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Students Reflect on Unconventional Conventions

Eliza Fisher ‘23, Assistant Features Editor

At the start of the school year on September 9th, there were just 55 days until the 2020 presidential election. Over the last couple of weeks, the Republican and Democratic parties each hosted a convention to finalize their choice for presidential and vice-presidential nominees. As with many aspects of life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, these conventions looked a bit different this year. 

At the Democratic National Convention, party representatives from all over America appeared in pre-recorded speeches wearing masks and keeping their distance from others. Joe Biden gave his speech and accepted his nomination in his home state, Delaware. 

The Republican National Convention used pre-recorded speeches as well, and President Trump was formally renominated during a role call gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina. During the last night of the Republican National Convention, speeches were held on the White House lawn in front of approximately 1,500 guests.  Though the White House said that attendees had been tested for the virus, social distancing was minimal and masks were absent. 

Although not yet able to vote, many Heschel high school students are passionate about politics and watched these conventions. When asked which speaker from the conventions stood out to him, sophomore Joe Lyss mentioned Kimberly Guilfoyle, who spoke at the Republican National Convention. Lyss, who describes himself as “a more moderate liberal” viewed Guilfoyle’s speech as an attempt to display how Biden is going to “wreck this country,” a notion he sees as “just false.” 

When asked the same question, senior Mark Adler, a leader of the Young Conservatives Club, stated, “I thought Obama gave a fantastic speech in support of Joe Biden, and I personally thought he gave the best speech from the Democratic convention. Trump’s speech was classic Trump, and he hit on a lot of points I think will help him win this election, mainly attacking Biden for his record as a politician and stressing how well the economy was doing before the pandemic hit.” 

Senior Maya Lukeman, who identifies as a moderate Democrat/Independent, commented on the Republican party’s decision to include husband and wife Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who had recently been charged for waving their guns on the lawn of their backyard as Black Lives Matter protesters passed by. “Their actions were disgusting and inviting them to speak is like promoting their threats of violence,” said Lukeman, who also felt disturbed that the Republican party wanted citizens faced with felony charges for unlawful usage of weapons to be their representatives. 

Junior Zoe Cosgrove, another leader of the Young Conservatives Club, was particularly impressed by Nikki Haley’s speech at the Republican National Convention. Cosgrove stated, “She did not start throwing around insults and bashing the other party. Rather, she just spoke on her own party’s goals.”

What Cosgrove saw in Nikki Haley was not something often seen throughout these conventions. A common strategy was to portray the other party in a negative light. “The Republicans portrayed the Democrats as lawless, and the Democrats portrayed Trump as power hungry and greedy,” Lyss said. Similarly, Adler noticed that the Democrats were focused on displaying how “Trump sucks,” which he believes to be an effective campaign strategy. “The Republicans, on the other hand,” explained Adler, “stressed the point of “Law and Order” and tried to portray the Democrats and Joe Biden as weak on crime.”

In terms of following social distancing guidelines, the two conventions took different routes, the Democratic party complying with the safety measures more than the Republican party. Lukeman called attention to the lack of social distancing at the Republic National Convention, saying, “The fact that there are positive COVID-19 tests traced back to the convention speaks for itself.”

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007307788/republican-national-convention-highlights.html

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/08/24/rnc-roll-call-wrap-jmvf-orig.cnn/video/playlists/2020-rnc-night-1/

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/the-st-louis-couple-charged-with-waving-guns-at-protesters-have-a-long-history-of/article_281d9989-373e-53c3-abcb-ecd0225dd287.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/photos-crowd-maskless-convention-white-house-trump-speech-social-distancing-2020-8

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