The first three days were all death and doom and destruction. Practically every speech was about how America was on the wrong track, and how Hillary Clinton, the person who put America on the wrong track, should be put in prison or worse. Few people focused on fixing these problems—instead, most of the speakers dwelled on just how bad everything is. For a national convention, it was a remarkably bleak affair about trouble at home and trouble abroad. The Republican Party’s platform, it should be added, is also the most radically conservative in decades.
The fourth day has been different. While there have been plenty of right-wing conservatives on the stage, Clinton’s name has barely been mentioned. There were “Lock her up” chants during Reince Preibus’s hysterical speech about how America was going to hell in a handbasket, but the chants, like the speech they were accompanying, were an outlier. For the most part, the fourth day was peppered with moments that could have come from the Democratic National Convention, which is surprising given the current state of the Republican Party and the conservative platform it has adopted. Investor Tom Barrack refused to say anything bad about Hillary Clinton, whom he has praised in the past. There were scattered boos, but the crowd accepted it. Peter Thiel got a standing ovation for being gay, said trans people should get to use whatever bathroom they wanted, and argued that the American government should be investing more in infrastructure and innovation. And Ivanka Trump made a strong case for adopting paid leave, equal pay, and workplace diversity.
These speakers were clearly meant to soften Trump’s image with the general electorate. But it’s remarkable that the audience, which has been hungry for red meat, was so complacent. Perhaps they’re simply waiting for Trump to close the night with a speech all about American decline.