IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the press briefing at the White House on July 30, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

Unsure of its message, GOP relies on a series of contradictions

As one observer put it, "The Republican National Convention should have come with a safety warning -- beware of whiplash."


When it became clear in the spring that Joe Biden would win the Democratic nomination, Donald Trump called the former vice president a "moderate." Four days later, the Republican incumbent added that Biden is "left wing." How did the president reconcile the contradiction? By ignoring it.

When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was added to the Democratic ticket a few weeks ago, leading GOP voices told voters that the senator is both too far to the left and too centrist to be trusted by those on the far-left. Soon after, Republicans accused Harris of being both a socialist and the choice of Wall Street.

This week, as the L.A. Times noted, the contradictions are coming at a dizzying clip.

The Republican National Convention should have come with a safety warning -- beware of whiplash. Throughout the opening of their party extravaganza, Republicans zigzagged between conflicting messages in a frantic effort to bruise Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee who is leading President Trump in the polls.

At times this week, it's been tough to keep track of what we're supposed to think. Is Joe Biden too tough on criminals or too weak? Is Donald Trump eager to appeal to Black voters or eager to keep Black families out of American suburbs? Is "cancel culture" a Trump favorite or a national scourge?

Does the president support increased immigration or decreased? It was hard to tell last night when Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony that was largely at odds with his own White House policy demands.

Does the president support using American military might or is he determined to bring U.S. troops home and keep them out of foreign entanglements? We've heard both messages this week, and when the president's campaign released a series of bulleted second-term priorities, it said Trump intends to "stop endless wars" while simultaneously vowing to "expand America's unrivaled military strength."

I'd turn to the Republican Party's official platform to help bring some clarity to the contradictions, but for the first time since 1856, GOP officials decided not to bother writing one.

There's certainly something to be said for trying to appeal to as many voters as possible, and there's ample precedent for candidates trying to be "all things to all people." But in 2020, Trump and his team don't appear to be executing some kind of broad-based strategy, but rather, they appear to be just throwing assorted ideas at a wall, hoping something will stick.

They don't seem to mind the contradictions, and by all appearances, Republicans don't even seem to notice their existence.

The party had months to carefully craft the message of this convention. It was not time well spent.