Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson: The RNC edition

Aug 25, 2020

Columnist Eugene Robinson will be online every Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern for Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson, where he'll talk about the latest political and cultural developments. Catch up on the transcript of his latest chat below.

Read Eugene Robinson's columns or catch up on past Eugene Robinson Live chats.

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Hi, everybody, and welcome to our weekly chat, RNC edition. Well, did you watch last night? The rhetoric was a bit... apocalyptic, wouldn't you say? I never thought of Joe Biden as the reincarnation of Lenin (or is it Trotsky?). Unfortunately for the GOP, neither did anyone else in the entire country. You can try to paint Biden as a lot of things, but fang-baring socialist isn't one of them. Parts of the Haley and Scott speeches at least attempted to appeal beyond the Trumpist base, but the rest of the evening was all fear-mongering about how the Democrats are going to install MS-13 next to your suburban home (they really said that) and embarrassing, North Korean-style hagiography of Dear Leader Trump. All very weird. And that speech by Kimberly Guilfoyle? Weirder. It was the kind of oratory that only works when delivered from a balcony after a successful coup. In an empty auditorium? Not so much. I find it hard to imagine that the Trump campaign believes it actually moved the needle last night, but maybe that wasn't the point. Maybe the idea was to make Trump feel good. Meanwhile, back in the real world, we're dealing the aftermath of another shocking police killing captured on video -- this one of Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back. How many times... Let's get started.

Seems to me they have just capitulated to having a dictator. No platform? Just do what Trump wants to do? Are you as appalled as I am? Your thoughts?

I've been appalled for the past four years. This is no longer the Republican Party. It no longer even has a platform that sets out its philosophy and programs. The party now supports whatever it is that President Trump wants to do on a given day. It is the Trump Party now.

I keep wondering what Republicans think they'll have at the end of all this? They are systematically dismantling or sabotaging all the things that made us a world power internationally, not to mention their assault on the institutions and norms that made us a free and open society here at home. Do you understand what they think they'll have left after they finish tearing everything down and tearing everyone apart? Thanks for taking questions.

This is an excellent question, and I don't know the answer. What on earth do they think the end game is? What do you have left, for example, when you weaken NATO to Putin's liking? Do they even think in terms of five years from now, or even five months from now? There is no evidence that they do.

I fervently hope Trump is defeated in November. My fears are about the chaos he an create -- both socially and legislatively -- until Jan. 20, 2021.

That is something we will just have to endure. But if he loses the election, he will indeed be gone on Inauguration Day. 

Will this ever be over or more efforts made to stop? My sensibilities say that this type of behavior is fueled by Trump ugly rhetoric. But what is happening with those doing the killing? Do they just not care? My thought is know that we as black folks are STILL three fifths of a person.

These killings were happening before Trump came on the scene, and I fear they will continue after he's gone. There is a deeper problem, one that goes back 400 years, and it has to do with the way that brown skin is seen as a threat and a crime. That's what has to change.

If the USPS, under the direction of Mr. DeJoy, is taking actions that could delay absentee ballots from being received on time (I'm being polite here), could this be appealed to the federal elections commission? To any other agency? How can we be pro-active?

The only realistic remedy is that Congress holds DeJoy's feet to the fire. Which the House is doing. The Postal Service delivers an enormous quantity of mail on-time, and there is no reason why absentee ballots cannot be delivered when they need to be. I hope and believe that dedicated postal workers will make sure those ballots get to their destinations in time to be counted.

Do you feel Dejoy is another Trump puppet? Is he lying under oath? Will Trump ever go to prison after his term is over? Is he involved in money laundering with Putin?

The thing that's fundamentally unacceptable about DeJoy is that he doesn't understand the nature or the mission of the postal service. At one point during the House hearing, he asked, "Am I the only person here who sees that we have a $10 billion deficit?" He misses the big picture. The postal service is not a private business that has to make a profit -- or break even. It is a service, made available to all Americans. We have an annual federal budget of more than $4 trillion. Surely $10 billion can be found in there somewhere to subsidize this vital service. As for the president's potential legal jeopardy, you'll have to ask the New York attorney general. Or the Manhattan District Attorney. Or the Southern District of New York.

Trump's bluster of rigged, disastrous, etc, election leads me to believe he is laying the groundwork for an excuse to not leave the Whitehouse if he loses. Question is, are there mechanisms in place to make sure he departs along with his toadies and the country moves forward with a new administration?

Yes. It's the Constitution, supplemented by federal law. If Joe Biden wins the election (meaning he is chosen by the Electoral College when it meets in December), he becomes president when he is sworn in at noon on January 20. At that point, he can have former president Trump removed bodily from the White House premises, if necessary.

If police have nothing to hide, why do they continue to perform their jobs without body cameras? Seriously, why aren't all police required to wear one whenever on duty, preferably one without an officer-controlled on/off switch? Why wouldn't such unfiltered video; especially if regularly reviewed with the right kind of supervision, assist in teaching police to act with empathy and humanity toward the people they police? I mean, if we want to change the m/o of policing from warrior/army/soldier back to being empathetic and human "peace officers", shouldn't this be an easy step to take?

It should be an easy step. But not all police departments have been willing to take it. That must change.

Thanks for giving us a soapbox. I know you always urge people to vote, but they can also help get out the vote with calls to others Americans in battleground states. I signed up to do that for my 93-year old Mom's sake, who MUST live to see Trump defeated. (Not that long ago she made me feel 10-years old again, scolding me for saying "hell", yet last night watching the RNC wrote down "J.C., things can't get any worse", as close as she gets to cussing.) I hope you'll not only encourage folks to vote, but to also to volunteer their time with calls that help fellow citizens make a safe plan to cast a ballot and be sure their vote is counted.

Yes indeed, please help others vote safely and make sure their votes and counted. And those of you who are young and in good health should think about volunteering to work the polls on Election Day, filling the role of retirees for whom the risk of covid-19 may be too great.

Another inexcusable murder (oxymoron?) of a black man by the police. What would be of interest, however, is a discussion of appropriate, best practices, police tactics in the event of attempting to detain a "person of interest". The conservative right responds that, although unfortunate, police are required to exercise whatever means necessary to detain an uncooperative individual. There must be a better way. I'd like to be able to respond accurately with alternatives.

Enlightened police departments teach techniques of de-escalation. What the killings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks and the shooting of Jacob Blake all have in common is that police encountered routine, non-violent situations and made them much worse. This is not rocket science. Don't pour gasoline on a small fire, because you'll make it into a much bigger fire.

I find myself cringing on Kimberly's behalf this morning. I'm not the target audience for her speech, but still. It was so deliciously mockable. Is she cringing this morning, asking herself, what was I thinking? It's hard to believe that a smart woman with professional aspirations, which I assume she has, of one kind or another, would deliberately set herself up for this much ridicule. I've seen suggestions that she (and Don Jr.) were seriously "over-caffeinated". Possible?

The amazing thing, to me, is that both those speeches had been recorded earlier. Somebody decided they were fine to broadcast as is, rather than say, "Look, that was great, but let's try it one more time and maybe take it down a notch or two." Whoever told Guilfoyle that she nailed it didn't do her any favors.

If the RNC causes some Republicans to finally realize what's going on, how do you think can we Dems best encourage them to come into our big tent?

I think the DNC did everything it possibly could last week to encourage disillusioned Republicans to switch sides. They left the door wide open, so we'll see how many GOP voters walk through.

Gene, I usually try to watch the RNC to at least hear what's being said, but I just can't do it this year. I was truly inspired last week by the diversity of lives presented by the DNC. I know I'll see none of that here. And if I watch this Airing of Grievances, my pandemic anxiety will just shoot up again. Tell me it's okay to skip it, please.

I'm worried about your blood pressure, so you have my permission.

I'm concerned. What with all the lies and apocalyptic rhetoric that took place last night and will continue through Thursday, will people starting actually believing what they hear from these people? Talk me off the cliff, Gene!

I believe that those who already live in the Trumpist "alternative facts" reality will eat it all up. Those who prefer actual facts will probably be unmoved. I honestly don't think these conventions are going to change a lot of minds.

Hi, Gene. A poster from a couple weeks’ ago chat brought this up, and I’d like that person to know that I took his/her plea to heart: for the first time, I’ve applied to be an election judge (I'min Maryland). I’m 47, so not quite a spring chicken myself, but am thankfully in strong health and ready to be out there as long as it takes - double-masked with several in reserve, gloved, and face-shielded. As Mr. Obama and others at last week’s DNC said in so many words: our democracy is in jeopardy. If we are able, we must defend it.

You rule! That's terrific, and I hope others follow your example. What you're doing is so important.

How big a defeat would the Republicans have to experience for them to reject Trump after the election? I fear a third party. It would muddle our political discussion (although we’re quite muddled already) and keep us from bringing sanity back to our government.

If Trump loses, there will be a lot of Republicans who claim never to have heard of him. I think the GOP will try to reconstitute itself as an actual party, rather than a cult of personality. Trump won't go gently, but losers do go.

Do you think she truly believes she can be the nominee at the top of the ticket post-Trump? I can't imagine this version of the GOP ever putting a woman at the top.

I think she's aiming at the post-Trump version of the GOP. She wants to remain in the good graces of those who joined the Trump Cult, but also appeal to the anti-Trump Republicans now working for his defeat. A tough tightrope to walk.

one of them just floated that Biden will not live to inauguration day, He's either psychic or trying to gin up fear of a Harris administration. My guess is the latter.

Definitely the latter.

Historically our 2-party system has been ostensibly divided by political ideology. Now it seems we are divided by reality and alternate (Fox News) reality. Debating politics is one thing, but I find it extremely difficult to debate friends and family when we can’t agree on reality. Often people will start a conversation by asking me if I watch Fox News. To me, this is like starting a basketball conversation by asking me if I watch The Harlem Globetrotters. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Look, this is a huge problem and I don't have the solution. To be a healthy, functioning democracy, we need a common chronicle of events and a common encyclopedia of facts. Right now, we have neither. This is something that we really need to figure out.


That's it for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks for participating, as always, and I'll see you again next week!

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2009, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America" (2010), "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson lives with his wife and two sons in Arlington.
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