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Politics Chat: Democratic National Convention Ends, Republicans Hold Theirs Next Week

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

After months of hand-wringing over the wheres and hows, party conventions are here. The Democratic National Convention was livestreamed over four nights, seemed to go smoothly, without balloon drops and bloated speeches. The Republican National Convention begins Monday.

NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Ron, so much of the coverage of Joe Biden for months really has focused on his gaffes, his age, policies on which he may be out of step with young progressives in his party. Do you think this week's convention reminded a lot of people how Biden has won elections for almost 50 years and won this year's primaries so convincingly?

ELVING: That was the intent, to be sure. Ever since conventions stopped actually picking the nominee, they've been basically TV shows, extended advertisements for the nominee. It's not politics so much as it's marketing.

And one reason the Democrats looked pretty good this week may have been because they were online. It gave them more control of the proceedings, no rowdy crowd, no sniping rival candidates, just a scripted and polished presentation of one guy's best traits and qualities. And, you know, Scott, the best moment of all may have been that video of that 13-year-old Brayden Harrington battling his stutter so he could pay tribute to the man who had helped him with it, Joe Biden, who has also struggled with stuttering.

SIMON: He's a remarkable young man. For Democrats who thought Joe Biden might be too old line, too bipartisan, did he convince them you don't have to out-trump President Trump to win?

ELVING: Let's think about that for a moment. What would it take to out-trump Trump? Maybe better to take a different approach, maybe a jujitsu approach where you use some of your opponent's forward energy and blunt force against him.

This is hardly the time for a bluster contest. We're losing a thousand Americans a day. The number of new unemployment claims is back up over a million a week. This is a moment for a president who listens, who cares and who isn't afraid to show empathy for others. That can be a kind of toughness in and of itself.

SIMON: Ron, what do you make of President Trump's acceptance this week and the support of QAnon, the bizarre bigoted group of ambiguous origins?

ELVING: This president has a very difficult time rejecting the support of anyone. Think back to Charlottesville three years ago and his reluctance to condemn the neo-Nazis and KKK wannabes who provoked that street riot. Just about anyone who tweets something nice about the president has a good chance at having him retweet it with approval.

So even QAnon, which has wild theories about Muslims and Jews and cannibals and pedophiles and even brings in the late John F. Kennedy Jr., saying he never died - this week, the president called them, quote, "the people that love our country," unquote, and said he, quote, "appreciates their support" because they like him very much.

SIMON: Republican National Convention starts Monday, some in-person events. We've seen 170,000 Americans and more dying of the coronavirus, more than any country in the world. Around 15 million Americans are still unemployed. What arguments do you expect the Republican convention sessions to offer to reelect President Trump?

ELVING: For starters, you're not going to be hearing much about those statistics you just mentioned, but there will be a blizzard of what one White House adviser once called alternative facts. That's because after seeming to get serious about the virus a few weeks ago, the president has returned to his particular mode of positive thinking, which is to say he's acting as if these problems will just go away.

So next week, we will hear about what a great job the White House has done on the virus and about the great economy we had last winter and how soon there will be a vaccine and then total economic recovery. And we will see a lot of video that is intended to change the subject about tape of protests in the United States' cities. And we can expect to hear a lot of bad things about Joe Biden, that he and his family are corrupt and about how the Democrats want to do away with borders and install socialism.

So fasten your seatbelt, Scott. It's going to be a bumpy week.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.