Opinion: Republican Convention united by a common enemy | Opinion | DW | 22.07.2016
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Opinion: Republican Convention united by a common enemy

Things couldn't have gone better for Donald Trump at the Republican Party convention: blunders distracted away from the lack of substance and Ted Cruz became a target for the frustrated. An analysis by DW's Ines Pohl.

The selection process, by which the two large parties in the United States choose their candidates, is brutal. For months the internal rivals travel around this large country engaged in a fierce battle. These skirmishes are always tough, but without a doubt a new low point has been reached this year. Even penis size has been debated in front of live cameras.

Celebration of Reconciliation

Because every candidate, even the winner, ends up wounded and damaged by this process, the main function of the party conventions is to bring the party back together. The extreme positions by which the candidates try to prove themselves in the preliminary round are softened into more moderate positions that the majority can get behind. In a more or less honest celebration of unity, even the former rivals ask everyone to get behind the chosen candidate.

But this party convention in Cleveland was different. From day one Donald Trump reduced the 2,500 delegates to mere onlookers in front of the 15,000 journalists from around the globe for his pompously staged Trump-festival. And throughout this spectacle, he was everywhere. He was flown in by helicopter; sent messages from Trump Tower to the golden video screen in the convention hall; sent his wife and kids on stage so that each family member had a chance to tell the world what a wonderful, successful, strong and magnificent man this father and husband really is.

Watch video 01:27

Republicans in party mode after Trump's acceptance speech

Entertainment instead of substance

There is no place in this soap opera for any debate about a party program for the Republican presidential candidate. Why discuss substance when there is entertainment?

Not all Republicans like this new reality. Many refused to come to watch the self-satisfied spectacle by a man who makes no attempt to conform to usual party practices. But while many Republicans were hoping that the circus would soon be over, Trump had already taken control of the party.

The Bush family, for example, was completely absent. Other important party members, like John McCain, have not been able to forgive Trump's derogatory remarks.

Ted Cruz refuses to comply

There was one party member, however, who came to take on Trump. Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas, accepted the invitation to come and talk - for twice as long as planned. But there was one sentence he refused to say, which was "I support Donald Trump." Later on, after he was booed off stage, he explained that he has not yet been able to forgive Trump for insulting his wife and father.

This attack on Trump was much needed. By day three of the Trump-festival things were getting boring. The excitement about the speech by Trump's wife, who directly ripped off Michelle Obama, was dying down. Journalists were starting to ask if there were any other topics apart from the building plans for a wall along the Texan border.

The delegates were also getting restless. They noticed that apart from the narcissistic messages about Trump himself, he has nothing of any substance for the Republican Party's fight to return to the White House.

Closing Ranks

By the fourth, and last, day, the delegates were relieved to be able to aim all their frustration and anger at the traitor, Ted Cruz. Only a few delegates had sympathy for the proud Texan. But most projected their fears about the split in the party onto him. In the end, it was his criticism that led to ranks closing behind Trump. Perhaps this is because it fits so well into the established structure that has already been used against Hillary Clinton. Although many cannot relate to Trump's personality, politics and rhetoric, they are united in their hate of the Democratic candidate. There seems to be no other basis for unity in the Republican Party at the moment. It is a party united by their hate of the common enemy.

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