The Republican Convention to renominate President Donald Trump started Aug. 24, 2020, and like most conventions which play up their primary leader, touted his record. Speaker after speaker, and video clips, highlighted Trump’s themes — “putting America first”, growing the economy and creating jobs, emphasis on law and order, freedom to bear arms, freedom of religion and talking down leaders of dictatorial regimes like North Korea, China, and Iran.
The GOP through a string of speakers, also painted a dire picture of the U.S. under a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration, as being ‘socialist’ and radical left and warning of impending disorder on the streets and suburbs of the country. Ongoing clashes with law enforcement in Portland, Oregon, and Wisconsin, add to this narrative.
Unlike the Democratic Convention which was primarily online, the GOP had a mix of virtual and in-person events in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., including the President’s acceptance speech.
For Indian-Americans the highlight on the first day was former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, appointed by Trump as the first Indian-American to hold a cabinet-level position.
Several other Indian-Americans were delegates to the Convention, most operating remotely, among them Sampat Shivangi who is also on the board of the National campaign for Trump; Harmeet Dhillon, California attorney, vice chair of the California Republican Party, co-chair of Indian Voices for Trump, who was physically present Aug. 23 and 24, in Charlotte; Dino Teppara, an attorney who served in then South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s administration and is a member of Indian Voices for Trump, to name a few.
Following a drum-roll during which the vote-count for re-electing President Trump was read out state after state, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel summed up the message of the Convention — “Four years ago, President Trump started a movement unlike any other, and over the next four days we will hear from a few of the millions of hardworking, everyday Americans who have benefited from his leadership.”
McDaniel lashed out at Democrats for “policies that would have been unthinkable a decade ago — policies like banning fossil fuels, eliminating private health insurance, taxpayer funded healthcare for people who come here illegally, and defunding the police.”
She set the GOP Convention as the mirror opposite of the Democratic one that transpired a few days ago, and one that was echoed by those who followed.
“President Trump is always going to be tough when he is fighting for the American people, because ‘nice’ guys like Joe (Biden) cared more about countries like China and Iran than the United States.” McDaniel verged on the poetic when she added, “Tonight, begins a new chapter in the Great American story – a story that has inspired the world for generations and a story where the best is yet to come!”
“It was such an honor to witness @realDonaldTrump’s nomination today in person at the #RNCConvention2020!” Tweeted Dhillon. “I’ve spent time with President Trump and know how much he respects Indian Americans,” she added. “Meanwhile @JoeBiden sees us as a joke relegated to 7/11s,” she said replaying a video of Biden’s remark about how one can’t go into a 711 store without encountering an Indian.
The RNC headlines its election website with the message – ‘Promises Made Promises Kept’, a position that Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media which publishes Desi Talk, says is on the mark.
“They had a very good narrative of President and what he has done for the economy and the stock markets,” at the GOP Convention, Dr. Parikh said. “President Trump promised to remake trade deals with Canada, Mexico and China, and he did it. He has said he will make individual trade deals with European countries after this election, and he will,” Dr. Parikh said.
With the economy doing well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stock market continuing to rise, things will bounce back soon with the threat of the coronavirus going down, Dr. Parikh said. All that was good for Indian-Americans, he contended.
“The Indian-American community is very affluent mostly, having professionals, business persons, and being mostly upper middle class or upper class economically. The Republican tax structure is beneficial to them. Also, the Trump administration has shown they are pro-India and want to do even more business with India in coming years,” Dr. Parikh maintained.
“I am on an airplane but I can talk from the nasty, mean, delusional, hateful, petty, grudging tone of the blue-check Dems and Never Trump losers what a fantastic series of home runs @realDonaldTrump’s campaign put on tonight! So proud to be a small part of this historic campaign!” tweeted Dhillon on her way back to California Aug. 24, 2020.
Haley, focusing more on foreign policy in her speech, lauded President Trump for a bold pro-Israel stance, for ripping up the Iran nuclear deal, being “tough on China” and applying the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea, even claiming President Trump “took on ISIS and won.”
Relatively low key over the months since she quit as Ambassador to the UN, Haley is still seen by some as a rising star of the Republican Party, with her name being bandied about as a vice presidential candidate in the future, some news reports even describing her speech as a prologue to a 2024 ticket.
“Ambassador Haley made a forceful speech with her usual grace on behalf of the President’s re-election,” Teppara told News India Times, adding, “President Trump’s economic track record has been a boon to the Indian American community, and his successful re-election is critical to our community’s continued success.”
Haley touched on her personal experience growing up in a small town in South Carolina and rising to become governor of the state. “The Democrats say America is racist,” Haley said, “This is personal to me.” But in the same breath conceded, “I was a brown girl and life was not all easy.”
“I am the daughter of Indian immigrants,” she said, noting that her father wore a turban and her mother a sari. During her years as Governor of South Carolina, Haley said her state got the name “Beast of the southeast,” because of the businesses and jobs she brought there, all the while fighting the policies of the Obama-Biden administration.
As Governor, Haley took the bold step of removing the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds despite strong opposition. “We came face to face with evil” – when a white supremacist came into a black church and began shooting, Haley recalled. Nine black parishioners were killed in Charlotte. “Together we removed a divisive symbol peacefully …” Haley said.
Another Indian-American delegate who spoke on condition that he not be named as he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the GOP, described Haley’s speech as ‘outstanding.’
During the Convention, Dhillon was among the most vocal social media critics of the Democrats and their convention, and kept up a barrage of attacks on Twitter, as she highlighted the speeches of Republicans at the podium.