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The Republican National Convention: pushing string

In tone, style and spectacle, the last night of the Republican 2020 convention was indeed intended to be a show-stopper, a red carpet Oscar night, attended by the GOP glitterati, some 1,500, formally dressed, seated shoulder-to-shoulder on folding white chairs across the White House south lawn. Only a few masks were in evidence. This was clearly a post-pandemic moment, and whatever the suffering and pain the coronavirus had inflicted, this trifecta of awful — more than 184,000 deaths, an economy fragmented, and protesters once again demanding change — was now over.

Those in the gathered crowd waited for the president and first lady to walk from the second story White House balcony and down a winding staircase to a raised dais where Donald Trump would walk to the podium and deliver his speech, accepting the nomination of his party for the presidency. It was a royal entrance, made before a luminous, flag-bedecked White House. This was not the “house of the people,” it was a palace created for royalty.

What awaited them was an uber-rally, and those in the audience, MAGA supporters all, were prepared to cheer and clap and chant, “Four more years,” “USA, USA,” each of them creating a nimbus of aerosolized droplets that could potentially carry what would not be named. That this gathering could possibly represent a super-spreader event was beyond consideration. Denial was writ large.

But then this night, this speech by Trump, was not intended to delineate the Republican Party’s vision or policies for the next four years. The Republican National Committee had made the decision to eliminate a platform and turn their four-night nominating convention into a worshipful coming together of the tribe, a rally of those who have chosen to give their full-throated endorsement to this man who would be king, their Faustian bargain now complete. By their presence they were affirming the past four years, making known their shrugging indifference to the corruption, criminality, racial animus and chronic dissembling of this administration.

Regarding the abandonment of any Republican platform, it has become manifestly clear that the GOP is what Steve Benen, in his book “The Impostor: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics,” refers to as a “post-policy” party. They are not interested in the substance of governance or using the levers of power to advance the common good or crafting needed legislation either domestic or foreign. And know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has embraced the moniker of “grim reaper,” meaning he takes pride in killing all legislation, often bipartisan, sent from the House to the Senate, where it is left to languish. Consider the House’s Heroes Act, a $3 trillion package to address the damage inflicted by COVID-19, which arrived on McConnell’s desk last May and declared “dead on arrival.”

But if post-policy grievance governance is the Republican posture, then Donald Trump is the quintessential president for the moment. As Benen points out, he is not inclined to devote the attention, focus or interest necessary to the process of developing and executing policy. And his studied indifference to the intricacies of what is a complex and demanding job has resulted in sustained chaos and incoherence as well as an abiding sense that he is profoundly out of his depth. No matter the issue.

Tragically, we face a once-in-a-century crisis that demands leadership that is unparalleled. What we are offered instead, in the words of Benen, is a White House, cum GOP, that is “hostile toward evidence and arithmetic. It is tethered to few, if any, meaningful policy preferences. It does not know and does not care about how competing proposals should be crafted, scrutinized or implemented.”

And so we wait for November as this virus continues and Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, arms defensively crossed, pushing string, needing a rally while insisting on four more years.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.