The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the school reopenings, work, and life in the US, but you wouldn’t know it from the first night of the Republican national convention, which cast Donald Trump’s response to the crisis that has taken the lives of 178,000 Americans as a victory. “Essentially, they’re trying to convince everyone that this massive failure is actually a massive achievement,” said Trevor Noah on Tuesday’s Daily Show.
The narrative twist is “especially crazy”, he added, “considering that at the last RNC, all they talked about was the four dead Americans in Benghazi. But now, they’re acting like Trump did a great job by only having 45,000 Benghazis.”
To be fair, “without Trump taking any action, millions more Americans could’ve died,” Noah said. “So, good on Republicans for seeing the glass of bleach half full.”
Noah also dismantled another of the Republican party’s narrative flips: that racism is a personal issue overcome through individual resilience hampered by the Democrats. The first night featured speeches from former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, whose parents immigrated from India and South Carolina senator Tim Scott, a black man, to tout their personal success as evidence of American – and Republican – exceptionalism. Both have inspiring stories, but Noah argued their logic was backwards, since “Haley and Scott are literally the exceptions”.
The fact that Haley was one of the few minority governors, and that Scott is one of the few black senators, is “if anything, an argument for the existence of systemic racism in America, not against it,” he said.
“Imagine being the sole survivor of a plane crash, looking around at the wreckage and going, ‘Wow, I wish all these other passengers could’ve persevered, and overcome this crash just like me. Shout-out to Boeing!” Noah added. “If America didn’t have a racism problem, then their achievements wouldn’t be a big deal. What I want is a world where a black man becoming a senator isn’t inspirational.”
Finally, the first night of the RNC was peppered with attempts to scare voters about the risks of a Joe Biden presidency, which should be a lesson for the Democrats, Noah said, since they spent four days pitching a big-tent return to normalcy. “But it didn’t count for shit,” Noah said, since Republicans are “still saying that Joe Biden is basically Joseph Stalin with a better smile.”
That, and a pitch that the Republican party “has something for everyone”, Noah concluded, summarizing the party’s platform as it appeared in the convention’s first night: “For people who feel like the country is in chaos, Trump will make it better. For people who feel like things are going fine, well, you have Trump to thank for that! If you’re a minority, racism is just a small bump on your way to an idyllic life in the suburbs. And if you’re scared of minorities, don’t worry – Trump is going to keep them out of your idyllic suburbs.”
The first night of the Republican national convention “looked like a racist spelling bee”, said Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, in which speakers “replaced nuanced argument with screaming” at a single podium at the empty Andrew W Mellon auditorium in Washington.
Airing live after the convention’s second night, Colbert touched on a sensitive subject for the president: poor TV viewership numbers. The first night of the Republican convention attracted 15.8 million viewers, nearly 3 million less than the first night of the Democratic convention the prior week. “Unfortunately for Trump, Nielsen doesn’t have an electoral college,” Colbert joked, “nor does it count the millions of people with their TV sets off who still heard Kimberly Guilfoyle’s tortured cries echo through their dreams.”
The convention’s second night featured speakers considerably less loud than the former Fox News host’s shouted spectacle, including an address from first lady Melania Trump, who recounted her journey from Slovenian immigrant to American citizenship. “I was able to achieve my own American dream,” she said, to which Colbert added: “Partying with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell – we wish her well,” referring to the sex abuser and his alleged madam with whom the Trumps were friendly throughout the 90s.
Trump frowned throughout his wife’s speech, with an expression Colbert called “I hate these recitals – which one of my children is this?”
Melania also promised that, if given four more years as first lady, she would “continue to build upon Be Best,” her much-maligned anti-bullying initiative. “Just saying,” Colbert retorted, “if you have to build on it, maybe it wasn’t best.”