For the Democratic strategy to work, for Biden to win by inertia, President Trump and the Republicans would have to play along. But this week they didn’t: the GOP convention tore up the media narrative and wrote a new script, one focusing on the violence raging in cities run by Democrats. But Trump and his party went beyond that: they made a detailed, policy-based argument that the past three years have been years of accomplishment. The President and his surrogates boasted of replacing NAFTA with USMCA, passing criminal-justice reform, getting a significant tax cut through Congress (though this didn’t receive as much attention as usual for a GOP convention), destroying Isis, and killing Qasem Soleimani, along with many less widely heralded achievements in foreign policy and regulatory reform. Beyond the individual policies, Trump and the GOP also pointed to their success in changing the terms of debate for both parties, and for the whole country, about China, trade and American industry. And they recommitted themselves to ending endless foreign wars in the Middle East and to strengthening border security.
You expect a party to rally around its leader’s record. But the contrast between the way Joe Biden’s record of nearly five decades was downplayed at the Democratic convention and just how comprehensive the Republican boasts about Donald Trump’s successes were signaled something that is important even beyond the 2020 election. The contrast testified to what a new and transformative force Donald Trump has been, and how tied to the past the Democrats are: tied to a past, that is, of which Democrats themselves are ashamed.