The presidential campaigns are about to swing into the convention phase. But the president’s demand for a crowded, rousing, balloon-dropping convention has run aground on the rocks of the coronavirus.
The Republican Convention was originally scheduled for Charlotte, N.C., but North Carolina’s governor insisted on adherence to pandemic restrictions. The same was true of the attempt to move the convention to Jacksonville, Fla. Apparently, the pandemic is not a hoax.
The reality is that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is fighting an explosion of COVID-19 as more than 80,000 cases, about 23 percent of Florida’s total, have been reported in the past seven days. A pandemic hot spot, Florida recorded more cases in one day than any other state, with more than 15,000 on July 12. Last Sunday was the fifth consecutive day that Florida’s number of known cases grew by more than 10,000.
President Trump sought a smooth-running, well-attended convention because his recent rallies have not met his attendance expectations. At his Tulsa rally, instead of proper social distancing, campaign staff removed seating stickers to bunch people up for better news photos. More COVID-19 cases were reported afterward. The campaign knew there was a danger and required attendees to sign waiver agreements so attendees couldn’t sue if they got infected.
Other campaign speed bumps appear. Fox News, Trump’s stalwart, admits its polling is not showing massive support for the president. Key blocks of his 2016 base, suburban women for example, are slipping away. In Trump’s recent interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace pressed him to back up some of his more bizarre assertions—not typical Fox style.
The campaign has fallen back on a law-and-order theme, which includes criticizing constitutionally empowered, elected public officials.
To back up their assertions of mayhem, the president and the attorney general sent federal law officers to Portland, Oregon, as a demonstration of their wider intent. The conduct of these unidentified enforcers has spawned the Wall of Moms and Wall of Vets to protect protesters. Federal officers, in camouflage, have grabbed citizens unassociated with any crime and whisked them away in unmarked vehicles. Recently, the federal enforcers set upon a retired Annapolis graduate and Navy veteran. Video shows them beating him severely, breaking his hand in two places.
Certainly, Trump has expressed disdain for those who wear the uniform of the United States. His long, public spat with Sen. John McCain was so bitter that when the White House discovered the president might see a Navy vessel named after the Vietnam War hero’s father during his visit to Japan, it ordered the ship’s name be covered up.
Nor was Trump kind to Gold Star parents who lost a son or daughter in combat. A serial user of condescending labels, Trump called his secretary of defense, Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, “an overrated general.” Personal slights are not the only demonstration of Trump’s low regard for the U.S. military. He has raided the Defense Department budget for money to pay for his wall at the southern border.
Not only is the president’s conduct costing him points in the polls, but his policies have diverged from the standard Republican mantra. Republicans used to believe in low national debt; no more.
But as Election Day nears, the Republican Party is beginning to be concerned about the consequences for down-ballot candidates who have to defend high-debt and anti-military attitudes. Their campaigns will be hard pressed to explain away Russian proxy attacks on American soldiers and Russian interference in American elections.
The president’s law-and-order policies, which push aside local authorities, are government overreach—and would have been severely criticized by previous administrations. Down-ballot candidates may not be able to defend all that Trump has created or destroyed.