Since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency, he has regularly attacked politicians as incompetent. Republican and Democratic politicians alike have been excoriated by Trump with Hillary Clinton receiving his toughest criticisms for her work as Secretary of State. When he becomes president, Trump argues, he will clean up the domestic and foreign policy messes because of his competent leadership.
Trump and his surrogates routinely tout the business successes of Donald Trump, including his competence at everything from operating a piece of heavy equipment on a job site to negotiating a deal. Convention speakers from the business world have consistently praised Trump’s competence in all business matters and make the claim that this will make Trump an effective president.
The convention itself, both in terms of planning and execution, should give voters pause about Trump’s premise that he is the most competent person to lead the country and that other leaders, particularly Hillary Clinton, lack both the character and competence to fix the country’s problems.
Last Saturday Governor Mike Pence was named as Donald Trump’s running mate. At the same time stories were circulating in the media that Trump had second thoughts about Pence as late as midnight the night before he was named as his running mate. This decision, long considered to be the first important decision made by the presumptive nominee should have been an easy one for Trump who has been proclaimed to be an excellent judge of talent in the business world and someone whose visibility was enhanced by his long-running reality show “The Apprentice” in which he chose a strong leader for the Trump Organization.
Once the convention began, the behaviors of Trump and those close to him again raise questions of his competence as a leader. On Monday, Melanie Trump’s speech which plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 address and was written by Trump Organization employee Meredith McIver demonstrated the basic inattention to detail by Trump and his people that should signal problems should a Trump administration take office.
The invitation to Ted Cruz to speak at the Republican Convention without a promise of an official endorsement demonstrates Trump’s lack of understanding about politics, but also poor managerial competence. Cruz’s blatant snub of Trump was troubling itself, but considering that the Trump team had his speech text two hours prior to the address and neither Trump or his people intervened is inexcusable for an event that was supposed to project party unity.
There are other examples of incompetence in terms of executing the convention, such as the selection of poor speakers or a schedule that simply dragged and deflated delegates and guests alike. For a candidate who wants to shake up the political system, the 2016 Republican Convention seemed like a poor rendition of previous conventions.
At some point in the presidential campaign, voters, including Trump supporters, must address whether the rhetoric of Trump’s competence as a leader matches the reality of his inattention to detail, poor planning, poor management of employees, and other characteristics that people use to judge this quality.
It became apparent to me soon after I arrived at the Republican National Convention that many Republicans don’t really want Donald Trump to win the presidency of the United States. Instead, they want revenge, pure and simple.
As the recent Washington Post/ABC poll indicates, Donald Trump its considered less qualified by most voters (Washington Post/ABC Poll on Qualifications of Trump and Clinton) and other surveys have indicated that Trump’s approval rating, even among Republicans is under water.Yet, as the Post poll and others indicate, the Trump-Clinton race is very tight.
When I attend conventions, I spend more time watching the crowd in the arena than listening to the speeches. Rarely do the speeches deviate from the talking points and themes well established over the previous year. I want to see what gets convention attendees to get out of their seats. In 2016 Republicans the idea that activates Republicans is the revenge fantasy that Hillary Clinton will be imprisoned for past actions.
During the speeches, delegates and guests will often break out into chants of “Lock Her Up.” Sometimes these are prompted by speakers, while at other times, the crowd will do this even while the speakers are talking about something else, including Donald Trump.
Last night several speakers tried to extol Donald Trump’s virtues as a candidate and potential president. The Trump children–Tiffany and Donald, Jr.–told warm stories of the candidate as father and mentor. Chris Christie talked about his 14-year friendship with Trump and the general manager of Trump Winery spoke about Trump’s managerial advice. These speeches were politely received.
The delegates and guests responded with emotion primarily when Hillary Clinton’s name was invoked, especially when Chris Christie prosecuted Clinton for her behaviors as Secretary of State and Ben Carson discussed Clinton’s admiration for Saul Alinsky and his praise of Lucifer. It was during these speeches that the loudest and most sustained chants of “Lock Her Up” happened.
Even beyond the arena itself, it is clear that Republicans want to punish Hillary Clinton and, by extension, President Barack Obama, more than they really want to elect Donald Trump. Although there were plenty of Trump t-shirts and other campaign swag being sold and worn, the number of t-shirts and buttons proclaiming to want Clinton jailed or worse was running a close second. Plus, the loudest protestors were often ones who claimed to have additional evidence of Clinton’s treason.
One of my students asked me, in a serious tone, whether Republicans would intimate impeachment proceedings soon after Inauguration Day should Clinton be elected. My initial response was to rationally say why this would never happen. After being in Cleveland, however, my response was “I hope not.”