Republican convention planners determined early on they wanted to highlight everyday Americans who they say have benefited from policies Trump put in place.
Their goal has been to portray a leader focused squarely on improving peoples’ lives — even as many Americans now find themselves self-quarantined, out of work, unable to travel or suffering from the loss of a loved one.
Amid the baleful tone of Monday night’s programming, the helper-in-chief idea didn’t necessarily penetrate, but the efforts seemed more clear Tuesday with speeches from a lobster fisherman in Maine, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin and the owner of a metal fabrication business who says Trump’s new North American trade agreement has made his business more competitive.
“As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice,” said Jason Joyce, the lobsterman. “I strongly support President Trump’s re-election. When he sees something isn't right, he’s fearless in fixing it. He listens to working people.”
Trump’s aides believe individual stories like that can help convince voters Trump is looking out for them more broadly — and rebut accusations made by Democrats that he simply doesn’t care about the lives of ordinary Americans.
Trump ran as a populist who insisted he would enact policies that benefit the so-called “forgotten” Americans that he claimed both parties had left behind. Once he entered office, however, his legislative agenda didn’t always reflect those promises — including passing massive corporate tax breaks.
Those haven’t been mentioned much during the convention so far. But Trump’s trade agreements have been front and center.
Trump himself has framed the efforts in more starkly political terms. He has focused in particular on farmers, telling aides they are his “people” — in other words, they voted for him — and must be taken care of. In real terms, that has meant massive subsidies as farmers suffered the effects of a tit-for-tat tariff war with China.
The benefits to Americans from Trump’s China trade deal aren’t as clear-cut as the convention would make them seem. Earlier Tuesday, new data was released showing China’s purchases of goods from the United States remained at less than half the committed targets for the year up to July set out in Trump’s Phase One trade deal.
In private, Trump has been less enthusiastic about efforts that don’t seem to have an obvious political upside. That includes on criminal justice reform, an initiative spearheaded by his son-in-law Jared Kushner that Trump endorsed but has not made a central aspect of his reelection bid.
It will appear at moments during the convention, including on Tuesday when Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, who robbed a bank in Nevada and later founded an organization to help former inmates. Alice Johnson, whose pardon was brought to Trump by Kim Kardashian West, is also a scheduled speaker this week.