(CN) — The Republican National Convention on Wednesday heavily featured attacks on Democrats and President Donald Trump’s focus on “law and order” just one day after a 17-year-old white Illinois resident allegedly shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Second Lady Karen Pence headlined the first half of Wednesday night’s programming, choosing to remember the women’s suffrage movement on the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“100 years ago, today, the 19th Amendment was adopted into the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote,” she said. “Because of heroes like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone, women today, like our daughters, Audrey and Charlotte, and future generations, will have their voices heard and their votes count.”
As a member of a military family herself, Pence switched gears to thank military spouses for their sacrifices.
“President Trump and Vice President Pence have been supporting our United States Armed Forces, including our military families, on a significant scale,” she said.
“And as the Second Lady, I’ve also been able to bring awareness to a form of therapy for our heroic veterans suffering from PTSD,” she added.
Her comments came minutes after the American Civil Liberties Union announced a class action lawsuit on behalf of veterans who say federal authorities unlawfully used excessive force to deprive them of their protest rights.
The action arose after a video showing veteran Christopher David being beaten and pepper-sprayed by federal authorities went viral out of Portland, Oregon last month.
“In these difficult times, we’ve all seen so many examples of everyday Americans reaching out a hand to those in need, those who “in humility have considered others more important than themselves,” Pence added during her Wednesday night address, giving a shoutout to healthcare workers, teachers, first responders, mental health providers, law enforcement officers, grocery and delivery workers and farmers.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem had kicked off the night by slamming Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his party.
“I’m here tonight because I believe America is an exceptional nation founded on three principles – equality, freedom, and opportunity,” Noem said. “But today, our founding principles are under attack.”
This year, she said, the choice for Americans is “between a man who values these ideals and all that can be built because of them and a man who isn’t guided by these ideals and coincidentally, has built nothing.”
“The edgier part of the presentations tonight was the sharpening of their argument that Republicans are the party of American values and traditions and Democrats aren’t,” Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, told Courthouse News on Wednesday.
Echoing a claim made by Trump, Noem told viewers that “Democratic-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs.”
After quoting Abraham Lincoln’s warning against “savage mobs,” Noem said, “He was concerned for the people who had seen their property destroyed, their families attacked, and their lives threatened or even taken away. These good people were becoming tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offered them no protection.”
“Sound familiar?” she asked.
Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn told the RNC that she was there to talk about “another kind of hero” — a kind of hero that, she claims, goes unrecognized by Democrats.
Accusing Democrats of wanting to “cancel” law enforcement officers, Blackburn warned viewers that chaos would ensue should Biden win the November election.
“If the Democrats had their way, they would keep you locked in your house until you become dependent on the government for everything. That sounds a lot like Communist China to me —maybe that’s why Joe Biden is so soft on them,” she said.
As Blackburn and Noem spoke, Kenosha, Wisconsin was entering a third night of unrest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by an officer.
The Trump administration hours earlier authorized sending National Guard troops from other states to Wisconsin to quell the protests.
This follows a series of Black Lives Matter protests, which have occurred across the country since May.
Donning a forest green “Make Logging Great Again” hat, Scott Dane, the executive director of Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota, applauded the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks.
“Under Obama-Biden, radical environmentalists were allowed to kill the forests. Wildfire after wildfire shows the consequences. Managed Forests—the kind my people work in, are healthy forests,” he said, crediting the current president for bettering the lives of those in the logging industry.
Later in the night, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, sharing an intimate story of her preventative mastectomy, touted Trump as a person who loves mothers and those with preexisting conditions.
“I want my daughter to grow up in President Donald Trump’s America,” she said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, both applauded Trump during Wednesday night’s convention for “elevating” women.
“He has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government. He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions and insists that we are on equal footing with the men,” said Conway, a senior adviser who managed the president’s campaign in 2016.
In just a few days, Conway is expected to leave her post at the White House, citing a need to focus on her family.
Despite the president’s poor record when it comes to women, Lara Trump told the RNC that to her father-in-law, “Gender didn’t matter, what mattered was someone’s ability to get the job done.”
“So, it didn’t surprise me,” she said, “when President Donald Trump appointed the most women to senior level positions of any administration in history. The Secretary of the United Nations, Secretary of the Air Force, the first female CIA Director, the first African American female director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and countless ambassadors, just to name a few,” she said.
Vice President Mike Pence accepted his formal nomination for a second term from Baltimore’s Fort McHenry where he called for an end to violence during protests.
“Let me be clear, the violence must stop – whether in Minnesota, Portland or Kenosha,” Pence said, “We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
“Unsurprising that Mike Pence would hit the ‘law and order’ slash ‘only Donald Trump can keep you safe’ theme with violent unrest in Wisconsin. But, the numbers suggest that this theme is just not going to do it for them,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at NC State University, told Courthouse News over email on Wednesday.
Citing fellow political scientist John Sides and a Gallup poll from Aug. 21, Greene noted that just 4% of Americans consider violence or crime to be the most important issue in the country, while 47% cited coronavirus or the economy.
“It somewhat reminds me of 1996 where Bob Dole tried to convince the country that the election was about character, not the strong economic tailwinds at President Clinton’s back,” Green said. “Well, Dole won overwhelmingly among those claiming character to be among the most important issues, but they were a small fraction of the electorate. “
He added, “Trump and his campaign can rage about ‘law and order’ all they want, but in the present circumstances, that strikes me as very unlikely to win him the election.”
The vice president on Wednesday also spent time refuting Biden’s assertion that the Trump administration has failed to protect Americans from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 170,000 in the U.S.
“Last week, Joe Biden said that ‘no miracle’ is coming. But what Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles,” Pence, who is the head of the White House coronavirus task force, told the tightly gathered crowd of attendees.
Additionally, the nominee praised Trump’s domestic and national security policies.
Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who serves as the National Security Advisor to Pence, had also applauded Trump’s national security strategy earlier in the evening.
“When President Donald Trump took office, decades of failed foreign policy had crippled us. He faced wars without end in sight, creation of failed states like Libya and Syria, a past that allowed a terrorist caliphate to grow, and leadership in Washington that allowed our military to atrophy while we spent trillions of dollars abroad instead of investing at home,” Kellogg said.
He credited the president for reversing a decline of the U.S. Military “with historic investment and vision.”
Noting that he was in the room while Trump made “every major foreign policy and national security decision,” Kellogg praised the president for his recent brokering of a peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and his strike on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
But, Kellogg said Trump “is no hawk.” Rather, “He wisely wields the sword when required, but believes in seeking peace instead of perpetual conflict.”
“It strikes me as highly unlikely that the convention will change many minds either for or against President Trump,” Greene said. “The best evidence suggests conventions rarely change many minds. And, in this base-oriented convention, it seems that perhaps fewer minds than usual.”