, the Republicans were in need of a strong showing at the annual summer meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bleak vision of future

Trump and other speakers at the convention, which is being live streamed, made speeches “filled with false claims about the integrity of mail-in voting and the policy positions of his Democratic opponent”, says The New York Times.

Monday night’s theme was officially the “land of promise”, adds The Guardian’s US political reporter Daniel Strauss, but the “collection of speeches offered an almost apocalyptic vision of what’s at stake in November’s elections, and a dizzying array of misleading claims”.

Florida congressman Matt Gaetz warned that if elected, the Democrats will “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door” - a reference to a violent street gang.

Former Fox News host and Trump campaign adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle made an equally inflammatory speech that earned her some ridicule on social media.

“The same socialist policies which destroyed places like Cuba and Venezuela must not take root in our cities and our schools,” Guilfoyle claimed.

Rigged election claims

The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated the expansion of mail-in voting across the US for the November election - a move that Trump has repeatedly claimed will result in widespread fraud that could swing the vote in Biden’s favour.

Repeating those claims at the convention yesterday, the president warned that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election”.

Continuing his attack on the Democrats, he said: “What they’re doing is using Covid to steal an election. They’re using Covid to defraud the American people - all of our people - of a fair and free election.”

Coronavirus crisis

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic also took centre stage at the convention, with a number of widely disputed claims made about the spread of Covid-19.

In a video played at the beginning of the night, a voiceover claimed that “from the very beginning, Democrats, the media, and the World Health Organization got coronavirus wrong”, adding: “One leader took decisive action to save lives - President Donald Trump.”

The video “drew plenty of criticism from fact-checkers”, who pointed out that the president has repeatedly claim the virus would “disappear” or was “under control” in the US, reports Australia’s ABC News.

But “the reality is that, under President Trump’s leadership, the US has one of the highest rates of coronavirus in the world - far higher than our peer nations”, says Vox.

The convention also heard from Dr G.E. Ghali, an oral surgeon who survived Covid and who “praised Trump for speeding up testing and supplies - the very things that many public health experts have cited as the administration’s biggest shortcomings”, adds Politico.

Ghali said: “As a physician, I have seen how these breakthroughs have saved many lives. President Trump moved mountains to save lives.

“Thank you, Mr President, for your strong leadership during these challenging times.”

Loyalty to the boss

In a statement on Sunday, the Republican Party said it would not be announcing a new platform of policies to voters at the convention but would instead pledge to “enthusiastically” support Trump, Business Insider reports.

According to New York Magazine, “what’s most remarkable about the personality-cult character of the Republican Party is that its leader is deeply unpopular with the public”.

Yet “it is probably because Trump is so deeply and historically unpopular that his party has embraced him so tightly”, the mag continues. “The Republican Party elite harbours quiet doubts about the president’s basic competence, morality and fitness for office.

“As a result, Trump feels the need to force them to make public commitments of loyalty, to place their reputations in his hands so that no escape is possible.”

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