US Vice President Mike Pence has officially accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term in office, declaring that in November “the choice in this election is whether America remains America”.
Pence, who will be ranged against Kamala Harris, the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, painted her and party’s presidential candidate Joe Biden with the brush of radicalism in his acceptance speech on Wednesday night from the historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.
He and other convention speakers associated Biden and Harris, who personally are moderates, with the voluble radical wing of the party – from which they are hesitant to openly dissociate and to criticise.
Making a robust nationalist statement, Pence repeatedly hit out at Biden, calling him weak on foreign policy and unable to stand up to violent rioters.
Fittingly he spoke to the convention from Fort McHenry, a symbol of nationalism where Americans defended Baltimore Harbor from the British in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the country’s national anthem..
The Vice President’s soft-spoken, thoughtful demeanour is very different from President Donald Trump’s assertive manners that are often called bombastic.
“He kept things interesting,” Pence said in an understatement acknowledging their differences.
“He does things his way on his own terms.”
After Pence finished his speech, Trump made an unscheduled visit to the venue, and although he did no speak his presence overshadowed Pence’s.
Pence called Biden a “cheerleader” for China and asserted that he had even opposed former President Barack Obama’s operation to take out former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
He quoted Robert Gates, who was the defence secretary when Biden was Vice President, as saying that he was “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”.
Biden and the Democrats have criticised Trump’s performance in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, saying he failed as a leader and has resulted in over 180,000 American deaths.
Pence defended his administration’s performance in getting medications and medical equipment and said: “We are on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year.”
The Democrats have attacked Trump’s calls to reopen the country, where large segments are shut down.
Pence spoke proudly of the Trump push to open schools, saying that his own wife, Karen, who still works as a teacher, will be returning to her classroom.
Some Democratic leaders like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are also trying to restart schools in their jurisdictions in the face of opposition from teachers’ unions.
In the American tradition of spouses or family members speaking in family solidarity, Karen Pence had spoken earlier.
Pence’s mother and his children, who were in the audience were recognised in his speech.
Biden and the Democrats, Pence said, were painting a “dark” picture of America of the present. But he himself projected a dark future of violence, chaos, economic failure, overwhelming control of the people and crushing taxes if Biden and Harris were elected.
Pence and other speakers repeatedly mentioned the violent riots and looting that have accompanied the protests against racism and police brutality.
He said that Biden was silent on the rioting and declared” “The violence must stop.”
Even as they spoke, the city of Kenosha was reeling from a night of arson and rioting after police shot an African-American man from the back.
Often decried as a “racist” by his critics, Trump’s campaign is making a special effort to African-Americans.
Several African-Americans, like on Tuesday, spoke on Wednesday in defence of Trump and the Republican Party, noting that Abraham Lincoln, who led the country in the civil war to end slavery.
One of them, former American football star Jack Brewer, said Trump is not a racist and because of his style people should not overlook his programmes to help African Americans economically and in education.
He said that Biden and Harris locked up thousands of Black men for non-violent crimes.
A crime bill crafted by Biden mandated long sentences on them and Harris as a prosecutor had the sentences imposed.
Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote, which the convention used to reach out women, another demographic with whom Trump has been underperforming.
Karen Pence said that the movement of women demanding voting rights, who were known as suffragists, opened opportunities for women which have been strengthened under her husband and Trump.
Kellyanne Conway, who is leaving the White House as Trump’s adviser, said that he was professional and respectful to women and had given her the opportunity to lead his presidential campaign to victory
Chen Guancheng, a blind Chinese civil rights activist given asylum in the US, called the Chinese Communist Party an enemy of humanity that is threatening the welfare of the world.
Trump has shown the courage to stand up to it and fight for the world, he said.