Guest view: It really is the Trump National Convention

Kent Weeklies

During Donald Trump’s time in the Oval Office, the Republican Party has lacked organizing principles. The old ones — limited government, fiscal responsibility, moral rectitude and standing up to dictators, to name a few — have been systematically trashed by Trump. Republicans who once championed these canons, meanwhile, have spent the past 3½ years sticking their heads in the sand.

As this week’s convention to nominate Trump for a second term got underway Monday, something else was clear. There really is no Republican National Convention to speak of. It has been replaced by an extravaganza of adulation, with numerous speakers lavishing the kind of praise on the president that one would expect to hear in some forlorn dictatorship.

The event itself is less Republican National Convention than Trump National Convention. He has plastered his moniker on everything else. Why not on the party and its quadrennial gathering?

During Monday’s speeches, Trump was called pretty much everything but a messiah. Republican activist Charlie Kirk even described him as “the bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Over the course of the week, seven Trump family members — his wife, four adult children and two of his children’s significant others — are scheduled to speak.

The roster of speakers who aren’t related to Trump is heavy on people like Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida, known for their fealty to the president, and light on candidates for statewide office. Former Republican luminaries such as George W. Bush, who served two terms as president, and Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, are nowhere to be seen.

Want more evidence the Grand Old Party has become little more than a Trump booster club? Consider the fact that this year’s convention will have no platform. While it is easy to overstate the importance of platforms, they represent a chance for party regulars to have input, and they force parties to make decisions and compromises about complex issues. The absence of a platform shows that there is little distinction between the GOP and the whims of Donald Trump.

To be sure, last week’s Democratic National Convention contained an array of paeans to presidential nominee Joe Biden. But at least the party made the effort to produce a 91-page platform that outlines its agenda and priorities.

The GOP’s sorry situation is partly a reflection of Trump’s popularity with rank-and-file Republicans. But it is also the result of establishment Republicans repeatedly declining to stand up to Trump and defend traditional party principles.

When one-time Trump critics, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, turn into Trump acolytes, that sends a powerful message.

When Republican members of Congress stand by as Trump makes a mockery of their power of the purse by moving money around as he sees fit, that also sends a message.

And when Republicans support Trump after he tries to shake down foreign leaders for political gain, that especially sends a message.

Republicans have only themselves to blame for allowing Trump to transform a once proud party into a cult. Like the foreign strongmen he so admires, Trump will respond to cowardice with contempt.