Despite this unusual year, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions both continued as scheduled, albeit largely online. These four-day conventions featured a wide array of speakers. Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the Republican candidates, had ample time to speak at the Republican convention. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidates, also delivered lengthy speeches at the DNC. Keynote speakers at the RNC included Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton (R) and New Jersey Representative Jeff Van Drew (R). Nearly all former Democratic candidates (with the exception of Julian Castro) spoke at the DNC as well.
The Republican and Democratic National Conventions exist primarily to nominate candidates for president from each party. However, these conventions have recently evolved into multi-day events featuring speeches and entertainment. In one of the most contentious elections in recent memory, concerns about the postal service, COVID-19 and the economy took center stage at each national convention. According to political fact-checkers at the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, many of the speeches from both the DNC and RNC included false, misleading or exaggerated claims.
Little time was spent discussing tangible policy, a departure from party conventions of the past. Rather, Democratic speakers focused largely on Biden’s quality of character, attempting to cast him in a positive light after numerous criticisms emerged regarding his academic record, sexual assault allegations and his son’s controversial membership on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas production company. Nevertheless, fact-checking showed that there were a number of exaggerated claims made by DNC speakers and the Democratic presidential nominee himself.
In his speech on Aug. 20, Biden referenced tax cuts included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“The president’s $1.3 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and the biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which do not pay any tax at all,” Biden said. While partially correct, this statement was exaggerated. It is true that those with higher incomes benefitted the most from this 2017 act, but most households across the U.S. also received a tax cut. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center estimates that approximately 65% of households across the country paid less in federal taxes, specifically federal income tax, than they would have under the old tax regulations.
The Republican National Convention drew its own share of controversy, as few precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as social distancing or mask usage were in place. Donald Trump and Mike Pence were first re-nominated by the Republican party, and, in an unusual move, the Republican Committee on Platform decided to reuse their 2016 party platform by copying its ideals and promises. While this decision faced criticism from Republican activists and the president himself, a one-page document expressing support for the President was ultimately released.
The Trump family composed a substantial portion of the convention’s speakers, with Melania, Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, Tiffany, Lara and Donald Trump all giving speeches throughout the convention. The President’s keynote speech was delivered on Thursday, Aug. 27, where he accepted the re-nomination for the presidency. Like Joe Biden, many of President Trump’s statements at the RNC have been found to be false or exaggerated.
In his speech, President Trump stated, “Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas - laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.” This statement is misleading. If elected, Biden’s established climate plan includes initiatives to move the United States away from coal, oil and natural gas, but is a far cry from abolition of those energy sources. Additionally, Biden’s plan explicitly states that industrial communities “won’t be left behind.”
In short, neither party is free from falsehoods or misleading information in the historic 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. As the presidential election creeps closer, the contentious battle for the White House rages on.
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