False claims and a grim message: key takeaways from night three of the RNC

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Mike Pence attacked Joe Biden on a night overshadowed by protests in Kenosha and a coming hurricane

Mike Pence accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday, promising to “make America great again, again” amid a global pandemic and widespread protests against racial injustice.

Here are the key takeaways of the night:

The vice-president delivered a dark message about his Democratic opponents to push Americans to support Donald Trump. “The hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Pence said, echoing a Trump campaign ad. “President Trump set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity from the very first day of this administration. Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline.” That message seemed odd given the Democratic nominee is not a socialist and the country’s unemployment rate is currently 10.2%, which would seem to contradict Pence’s praise of the opportunity available under Trump’s leadership.

Like other convention speakers, Pence sought to downplay the pandemic by focusing on the strength of the economy before coronavirus struck the US and the potential development of a vaccine by the end of the year. “After all the sacrifice in this year like no other, all the hardship, we are finding our way forward again,” Pence said. That sentiment does not reflect the fact that the country is still in the middle of a pandemic and nearly 180,000 Americans have already died from coronavirus, far more than any other country. Tweaking Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, Pence concluded the speech by promising: “We will make America great again, again.”

The night included few mentions of the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the resulting protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In his speech, Pence reiterated Trump’s call for “law and order”, but the vice-president did not mention the name of Blake, an African American father of six who was repeatedly shot in the back by Kenosha police officers on Sunday. “The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha,” Pence said. “We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.” Other speakers denounced the “violent mobs” supposedly overrunning American cities, even though the recent protests against racial injustice have been mostly peaceful.

Republicans continued their trend of peddling falsehoods about the pandemic and Trump’s presidential record. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, recounted her experience getting a preventive mastectomy because of her increased risk for breast cancer and said: “I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.” In reality, the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to weaken the Affordable Care Act, which protects millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. During their convention last week, Democrats criticized the administration for continuing to pursue a legal challenge to the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, amid a global pandemic.

Some of the president’s female advisers tried to paint a picture of a compassionate, open-minded president in an apparent attempt to win over female voters. McEnany recounted how the president called her after her mastectomy, and the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway applauded Trump for putting the women in his administration “on equal footing with the men”. The compliments were a clear effort to chip away at Biden’s double-digit advantage among women, which has buoyed the Democrat’s performance in swing state polls. However, the president’s advisers ignored the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against Trump (which he denies) and his history of referring to women as “dogs” and “fat pigs”. That record will almost certainly weigh more heavily on female voters’ minds when they head to the polls in November.

The unrest in Kenosha and Hurricane Laura somewhat overshadowed the third night of the convention. Minutes before the convention started, more sports leagues were announcing player strikes in response to the shooting of Blake. The NBA and the WNBA both postponed their games scheduled for Wednesday after players in the two basketball leagues refused to take the court, as a protest against racial inequality.

News networks also interrupted convention coverage to provide updates on Hurricane Laura, a dangerous category 4 storm that is set to strike the Gulf coast early on Thursday. Between the intensifying protests and the potentially catastrophic hurricane, the country seemed to be paying less attention to the Republican convention on Wednesday.

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