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Night Two of the RNC Was All About Mainstreaming the Extreme Right

The RNC’s shifting schedule highlights the party’s uneasy mix of conspiracy theorists and boilerplate GOP economics.

Anti-choice extremist Abby Johnson addresses the virtual 2020 Republican National Convention on August 25, 2020.

The second night of the Republican National Convention was bursting with disappointments for those of us who live to suffer, none more stinging than the sudden disappearance from the speaker’s list of Mary Ann Mendoza. Mendoza is a so-called “angel mom” and a member of the Trump campaign’s advisory board who enjoys more than 40,000 followers on Twitter.

Hours before her scheduled appearance last night, Mendoza favored those followers with a QAnon-inspired conspiracy theory about Jews seeking to enslave the world. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is not a fabrication,” reads the link Mendoza shared. “And, it certainly is not anti-semetic (sic) to point out this fact.” As of 7:54 pm, The Washington Post still had her listed as a confirmed speaker. Soon after, however, she was gone.

Pity, that. I was dying to hear what she had to say.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a public school teacher who espouses the theory that the public school system she herself serves exists to “groom” children to be attacked by sexual predators like Jeffrey Epstein, got to speak her piece at the convention on Monday. From Friedrichs, we learned that public schools are war zones because of unions.

Last night, the painfully dishonest anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson got her star turn at the convention as well but failed to mention her belief that only the head of the household should be allowed to vote, or that she believes it proper for one of her sons to be racially profiled by the police. “Statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons,” she said in a video made earlier this year.

Meanwhile “Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, said in a tweet on Tuesday that President Trump has invited her to the White House to attend his acceptance speech on Thursday evening,” reports Jacob Knutson for Axios. “Greene has repeatedly made offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims in Facebook videos, and she has publicly supported the QAnon movement and other far-right conspiracy theories.”

This is the Republican mainstream in 2020, on full display before the nation and the world. The deeply disturbing racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and conspiracy obsession bubbling behind the eyes of Trump’s convention speakers strike an odd counterpoint to the central message of the second evening, which was the same economic trickle-down crap they’ve been peddling quadrennially since 1980.

That part, at least, has not changed very much since Ronald Reagan visited this failed pox of an economic theory on the country. The rhetoric to promote it last night could have been culled from the ‘84 GOP convention in Dallas without dropping a note: Tax cuts and deregulation painted against the rising dawn of economic prosperity that always seems to be just around the corner, but never seems to arrive for anyone but the wealthy.

The second night of this convention was, among other strange and terrible things, a clinic on why organizations like the Lincoln Project exist, and furthermore, why such organizations are not to be trusted.

The Lincoln Project, a cohort of Republicans who seek to defeat Trump, has made an indelible mark with their caustic, cutting TV ads during this election cycle. Their efforts have been widely celebrated by Democrats, progressives, and others who share the Lincoln Project’s goals.

Last night’s collision between Trumpian conspiracy nonsense and boilerplate Republican economic gospel tells you all you need to know about what the Lincoln Project really is. While some of those involved may see the menace Trump represents, most of them want him gone because he and his fringe friends are bad for the GOP brand.

It is not Trump’s terrible policies they disagree with for the most part. Show a member of the Lincoln Project the segment from last night on the economic glory of trickle-down capitalism, and like as not they will stand up and cheer.

That, precisely that, is what makes them dangerous. Republican economic policy has been responsible for enormous damage and pain for more than four decades and counting. The fact that these never-Trumpers don’t like Trump does not make them friends; they want him out of the way so they can get back to looting the Treasury without giving away the game.

As for fringe radicalism, there was plenty on display during the main event of the evening. First Lady Melania Trump’s address to a Rose Garden audience struck a softer, kinder tone than the bombast of the rest of the event, to be sure. Yet there was a message for the nation embedded silently in the moment that the C-SPAN cameras did not fail to miss.

The large, elegantly dressed audience for the First Lady’s speech was not masked, and sat clustered close together. When the speech ended, they rose as one and mingled together shoulder to shoulder like it was a cocktail party in 2019 and not a world in the grips of a deadly pandemic right here and now. “Those who attended first lady Melania Trump’s speech in the White House Rose Garden that capped the second night of the Republican National Convention were not required to get tested for coronavirus,” reports CNN.

If you believe this was not a deliberate middle finger from the president, I hazard to suggest that you have not been paying sufficient attention. Never fear, however. The collision between new Republican extremism and old Republican greed will be going on in prime time for two more very long nights. If you watch, you won’t miss a thing.