“THEY WANT TO DESTROY THIS COUNTRY AND EVERYTHING THAT WE HAVE FOUGHT FOR AND HOLD DEAR,” Kimberly Guilfoyle bellowed.
“THEY WANT TO STEAL YOUR LIBERTY, YOUR FREEDOM, THEY WANT TO CONTROL WHAT YOU SEE AND THINK AND BELIEVE, SO THAT THEY CAN CONTROL HOW YOU LIVE.
“THEY WANT TO ENSLAVE YOU TO THE WEAK, DEPENDENT, LIBERAL VICTIM IDEOLOGY, TO THE POINT THAT YOU WILL NOT RECOGNISE THIS COUNTRY, OR YOURSELF.”
OK, first of all, I want to stress that the whole all-caps thing is not me being facetious. It is my honest attempt at accurately transcribing Guilfoyle’s speech at the Republican National Convention today, which was delivered with the volume – and the crazy – cranked up to 12/10.
Despite the irreparable damage my eardrums and brain cells have suffered, I have to say, I appreciated the former conservative TV commentator’s bluntness. It captured the spirit of this year’s election campaign pretty well.
Last week, the Democrats spent much of their own convention telling Americans four more years of the Trump presidency would be a threat to their democracy.
“Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy, they’re on the ballot. Who we are as a nation, and most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot,” Joe Biden said in his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination.
“That’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy,” former president Barack Obama said the night before.
Today, the Republicans got their turn, and they decided to go even more apocalyptic with their rhetoric. Guilfoyle may have been the loudest by several decibels, but she was far from alone.
I am here tonight to tell you – to warn you – that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything we love,” said the convention’s first speaker, 26-year-old Charlie Kirk.
“The American way of life is being dismantled by a group of bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists who have never built anything in their lives.
“Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilisation. Trump was elected to protect our families from the vengeful mob that seeks to destroy our way of life – our neighbourhoods, schools, churches and values.”
The bodyguard of Western civilisation. That has quite a ring to it – I think I’ll make it my next email signature.
“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way,” said Congressman and human Ken doll Matt Gaetz.
MS-13 is an international criminal gang, by the way. I haven’t heard anything about them coming to the suburbs of Chicago yet. Maybe the invitations are still in the mail.
We also heard from Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the wealthy St Louis couple who were famously pictured waving guns, as though they were friggin’ Super Soakers, at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their palatial mansion.
“These radicals are not content with marching in the streets. They want to walk the halls of Congress. They want to take over. They want power. This is Joe Biden’s party. These are the people who will be in charge of your future and the future of your children,” Mark said.
“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities,” added Patricia.
“They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments in now-thriving suburban neighbourhoods.
“Your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
Low-quality apartments! Heaven forbid. I want to stress, as a former resident of St Louis, that not all of us are quite so melodramatic.
The point I am trying, so very inelegantly, to make here is that this election is not subtle. Not even close. Each side, in its own way, is accusing the other of threatening to DESTROY AMERICA. And at least Guilfoyle had the guts to match the ominous implications of her words with an equally sensational tone.
“IN PRESIDENT TRUMP’S AMERICA, WE LIGHT THINGS UP, WE DON’T DIM THEM DOWN. WE BUILD THINGS UP, WE DON’T BURN THEM DOWN. We kneel in prayer, and we STAAAAAND, FOOOOR, OUUUR, FLAAAAAAG,” she said.
“This election is a BATTLE FOR THE SOUL of America. Your choice is clear. DO YOU SUPPORT THE CANCEL CULTURE, THE COSMOPOLITAN ELITE OF NANCY PELOSI, CHUCK SCHUMER AND JOE BIDEN, who blame America first? DO YOU THINK America is to blame?
“OR DO YOU BELIEVE IN AMERICAN GREATNESS? BELIEVE IN YOURSELF? IN PRESIDENT TRUMP?”
The thing that baffled me about day one of the Republican convention was not Guilfoyle’s shouty proclamation that America itself was on the line, but the occasional, jarring speech by someone who ignored the culture wars altogether. I’m thinking of two people in particular – former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.
Both of them sounded like they were on a completely different planet, or at least like they were talking about a different election. Their speeches focused on nerdy stuff like foreign policy, support for small business and criminal justice reform. They felt like relics of the wonky 2012-era, Romney-led Republican Party.
“Obama and Biden let North Korea threaten America,” Haley said.
“President Trump rejected that weakness, and we passed the toughest sanctions on North Korea in history.”
She did not mention Trump’s short-lived romance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which resulted in a couple of much-hyped but ultimately fruitless denuclearisation summits.
“Our family went from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime, and that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last,” said Scott.
“There are millions of families like mine across this nation, full of potential, seeking to live the American dream.
“And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality.”
Haley and Scott were both trying to walk the finest of lines – supporting Trump fulsomely enough to avoid alienating his hardcore fans, but not so much that normal voters will consider them Trump sycophants when they inevitably run for president themselves four years from now.
Their arguments were probably compelling to the sort of voter who has yet to make up his or her mind. But they didn’t capture what the 2020 election is really about.
It’s not a contest between competing policy ideas, or between optimistic visions of the American dream, so much as a referendum on Trump’s black-and-white worldview that you’re either with him, and a patriot, or against him, and anti-American.
And no one captured that worldview quite as effectively as Kimberly Guilfoyle.