The "lock her up" convention.

Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Trump's Convention Is Only About Clinton

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The theme of day two of the Republican convention was supposed to be "Make America Work Again." But there was barely a feint in that direction. 

Instead, Tuesday night's speeches had two themes.

The first was a reprise of Monday's ugly attacks on Hillary Clinton, centered again on a fictional version of the attacks on Benghazi, with the convention once again chanting, "Lock her up!" 

Indeed, Chris Christie cast his speech as a "prosecution" of Clinton, repeatedly asking the delegates to judge her "Guilty!" for (alleged) mismanagement and scandal. Christie, to his credit, actually did supply details. But the audience didn't seem interested; when he tried to make his case, the audience repeatedly interrupted him with its thuggish chant.

Rough attacks are certainly appropriate at political conventions. But running on a platform of jailing the opposing candidate is not. If it happens the first day, that's on the delegates, and perhaps can be excused as partisan overenthusiasm. When it occurs two days in a row, the nominee and party leaders are responsible.

The other big theme of the night was Donald J. Trump -- now the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party, after the roll call of the delegates. 

A series of speakers, including two of his children, offered personal testimonials. These speeches were astonishingly thin. 

Remember four years ago? When Mitt Romney's friends and family spoke, the pundits and Republican operatives were unanimously impressed. Their regret was that this Mitt Romney hadn't been widely enough advertised up to that point. 

I've now heard two Trump children, his wife and several business associates and friends, and I can barely remember two anecdotes from the lot of them. The friends and his daughter all seemed impressed that he had called them at various points, and that he was a good friend, father and husband, but none of them got around to explaining why or how. 

Nor did they supply any memorable evidence for why or how he's good at business. It was all assertions about his greatness, but nothing to convince anyone not already sold.

Donald Jr., in fact, shifted from testimonial to a standard Republican speech, attacking Clinton and running through several policy talking points. It wasn't a bad Republican speech, but ultimately it was just another Republican speech. 

Granted, he was better than the other main speaker in the broadcast-network hour, Ben Carson, who basically called Hillary Clinton a Satan apologist (it had something to do with Saul Alinsky; don't ask). 

Again, I suspect that the Hillary-bashing is an effective tactic -- or maybe the only tactic -- with Republicans who don't really like Trump, regardless of the excesses. 

But whatever it was, it was ugly -- even by the loose norms of a political convention -- and no way to run a democracy. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net