Trump gets Republican nomination and claims election being rigged

By: AFP      Published: 01:04 PM, 25 Aug, 2020
Trump gets Republican nomination and claims election being rigged

President Donald Trump opened his bid for a second term after securing the Republican nomination Monday in typically combative fashion by claiming Democrats want to "steal" the election that polls currently show him losing.

Minutes after the party completed the nomination vote confirming Trump as the candidate on November 3, he appeared at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to deliver a rambling, often dark speech lasting close to an hour.

From the opening words, he told Republicans to be on alert for what he claimed was a Democratic plan to rig the contest through increased use of mail-in voting -- a measure Democrats say is needed to protect people from catching COVID-19 in crowded polling stations. 

"They are trying to steal the election," he told party delegates. "The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election."

Opponents say Trump's increasingly extreme resistance to expanded mail-in voting -- a method already used widely in the United States -- is an attempt to suppress voter turnout, while setting up an excuse to challenge the result if he is defeated.

Polls show Trump losing to Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who had his Democratic convention last week, as Americans turn on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic chaos. 

- Family affair -

Trump hopes the convention, which concludes Thursday with his formal acceptance of the nomination, will shift voters' attention from the coronavirus to what he says is the "super-V" shaped economic recovery.

As a veteran of reality TV, Trump is convinced that the more he gets on stage the better for changing the narrative in his favor.

So while incumbents usually keep away from their party conventions until the final night, Trump immediately took over the event in Charlotte, which had been drastically scaled back due to COVID-19 precautions.

He then flew to the North Carolina town of Mills River with his daughter Ivanka to give another speech, declaring "the great American comeback is underway."

Trump is expected to make more live television appearances on each of the four days of the convention ahead of his acceptance speech at the White House.

His children, including Ivanka and right-wing firebrand son Don Jr, will also be giving convention speeches. First Lady Melania Trump will address the nation from the White House's Rose Garden on Tuesday.

- Stretching etiquette rules -

In addition to suffering from broad unpopularity, Trump is weighed down by ever-growing turmoil and scandal around his administration.

Former chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested last week on fraud charges and a current top advisor, Kellyanne Conway, announced late Sunday that she is stepping down shortly to spend time with her family.

The Republican insists, however, that he can replicate his surprise 2016 win -- and hopes the convention will put the wind in his sails.

"This week we will take our case to the American people," Vice President Mike Pence told delegates ahead of Trump's arrival, promising to "make America great again -- again."

Trump's use of the White House as a setting for the acceptance speech will be a dramatic show of political muscle, but it tramples over the custom of separating political campaigns from the office of president.

In another move stretching etiquette, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make a speech on his behalf while conducting an official trip to Israel.

- God, jobs and guns -

Biden is tapping into unhappiness with the president's handling of the pandemic, unrest over racial inequality and fear of longterm economic damage from the coronavirus shutdown.

Beyond bread and butter issues, Trump's abrasive style, his habit of insulting people in public, his demonization of journalists and almost total inability to talk to Democratic leaders has left the country divided and exhausted.

In a potential new flashpoint, protests erupted in the critical electoral state of Wisconsin after police there shot a black man in the back. While details were still unclear, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers compared the incident to others where outrage has erupted over excessive use of force.

Now, Trump is attempting to reclaim the high ground with an emphasis on restoring the economy and getting America back to work.

But the sunny tone is already getting overshadowed by his usual lurid claims that Democrats want to take away Americans' firearms, unleash anarchy in the streets, encourage mass illegal immigration, and repress religious freedom.

"They want no guns. They want no oil and gas. They want no God," he told the crowd in Charlotte.

Gun couple warns GOP convention

Were they exercising their constitutional rights, or recklessly asserting their white privilege? The couple who brandished guns at protesters and were rewarded with speaking slots at the Republican convention embody the culture wars gripping America.

And in their few minutes in the TV spotlight they painted a dangerous, dark vision of America, where suburbanites will be under threat if President Donald Trump is not re-elected.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey made world headlines in late June when they pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters peacefully marching past their columned mansion on a private St. Louis street as part of demonstrations against racial injustice.

Video of the barefoot couple went viral, and the McCloskeys, both in their early sixties, were charged with felony unlawful use of weapons.

The McCloskeys have become key exhibits in a tense national debate involving race and the widening socio-economic divides, and Trump invited them to speak Monday on his party's largely virtual convention's opening night.

Instead of arguing in good faith about American gun rights, they parroted the president's fearful messaging that a Biden administration would unleash an invasion of the suburbs.

"What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country," Patricia McCloskey, sitting next to her husband, warned viewers in video remarks.

"Make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America."

The decision to feature them at the convention has drawn both praise and revulsion. 

The McCloskeys are law-abiding heroes to those who see them as die-hard supporters of 2nd Amendment gun rights defending their home against potential trespassers.

But many view them as villains -- wealthy white lawyers who threatened violence against people who did not look like them.

- 'We did nothing wrong' -

"I thought we were going to die," Mark McCloskey told Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, on her podcast last month. "We did nothing wrong and we're not going to back down."

The confrontation occurred during a wave of demonstrations over police brutality and racism prompted by the police killing in Minneapolis of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

Trump has branded himself the "law and order" president in a bid to claw back ground against Democrat Joe Biden, who leads in polling.

The president has openly warned that Biden policies on low-income housing would "destroy suburbia" -- comments that Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who is black, deemed "blatantly racist."

The McCloskeys live in the wealthy enclave of Central West End, 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Ferguson, Missouri, the majority-black community where riots erupted in 2014 after a white policeman shot and killed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown.

"They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities, they want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning," Patricia told the convention.

The McCloskeys are known to flex their legal muscles against multiple parties.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, they have sued relatives for defamation and neighbors for altering a road, filed squatter's rights for land they have hostilely occupied, and destroyed bee hives placed outside their mansion by a Jewish congregation whose children were preparing to harvest the honey for Rosh Hashanah.