Quite the most striking feature of Melania Trump’s performance at the Republican convention was her sprited essay towards damage control in the wake of Donald Trump’s impetuous policies and utterances, not to forget the callous indifference towards the pandemic. Chief among the points the First Lady has raised must be her robust expression of sympathy for the victims of Covid-19 and the passionate plea for racial understanding.
The Trump administration has failed on both counts. It is pretty obvious that she has tried to woo women voters who, after four years, would appear to have abandoned the incumbent at the White House. Opinion polls reveal that college-educated women, a critical segment in the electoral construct, are thoroughly disenchanted by the President’s decidedly combative style of governance.
The tone of her speech, marked as it was by profound empathy, ran counter to the harsh rhetoric against the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. She has acknowledged the pain of the pandemic in refreshing contrast to most other speakers, pre-eminently her husband, now going through the seemingly wrap-up motions of his presidency. “My deepest sympathy goes out to everone who has lost a loved one. I want to acknowledge that since March, our lives have changed drastically”, with deaths inching towards the 200,000 mark.
In the aftermath of the brutal killing of George Floyd and the raging tension in Portland, Mrs Trump hit the bull’s eye by dwelling on the racial violence that has roiled the United States of America. “I urge the people not to make assumptions based on the colour of a person’s skin. I also ask people to stop the violence and looting in the name of religion”. Notable, therefore, is her balanced matrix to address a hideously sensitive issue. While it is open to question whether her speech will shore up President Trump’s battered image, the spirited presentation is bound to resonate in the echo chambers of the White House.
Markedly, the address was delivered on a day when the Republicans tried to reshape the narrative around the economy by largely ignoring the grim reality, i.e. that millions of jobs were lost because of the coronavirus pandemic. On the opening day, Republicans reached out to their conservative core supporters by projecting a bleak scenario under a Biden leadership. This was decidedly presumptuous, most particularly in contrast to what Mrs Trump told delegates. On his part, the President, a former reality television star, has blurred the distinction between government and politics by using the White House as a venue to promote his strenuous attempt at re-election. He starred in videos featuring a naturalisation ceremony and the signing of a pardon to suggest that he is not anti-immigrant or a hardliner on crime. For all that, it shall not be easy for the President to digest the home-truths advanced by the First Lady at the ruling party’s convention.