RNC : White Identity Politics Play Central Role On Night 3 : The NPR Politics Podcast Mike Pence formally accepted the vice presidential nomination on the third night of the Republican National Convention. As racial justice protests continue across the country after a shooting in Wisconsin, Pence touted Trump as a president who stands up for "our heritage."

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Pence: Trump Won't Stay Silent When 'Our Heritage Is Demeaned Or Insulted'

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Pence: Trump Won't Stay Silent When 'Our Heritage Is Demeaned Or Insulted'

Pence: Trump Won't Stay Silent When 'Our Heritage Is Demeaned Or Insulted'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/906532381/906563305" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

Hey, there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: I'm Ayesha Rascoe. I cover the White House.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: And I'm Ron Elving, editor-correspondent.

DAVIS: And it is 11:56 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26, and the third night of the Republican National Convention has now concluded. Mike Pence gave the keynote speech, accepting the nomination once again for vice president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We will reelect our president and principled Republican leaders across the land. And with President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years and with God's help, we will Make America Great Again Again.

DAVIS: Again. Ayesha, you're traveling with the vice president today. Right?

RASCOE: Yes, I am. So I was in Baltimore at Fort McHenry. There was a battle there that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner," which Pence referenced in his speech. But yeah, I was at the event tonight.

KEITH: So you were there. What was it like?

RASCOE: I would say - it wasn't quite a rally, but there were, like, 150 people there. It was outside, and they were sitting in these kind of white folding chairs. There were some chants. There were some standing ovations.

DAVIS: And we should note that, once again, President Trump made a, well, quote-unquote "surprise" appearance at tonight's convention.

RASCOE: Yes. It wasn't too big of a surprise, but he did make an appearance tonight. And at the end, you know, people kind of rushed towards the stage and towards the president. And you know, there was some greetings, which in the time of coronavirus, it was kind of interesting to see all these people without masks crowded together around the president.

DAVIS: And it's been a really clear contrast between the Republican convention and the Democratic convention, where they made such a point to show people social distancing and wearing masks.

ELVING: Ayesha, on substance, was there anything from the Pence speech that really stuck with you?

RASCOE: I think what has stuck with me and will, because it's been such a focus of the president and a focus - something that I've reporting on, was just the emphasis on law and order.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: The violence must stop, whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedom to see Americans strike each other down.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American of every race and creed and color.

(WHISTLING, CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

KEITH: And Ayesha, you've been working on a story. That was one of the big applause lines four years ago in President Trump's speeches.

RASCOE: It was. The difference now, though, is back when he was talking about it in 2016 - when Trump was talking about this, he was saying that he would make the cities safer, that he would fix the cities even though they were run by Democrats. And now you hear a language that's really more saying that the president will protect the rest of the country from becoming the cities.

DAVIS: All right, Ayesha. I know you're on the press bus, so we're going to let you go. But thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thanks for having me on the pod today. You guys have a great rest of the pod.

(LAUGHTER)

ELVING: Good night.

RASCOE: See you. Bye.

DAVIS: All right. So Ron, what stood out to you from the speech? What were your impressions?

PENCE: I was struck by how Mike Pence continues to have the virtues and, if you will, the character of a conservative radio talk show host, which he's been a couple of times in his career back in Indiana on a more or less local level. And he can be soothing, or he can be almost ministerial, or he can be rather calling in the fears of what might come. And this is the slightly different Mike Pence role that he's being given, I perceive at least, where he's given a little bit more of the red meat material. He's talking about Joe Biden is going to abolish - that was the word he used - abolish all fossil fuels. And he said, you will not be safe in Joe Biden's America. So he's more into the fearmongering role now than he has been heretofore in the Trump campaign.

DAVIS: You know, one thing I was thinking about listening to Mike Pence tonight is how Donald Trump and Mike Pence are still one of the oddest bedfellow couples in politics but that their relationship is so intertwined now in that Pence, in so many ways, has been the great normalizer for Trump that back when Trump was running in 2016 and he was this candidate that was dividing the party, Pence was the factor in all of this that made so many sort of pre-Trump party faithful feel like they could get behind this ticket. And I think what he did tonight is in some ways he's a better messenger for Trump than Trump is for himself because Pence doesn't do all the things that Trump does. He doesn't go off message. He doesn't make unintended news cycles. He's very practiced. He knows how to deliver a speech. And I think he has been an effective vice president for Trump in that regard.

And tonight was one of those speeches where I was kind of chuckling to myself thinking about all these rumors that Trump was going to replace him on the ticket and, what if he gets rid of Pence? And you're like, oh, no - tonight is why Trump keeps Pence around; that - he's done right by the president.

KEITH: He sands off all the rough edges. He describes President Trump the way he wants him to be and the way probably many voters want him to be. It's not always an accurate portrayal. It's often not at all an accurate portrayal.

DAVIS: It's a very glossy portrayal.

ELVING: And you must say, he, in the end, is the ultimate insurance policy with white evangelical Protestant voters...

DAVIS: Yeah.

ELVING: ...Who are such an important part of the president's base.

DAVIS: Tam, what about you?

KEITH: Certainly, Democrats last week described, you know, this election being existential, about democracy being on the line. Well, tonight there were a number of people who describe America as being on the line - America won't be America if Joe Biden wins. And what are they saying, you know? Like, what are they getting at there? Vice President Pence, in his speech, you know, talked about the protests. He sided with the police largely, the thin blue line. And he also - he talked about heritage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: And if you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted, he's not your man.

DAVIS: Yeah, the term our heritage raises the question, whose heritage?

KEITH: And it's evocative of maybe those Confederate statues that President Trump has defended or the Confederate flag, where President Trump was bothered that NASCAR or suggested that NASCAR's ratings would be hurt by banning the flag. It's a loaded word, certainly. And earlier in this convention, you heard people talking about defending Western civilization. It's in the same realm.

DAVIS: All right. Well, let's take a quick break. And we'll talk about other moments from the night when we get back.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVIS: And we're back. And we're talking about the standout moments from tonight. And one of the things that I kept hearing over and over in the speeches tonight is this effort to sort of soften who Donald Trump is. We heard it especially in remarks by women who spoke tonight, people like press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Kellyanne Conway, his top adviser who's leaving the White House soon; his daughter in law Lara Trump - all speaking to who the man is, Donald Trump behind closed doors - that they see how kind, how empathetic, how much he cares about people.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: I've seen him offer heartfelt outreach to grieving parents who lost their children to crime in the streets.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I have seen firsthand, many times, the president comforting and encouraging a child who has lost a parent, a parent who has lost a child.

LARA TRUMP: What I learned about our president is different than what you might have heard.

DAVIS: And it just seemed so different than the way, honestly, people view Trump or the way Trump has conducted himself in public for most of his administration. And I think, you know, conventions aren't about obviously acknowledging your weaknesses. They're - but they are an opportunity to try and, you know, do something about them. And Trump has a real empathy gap when it comes to Joe Biden. We've seen that in polling.

There was a Quinnipiac poll out last month that showed that - you know, they asked people sort of a traditional poll question - do you think this person cares about people like you? So people can interpret that in any way they see. And only 37% of people said they believe Trump cared about people like them compared to 59% for Joe Biden. That's a big gap. I mean, Trump has a real weakness there, and it just seemed very obvious what these testaments were trying to do.

ELVING: The president says he doesn't pay any attention to polls - they're all fake, including the Fox News poll. And the Fox News polls showed that he was doing worse among suburban voters than among city voters - hard to believe, but that's what it said. And we usually use this term suburban voters in our own minds and in perhaps the president's rhetoric as kind of a polite way of saying white voters. But the suburbs are not that simple anymore. The suburbs are much more complex than that demographically. So it's possible that the president is missing the boat a little bit with that, and he's trying to get back at the suburban vote with blow after blow in this convention from speaker after speaker talking to the consciousness of at least what they perceive to be suburban voters and especially suburban women.

DAVIS: If you are a suburban woman who is undecided listening to this convention, there is very confusing, competing messages here. No? (Laughter).

ELVING: That's right - because we've had fuzzy time. We've had warm and fuzzy time. And we've seen some very enduring personalities - new faces in the Republican Party, people we might not have seen before, very appealing people. We've also heard a lot of tough talk, for example, from Rick Grenell tonight - he is the former acting director of national intelligence - going after the Biden role in the Obama administration in really tough terms. So we've also seen a lot of that bare-knuckle stuff.

But there are two terms here that I am struck by because I've been doing this for a while and I've watched campaigns back over several decades. And these two terms - socialism, on the one hand, and law and order - that goes all the way back to the 1960s. It was certainly part of Richard Nixon's playbook, Ronald Reagan's playbook, to some degree George W. Bush's playbook - although he also had a compassionate conservatism that he talked about. It's been a winner for Republicans in many different eras, and they are certainly going back to it this fall.

KEITH: You know, as we sit here talking right now, I'm looking up at my TV screen and seeing the radar images of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane headed for the Gulf Coast. Vice President Pence ended up addressing it in his remarks tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PENCE: This is a serious storm, and we urge all those in the affected areas to heed state and local authorities. Stay safe, and know that we'll be with you every step of the way.

KEITH: And then there's Kenosha, where there have been protests going on all week after police shot Jacob Blake in the back. And then there were protests. And then last night, two protesters were shot and killed. So there is just a lot.

DAVIS: Well, it also seems like it presents a challenge for the president tomorrow night. The hurricane in particular - he wasn't planning on that. And I think, depending on how this hurricane goes, if there is vast devastation happening to America tomorrow overnight, you know, the president has to - the tone he strikes is even going to be more carefully watched to look like you are, you know, being more presidential and not too political.

ELVING: It's going to raise the question, how many crises can you essentially ignore in a political convention at the same time? How many different things going on that are difficult, that are negatives can you act as though you have completely under control? The economy, racial unrest, the virus and now this hurricane - how can you not, in some sense or another, defer to these in a more respectful way than we've heard in the first three nights?

DAVIS: All right. Well, let's leave it there for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow for the final night of the Republican National Convention and President Trump's acceptance speech. And if you want to follow NPR Politics' live coverage, it starts at 9 p.m. Eastern on your local public radio station. To find your station, go to npr.org/stations or ask your smart speaker - hey, smart speaker, play NPR. I'm Susan Davis. I cover Congress.

KEITH: I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

ELVING: And I'm Ron Elving, editor-correspondent.

DAVIS: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

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