- The Republican National Convention kicked off Monday night with a number of speakers that went viral for their comments.
- In an opening speech, President Donald Trump joked that the crowd should chant “12 more years” to “really drive” his critics “crazy.”
- Later, Mark and Patricia McCloskey — the St. Louis couple who went viral in June after pointing their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters — gave a controversial speech where they warned that “your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.” Critics have derided the speech as fear-mongering.
- Former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle also trended online after an impassioned speech where she claimed that Democrats want to steal Americans’ liberties and freedoms.
- In what has been widely viewed as a potential presidential bid for 2024, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC.) said the election is more than just about Trump or Biden, arguing “it’s about the promise of America.“
President Trump’s Opening Speech
The first night of the Republican National Convention took off with a heated start Monday as several notable figures gave impassioned remarks. If you missed out on any of the speeches, here’s a breakdown of some of the most talked about moments.
The convention began with an opening speech from President Donald Trump, who was greeted by chants of “Four more years!” from the crowd.
“Now, if you want to really drive them crazy, you say 12 more years,” Trump said in an attempt to get a rise out of his critics.
While some members in the crowd then met Trump with those cheers, criticism of his joke has been strong. That’s likely because this is not the first time Trump has mentioned staying in office past the required, two-term limit.
“One does not joke about 12 more years,” veteran Tim Corcoran said on Twitter. “That’s called a dictatorship. We fought wars with people who refused to be removed from power. This is a slap in the face to all veterans who fought for democracy.”
“We have to be very, very careful, and you have to watch,” Trump then said, shifting focus to universal mail-in voting. “Every one of you, you have to watch. Because bad things happened last time with the spying on our campaign and that goes to Biden and that goes to Obama and we have to be very, very careful… and this time they’re trying to do it with the whole Post Office scam. They’ll blame it on the Post Office. You can see them setting it up.”
The push for universal mail-in voting in some states stems from fears that long lines and lack of social distancing at polls on election day will lead to votes being unable to be cast and spikes in coronavirus cases.
Democrats and some Republicans have noted that mail-in voting has proved to be a very secure form of voting in previous elections and will provide an additional level of safety for voters’ health, especially those who are immunocompromised.
Still, Trump and many other conservatives either worry or have outright claimed universal mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud — even though there’s no evidence to support this, and instead, studies have found fraud to be overwhelmingly rare.
Gun Couple Fear Mongering Criticism
Later in the night, Mark and Patricia McCloskey — the St. Louis couple who went viral in June after pointing their guns at Black Lives Matters protesters — spoke from their home in a speech that many have condemned as fear-mongering.
“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country,” Patricia McCloskey said.
“Whether it’s the defunding of police,” her husband began, “ending cash bails so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy and chaos on our streets, it seems as if the Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.”
“Not a single person in the out of control mob you saw at our house was charged with a crime. But you know who was? We were. They actually charged us with felonies for daring to defend our home.”
The McCloskeys were charged in July with unlawful use of a weapon for exhibiting a semiautomatic rifle “in an angry or threatening manner.”
The McCloskeys have said that they were afraid and trying to protect their home from protesters who had entered a private street; however, St. Louis circuit court attorney Kimberly Gardner has said that the couple created a dangerous situation involving “peaceful, unarmed protesters.”
“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence in our communities,” Patricia McCloskey said of Democrats. “They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments into now-thriving suburban neighborhoods.”
“Make no mistake,” she added. “No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
The McCloskeys claim that the Democratic party is pushing for the abolition of suburbia is false. Instead, they’re likely referring to an Obama-era rule that forced local jurisdictions to take steps to prove that they are addressing historical patterns of racial segregation in order to qualify for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing. HUD revoked that rule in July.
Julian Castro, who was the HUD secretary when that Obama-era rule was finalized, called the McCloskey’s speech “a shameful, deceitful, and calculated ploy to drum up racial resentment and white fear.”
“The federal government does not have authority to dictate zoning decisions of local communities,” he added in defense of the rule. That’s very explicit, that’s settled, and this rule in no way requires communities to make specific decisions about zoning.”
Like Castro, many media outlets — including BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, and Business Insider India — quickly labeled the speech as an attempt to stoke fear within the Republican voter base. In fact, a reporter for BuzzFeed News called it “a brazen, thinly veiled racist attempt to win over a crucial voting bloc for Donald Trump.”
Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor and former Fox News personality who is currently an advisor leading fundraising efforts for Trump’s re-election campaign, started her speech by declaring her support for Trump before diving into a emboldened critique of a Biden-Harris administration.
“They want open borders, closed schools, dangerous amnesty, and will selfishly send your jobs back to China while they get rich,” she said. “They will defund, dismantle, and destroy America’s law enforcement. When you are in trouble and need police, don’t count on the Democrats.”
Guilfoyle went on to repeatedly warn of their “socialist agenda” and used Harris’ home state of California as an example, saying that “Democrats turned it into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in streets, and blackouts in homes.”
Ironically, like Biden’s campaign, Guilfoyle called the election a battle for “the soul of America.”
“Your choice is clear,” she said. “Do you support the cancel culture? The cosmopolitan elites of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden, who blame America first? Do you think America is to blame? Or, do you believe in American greatness? Believe in yourself? In President Trump? In individual and personal responsibility?”
“They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters for freedom and liberty and the American Dream, the best is yet to come!” she said in an embellished close.
Guilfoyle’s remarks were easily the most ridiculed of the night. Political commentator Ana Navarro called her unhinged. Steven Colbert mocked her on The Late Show, asking, “Is the loud lady gone?” after playing a clip from her speech.
On social media, some people circulated a video comparing her to Dwight Schrute in a scene from The Office.
A piece by New York Magazine claimed she “screamed at American for six terrifying minutes” and added, “Guilfoyle brought the fear, the fanaticism, and the convention’s fascist timbre to the next level.”
However, many Trump supporters agreed with her sentiments. For example, Fox News Host Sean Hannity described her speech as “impassioned.”
Sen. Tim Scott
Arguably the most notable speech of the night came at the end when Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC.), the only Black Republican in the Senate, took the stage.
“This isn’t how I pictured tonight, but our country is experiencing something none of us envisioned,” he said. “From a global pandemic, to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, 2020 has tested our nation in ways we haven’t seen for decades. But regardless of the challenges presented to us, every four years, Americans come together to vote.”
“To share stories of what makes our nation strong, and the lessons we have learned that can strengthen it further for our children and grandchildren. Because while this election is between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, it is not solely about Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It’s about the promise of America. It’s about you and me, our challenges and heartbreaks, hopes and dreams. It’s about how we respond when tackling critical issues like police reform.”
Scott went on to ask if we want to be a country that “breeds success” or one that “cancels everything.”
Even though Scott still criticized Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the overall tone of his speech, to many, seemed much more hopeful and more personal than those that came before it.
Afterward, many commentators declared Scott’s speech as his bid for a 2024 presidential run.
Alongside that, Scott’s speech is largely being interpreted as an appeal to wavering Republicans who may be less enthusiastic about or currently turned off by the idea of voting for Trump.
Likewise, many commentators now speculate a potential 2024 run from United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley after she made a speech where, among other things, she said, “In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country. This is personal for me. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)
Supreme Court Begins Contentious New Term as Approval Rating Hits Historic Low
The most volatile cases the court will consider involve affirmative action, voting rights, elections, and civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
High Court to Hear Numerous Controversial Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday officially kicked off a new term that will be marked by a number of very contentious cases.
The justices, led by a conservative super-majority, will hear many matters that have enormous implications for the American people.
The first case the court will hear this term involves a major environmental dispute that will determine the scope of government authority under the Clean Water Act — a decision that could have a massive impact on U.S. water quality at a time when water crises’ have been heightened by climate change.
The case also comes amid increasing concerns about federal inaction regarding climate change, especially after the Supreme Court significantly limited the government’s power to act in this area at the end of its last term.
Cases Involving Race
Several of the most anticipated decisions also center around race, including a pair of cases that challenge affirmative action programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
For over four decades, the high court has repeatedly upheld that race can be a factor in college admissions to ensure a more equitable student body. Despite the fact that multiple challenges have been struck down in the past, the court’s conservative super majority could very well undo 40 years of precedent and undermine essential protections.
The high court will decide a legal battle that could significantly damage key voting protections for minorities set forth under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The case in question stems from a lower court opinion that invalidated Alabama’s congressional map for violating a provision in the VRA prohibiting voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race.
Alabama had drawn its map so only one of its seven congressional districts was majority Black, despite the fact that nearly one in every three voting-age residents in the state are Black.
States’ Power Over Elections
Also on the topic of gerrymandering and elections, the justices will hear a case that could have a profound impact on the very nature of American democracy. The matter centers around a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court to strike down the Republican-drawn congressional map on the grounds that it amounted to an illegal gerrymander that violated the state’s Constitution.
The North Carolina GOP appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause gives state legislatures almost total control over how federal elections are carried out in their state under a theory called the independent state legislature doctrine.
“That argument, in its most extreme form, would mean that [sic] no state court and no state agency could interfere with the state legislature’s version of election rules, regardless of the rules set down in the state constitution,” NPR explained.
In other words, if the Supreme Court sides with the North Carolina Republicans, they would essentially be giving state legislatures unchecked power over how voting maps are designed and elections are administered.
Another notable decision the justices will make could have huge implications for the LGBTQ+ community and civil rights more broadly. That matter involved a web designer in Colorado named Lori Smith who refused to design websites for same-sex couples because she believed it violates her right to religious freedoms.
That belief, however, goes against a Colorado nondiscrimination law that bans businesses that serve the public from denying their services to customers based on sexual orientation or identity.
As a result, Smith argues that the Colorado law violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment. If the high court rules in her favor, it would undermine protections for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado and likely other states with similar laws.
Experts also say such a ruling could go far beyond that. As Georgetown University’s Kelsi Corkran told NPR, “if Smith is correct that there’s a free speech right to selectively choose her customers based on the messages she wants to endorse,” the Colorado law would also allow white supremacists to deny services to people of color because that “would be a message of endorsement.”
Record-Low Approval Rating
The court’s high-stakes docket also comes at a time when its reputation has been marred by questions of legitimacy.
A new Gallup poll published last week found that the Supreme Court’s approval rating has sunk to a record low. Specifically, less than half of Americans said they have at least a “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch — a 20% drop from just two years ago.
Beyond that, a record number of people also now say that the court is too conservative. Experts argue that these numbers are massively consequential, especially as the U.S. heads into yet another highly-contentious court term.
“The Supreme Court is at an important moment,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs told The Hill.
“Trust in the institutions has vastly diminished, certainly among Democrats, and many have a close eye on how they rule on other vital matters. If decisions seem to keep coming from a very pointed political direction, frustration and calls for reform will only mount.”
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNN) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event
The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.
Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.
The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.
The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.
“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.”
The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.
“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.
“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”
The Age Maximum Question
Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.
Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.
While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.
These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.
There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.
What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.
As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.
Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.
However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (NBC News)
Churches Protected Loophole in Abuse Reporting for 20 years, Report Finds
In some cases, Clergy members failed to report abuse among their congregation, but state laws protected them from that responsibility.
A Nationwide Campaign to Hide Abuse
More than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sexual abuse reporting laws have been neutered or killed due to religious opposition over the past two decades, according to a review by the Associated Press.
Many states have laws requiring professionals such as physicians, teachers, and psychotherapists to report any information pertaining to alleged child sexual abuse to authorities. In 33 states, however, clergy are exempt from those requirements if they deem the information privileged.
All of the reform bills reviewed either targeted this loophole and failed or amended the mandatory reporting statute without touching the loophole.
“The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege,” the AP stated. “Influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.”
“This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials,” the report continued.
“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the outlet. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”
Abuses Go Unreported
Last month, another AP investigation discovered that a Mormon bishop acting under the direction of church leaders in Arizona failed to report a church member who had confessed to sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter.
Merrill Nelson, a church lawyer and Republican lawmaker in Utah, reportedly advised the bishop against making the report because of Arizona’s clergy loophole, effectively allowing the father to allegedly rape and abuse three of his children for years.
Democratic State Sen. Victoria Steele proposed three bills in response to the case to close the loophole but told the AP that key Mormon legislators thwarted her efforts.
In Montana, a woman who was abused by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses won a $35 million jury verdict against the church because it failed to report her abuse, but in 2020 the state supreme court reversed the judgment, citing the state’s reporting exemption for clergy.
In 2013, a former Idaho police officer turned himself in for abusing children after having told 15 members of the Mormon church, but prosecutors declined to charge the institution for not reporting him because it was protected under the clergy loophole.
The Mormon church said in a written statement to the AP that a member who confesses child sex abuse “has come seeking an opportunity to reconcile with God and to seek forgiveness for their actions. … That confession is considered sacred, and in most states, is regarded as a protected religious conversation owned by the confessor.”