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At the Republican convention, it’s all about the Trump family

columns Updated: Jul 22, 2016 20:46 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Republican convention

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his son Eric Trump embrace as Tiffany Trump and Lara Yunaska walk by, on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016(AFP)

In recent days, there’s been a sharp division between lovers and loathers of a phenomenon distracting the world. No, not the Trumpathon at Cleveland, but rather Pokémon Go, the gaming app that leads players into exploring new places, whether or not they are welcome there like when they gatecrash private property.

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland witnessed the culmination of a process of a trespasser taking possession of the property. About a year back, Donald Trump was known best for being a building tycoon, host of The Apprentice, providing fodder for Page 6 of New York’s tabloids, and another bristling birther who demanded to see United States President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Now, 12 months later, he has formally clinched and accepted the Republican Party’s nomination to contest the November presidential election, deleting the descriptive presumptive, though presumptuous still applies.

Read | Trump accepts Republican Presidential nomination: 5 key moments in convention

This summer was supposed to mark the double-crowning of American royalty. Jeb Bush was to woo the GOP while Hillary Clinton wowed the Democrats. Neither happened. Jeb! remained an exclamation mark in primary politics, while Hillary barely outlasted a socialist senator from Vermont, who officially had to become a Democrat for the primaries. Still, she will get her tiara, pending since 2008, in Philadelphia.

If there was talk of dynasty in Cleveland, it was about the appearance of Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander and member of the family that features in the hit American reality show Duck Dynasty, which tracks this Louisiana redneck clan. The venue was a Bush-free zone.

Read | Republicans find their ‘Kennedy clan’ in Trump’s children

If those in attendance were playing a game, other than Pokémon Go, it could have been called a Pack of Trumps. The Donald put family first, and foremost for this showcase for the First Family-in-waiting. Each night, at prime time, a Trump or two addressed the arena. Of course, the nominee himself created history probably becoming the first-ever to appear on each day of the multi-day convention, even if he did do so on Day Two via satellite, beaming across the 1,711 square foot screens, way larger than most Manhattan apartments. He joined his vice-presidential pick, Indiana governor Mike Pence on stage on Wednesday after photo-bombing Texas senator Ted Cruz’s speech, a non-endorsement.

First among the Trumps was Melania, the Slovenia-born former model, who recounted a life story, which, in parts, sounded like that of the incumbent First Lady Michelle Obama, probably because those words were lifted from one of her speeches. “There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, told CNN. There was none from Trump, who described her “speech and demeanor” as “absolutely incredible.” In her plagiarism, Melania Trump joined a luminous list that includes Obama, his vice-president Joe Biden, and even Bill Clinton.

Read | Hillary Clinton has more cash; Trump forgives loans

But this Trump Train was just getting on track. The next day, the New York State delegate to announce that Trump had the magic number for the nomination (the scheduled rumble in Cleveland turned into a few scattered grumbles) was his eldest son, named Donald Trump Jr Junior also was a headliner when it came to speeches, along with half-sister Tiffany. The family act continued into Wednesday with Eric Trump, another son, taking to the podium. Each trumpeted filial fealty. Trump gushed over each performance, the only speakers he referred to on Twitter on the first two days, ignoring the likes of Speaker Paul Ryan, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and a host of governors, senators, and representatives. Joining the sibling revelry was Ivanka, who got to play opening act to the headliner’s acceptance speech. At the RNC, the Trumps towered.

Obviously, this pageant of Trumps concluded with the candidate himself and his acceptance speech, one some would unkindly think of as a call to Make America Chafe Again. All that, and 125,000 balloons and 1,000 pounds of confetti brought the event to an end.

Read | A divided Republican party: Donald or Ivanka for president?

Strange, how a New York billionaire has managed to engineer a hostile takeover of the Republican Party over a period of a year and it now appears increasingly like a Trump family enterprise with Pence brought in like the outsider CEO needed for his political management chops.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs. The views expressed are personal.