Heading into this week’s Republican National Convention, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel promised the proceedings would be a sharp contrast from the “doom and gloom” on display during last week’s Democratic National Convention.
True to her word—aside from frequently lingering on the damage wrought by looters and rioters and doomcasting the apocalypse to come if Joe Biden is elected—the RNC did depict a rosier vision of America.
In fact, it was only too rosy.
Watching the endless parade of speakers across the past four nights, one would scarcely piece together the fact that 181,000 Americans and counting have died from COVID-19. One might not realize that this level of death was far from assured, that the U.S. mortality rate, as a proportion of the population, is among the 10 highest in the world. One certainly would not know that President Trump dismissed early calls for action as a political maneuver from the Democrats, regularly suggested the virus would just go away “like a miracle” as recently as this past month, left sweeping decisions up to the governors of each state, and sent contradictory messages such as “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” to a scared populace unsure whether the lockdown was working or not. (It was.)
The convention speakers painted a picture of the coronavirus as an all-but-conquered foe, for whose defeat we have Donald Trump to thank. This image corresponded perfectly with the victory fireworks Trump’s team blasted off in the wake of his convention-closing speech.
But this was the moment a group of protesters best reflected the overwhelming unreality of the event.
Donald Trump & the RNC’s fireworks show to end the convention last night.
What a visual.
2020, y’all… pic.twitter.com/eQOeuidtUE
— Rex Chapman???????? (@RexChapman) August 28, 2020
As the imitation of rockets’ red glare lit up the sky behind the Washington Monument, protesters stood in the foreground, holding up phosphorescent letters that spell “Trump failed. 180,000+ died.” This simple scene sums up the paradox of Team Trump celebrating their signature self-inflicted disaster as a triumph over adversity.
It was an image that generated some fireworks on social media, where it was widely shared by a schadenfreude-stuffed Hillary Clinton.
The RNC may have indeed been relatively devoid of doom and gloom, but it was still on hand the whole time, roiling furiously, just out of frame.