Since March the United States has been throttled by catastrophe followed by controversy.
According to John Hopkins University, the coronavirus has infected more than six million people and claimed the lives of more than 180,000 Americans.
The economic recession has forced many Americans to claim unemployment benefits for the first time. The total number of people claiming benefits surged to thirty million at its peak and fifty million in total.
Controversy struck when the death of George Floyd ignited nationwide protests against ongoing racial injustice in the criminal justice system.
The catastrophes and controversies of 2020 have contextualized the rhetoric advanced in the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and allowed on-lookers to peer into the election strategies presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will employ on their march to the November 3 election.
Democratic National Convention
Over the four days of the Democratic National Convention the Democrats needed to maintain their current momentum in the presidential race as former Vice President Joe Biden had built a significant 8.4-point lead over President Donald Trump.
The virtual venue of the convention communicated a key criticism of Trump– the coronavirus pandemic. The democrats and Biden have been vocal about their criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to handling the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaker Kristin Urquiza rose to national prominence after penning an obituary for her father that criticized politicians for not doing enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“My father was a healthy 65 years old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life,” said Urquiza.
The words of Urquiza also communicate a greater message to democratic voters many speakers tried to convey– unity around Biden against Trump.
In a withering critique of Trump, former President Barack Obama argued that Trump represented an existential threat to the United States.
“This president and those in power— those who benefit from keeping things the way they are— they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies, so they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter,” said Obama.
Former first lady Michelle Obama also offered a resounding criticism of Trump and his character.
“He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
Messages about social justice are present throughout the convention. The first day of the convention featured a moment of silence lead by the brothers of George Floyd and a meeting between prominent civil rights activists and Biden.
One of the clearest messages the Biden campaign put forth on its commitment to social justice was its vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, the first African-American and Asian-American running mate for the presidential nomination. Harris delivered her remarks on the third night.
“That I’m speaking here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me— women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty and justice for all.”
However, Harris also spoke against Trump’s character.
“We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together— Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous— to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden.”
Finally, the convention was capped off with a speech from Biden himself accepting the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.
Biden echoed the sentiments of previous convention speakers when addressing his opponent in the presidential race.
“This is a life-changing election. This is going to determine what America is going to look like for a long, long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy they’re all on the ballot.”
The clear strategy from democrats is to attack the character and accomplishments of the Trump administration. By keying in to the three major catastrophes and controversies of the year the Biden campaign hopes to scale the mountain of the presidency.
Republican National Convention
The Trump administration has seemingly suffered only losses in its fight to attain re-election this year.
The coronavirus pandemic and accusations of racism and inaction have tanked the Trump administration’s approval ratings to the current gulf between itself and Biden. Over the course of the convention the strategy of the Trump campaign would be to tap into the fears of white voters about violent protesters and painting the Biden campaign as socialist.
Speakers such as Representative, Steve Scalise stoked fears about social justice activism across the U.S. by painting the Biden campaign and Democrats at large in misleading or false statements.
“Joe Biden has embraced the left’s insane mission to defund the police,” a statement which has been confirmed to be false by New York Times writer Thomas Kaplan.
Other statements seeking to stoke fears about the Democratic Party Platform come from Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida.
“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door and the police aren’t coming when you call,” none of which the Democratic Party platform or the Biden campaign endorse according to writers for the New York Times, Linda Qiu and Rebecca R. Ruiz.
However, not all speakers for the Republican party took a negative tone.
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina preached positivity and the promise of America and his own personal story about struggle and the American dream. Scott spoke to the changes in the South since segregation and his experience getting elected to Congress in 2010 as the only black Republican.
This positivity was overshadowed by the days following the first night of the convention due to the controversies of the potential Hatch Act violations by the Trump campaign.
Critics have levied several accusations that the use of the South White House Lawn by Trump for his acceptance speech constituted an illegal use of government property for campaigning purposes. Additionally, questions have surfaced about a major norm which was broken on the third night of the convention when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke despite his role as a federal employee.
Further controversy came to the Trump campaign when a CNN fact checker declared that he counted over twenty false or misleading statements.
One particularly egregious statement claims that Trump has done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, in the time period between the Abraham Lincoln administration and the Trump administration including civil rights legislation such as the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act, which were signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.