The Republican National Convention did three smart things, three dumb things — and offered the prospect of one big surprise: South Carolina may have finally won the Civil War.
I’ll explain shortly, but first, two of the dumb things: Donald Trump Jr. and his main squeeze, Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Fox anchor and current Trump campaign finance official, each of whom spoke, or screamed, Monday night.
If you didn’t know that the younger Trump was the president’s son, you’d quickly figure it out. Charm-wise, they’re clone-ish. (No, I didn’t mean clownish; that’s on you.) Junior’s other hidden virtues notwithstanding, he wouldn’t be my first pick for advancing, say, a positive, upbeat message.
Why are Trump men always so angry? Was it the baby rhino that got away?
Perhaps Junior was feeling defensive on his father’s behalf. Or, more likely, he looked frothy because his girlfriend is such a screamer. Guilfoyle’s perfectly awful speech was shouted rather than spoken to the empty room, as though it were filled with elderly men cupping their ears. Tips for aspiring public speakers: Always take the temperature of a room and adjust your volume accordingly. Also, the degree of one’s certitude does not require a commensurate level of decibels. Whatever the reasoning behind Guilfoyle’s frightening performance, she gave the impression of someone who could easily gnaw through the virtual realm and begin turning Democrats into dinner.
But dumber than dumb was spotlighting the St. Louis couple who pulled guns on protesters when they walked down their street en route to the nearby mayor’s home. Playing the second amendment card at a Republican convention is standard operating procedure, of course, but a better witness would be, say, a woman who stopped her would-be rapist with a bullet in the heat of terror.
Instead, the RNC decided to put the focus on Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who, by brandishing a rifle and a handgun toward peaceful protesters earlier this year, might not be widely viewed as paragons of good judgment. Kellyanne Conway should have vetoed that particular optic on her way out of the White House.
Speaking of smart, the RNC was wise to use the same stage for each speaker, giving the appearance of a convention rather than the glorified Zoom meeting we witnessed during last week’s Democratic “convention.” The smartest moves were including speakers Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Sen. Tim Scott, the only African American to be elected to both to the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate — ever.
Recounting his illiterate grandfather, who was forced to leave school in third grade to pick cotton, and his own rise to the Senate as an iconic spokesman for conservative principles, Scott said:
“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.” The American Dream doesn’t get much better.
Haley, too, has minority roots. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she grew up in the tiny town of Bamberg, South Carolina, where her mother and father wore a sari and turban. Haley was an object of curiosity who learned about racism first-hand. Her early experiences of Other-ness helped her decide as governor to push for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church.
As Scott and Haley related their stories in dulcet tones compared to the audio assaults of Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle, I couldn’t help thinking about a 2024 Haley/Scott ticket (never mind the possible electoral college difficulties), which brings me to the Civil War.
South Carolina, of course, could not — and should not — have won the War Between the States, the causes of which will forever remain a stain on the state’s history. But the victors’ purposes — to end slavery, restore the union and make more-true our founding fathers’ promises of equality — would seem to have reached something of a milestone were this once-proud secessionist state to fill a presidential ticket with a Black man and a Brown woman.
It would be unwise to ignore or dismiss either because of their association with Donald Trump. They’re Republicans, after all, and both Scott and Haley are as ambitious as they are talented. But everyone bred in the South learns early that good manners are key to opening doors. And insulting the leader of one’s own party bears no profit to the unwitting — or the rude.