Donald Trump Jr. blasts 'rioting, looting and vandalism,' Tim Scott offers optimistic speech on race: Takeaways from the RNC

WASHINGTON – The opening night of the Republican National Convention served as an official rebuttal to a week of Democrats blasting President Donald Trump in their convention. Speakers at the RNC praised Trump's character, his first-term accomplishments and his performance during the coronavirus pandemic.

The event Monday evening highlighted the culture wars in the U.S. and Republicans sought to paint Democrats as socialists who would take away America's greatness, destroy the suburbs and cause chaos and lawlessness.

The event featured remarks from a Cuban-born American who warned of what socialism could do to the country. Also among the speakers were Sen. Tim Scott, Donald Trump Jr., Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and several Americans who were held overseas and freed under Trump's watch. 

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Sen. Tim Scott shares personal story on race

Sen. Tim Scott, the GOP's sole Black senator, delivered a rousing speech about race and the American dream. He shared the story of his family, saying they went "from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”

Scott, R-S.C., shared what he's been able to accomplish with the president, declining to weigh in on the culture wars that wove through most of the night's speeches. He said the world wants voters to believe only in racially, economically and culturally polarizing news, but he saw progress rather than stagnation.

Scott focused on hope and striving to make America better, sharing that his single mother worked 16 hour days to keep food on the table. He spoke of growing up living in a small home with his siblings and grandparents, how he picked himself up after failing several subjects in high school and how his path eventually led to Congress, winning in a crowded field of candidates.

“The voters judged me not on the color of my skin, but on the content of my character,” Scott said from Mellon Auditorium in Washington. “The truth is, our nation’s arc always bends back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but thank God almighty we are not where we used to be.”

Trump Jr. calls Joe Biden the 'Loch Ness monster of the swamp' 

Donald Trump Jr. unloaded a combative speech at the Republican National Convention by praising his father’s economic record in the White House while calling Democratic nominee Joe Biden, “Beijing Biden” and “the Loch Ness monster of the swamp.”

Trump Jr. said his father’s cuts in taxes and regulations provided “rocket fuel” to the economy, boosting growth and bringing about the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years. But Trump Jr. said the economic collapse came “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party.” He said Biden’s party discouraged free speech through rioting and bullying, while making it difficult to attend church because of coronavirus restrictions.

“Beijing Biden is so weak on China that the Intelligence Community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist Party favors Biden,” Trump Jr. said. After Biden’s nearly half-century in public office, Trump Jr. called Biden “basically the Loch Ness monster of the swamp.”

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“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism – or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, ‘peaceful protesting,’” Trump Jr. said.

Nikki Haley: Calling America a racist country 'is a lie'

After Democrats promoted diversity throughout their convention, the first night of the Republican featured several Republicans who took on the issue of race and politics.

Nikki Haley, whose parents immigrated from India, said calling America a racist country “is a lie.”

“My parents never gave in to grievance and hate,” said Haley, a Republican former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “America is a story that is a work in progress.”

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Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a lifelong Democrat who is Black, said officials in his party urged him to resign after he endorsed Trump. But rather than linger on the "mental plantation," Jones said he supported Trump for opportunity zones in tax legislation, financial support for historically Black colleges and universities and an overhaul of the criminal justice system that reduced mass incarceration that decimated Black communities.

“That’s right – Donald Trump did that,” Jones said.

Kim Klacik, the first Black Republican candidate for Congress ever from Maryland, said Democrats controlled Baltimore for more than 50 years and “have run this beautiful place into the ground” with abandoned buildings, drug addicts and guns on the street.

“And yet, the Democrats still assume that Black people will vote for them, no matter how much they let us down and take us for granted,” Klacik said. “Nope! We’re sick of it and not going to take it anymore. The days of blindly supporting the Democrats are coming to an end.”

Herschel Walker, a former professional football player, defended Trump against accusations that he is racist.

"It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald. The worst one is 'racist,'" said Walker, who is Black and who described his relationship with Trump as a "deep" friendship. "People who think that don't know what they're talking about," he said.

St. Louis couple who pointed guns say they were victims of a 'mob'

The couple who in late June pointed guns at people protesting racial injustice in St. Louis played a central role in a segment centered on gun rights and violence, with several speakers highlighting the Second Amendment and Trump's actions over his term to both protect these rights and curb violence after mass shootings.

The names of Mark and Patricia McCloskey went viral after photos captured the couple pointing a semi-automatic rifle and handgun at a crowd of protesters walking past their home during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis office knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The incident later led to the couple being charged with a felony.

A St. Louis couple who pointed their guns at protesters marching through their community spoke at the Republican National Convention.

"America is such a great country that you not only have the right to own a gun and use it to defend yourself, but thousands of Americans will offer you free advice on how to use it. At least that’s what we experienced," Patricia McCloskey said. "What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country."

Her husband, Mark, noted that protester outside their home had not been charged with a crime. He also talked of the backlash the couple has received.

"At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob – spurred on by their allies in the media – will try to destroy you," he said. "President Trump will defend the God-given right of every American to protect their homes and their families."

The evening had a heavy emphasis on gun rights and included remarks from Rep. Steve Scalise, who survived a shooting in 2017, and Andrew Pollack, whose teenage daughter, Meadow, was killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. in 2018.

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Kimberly Guilfoyle, Ronna McDaniel court suburban women 

Throughout the evening, several speakers sought to target a key demographic that has been reluctant to support Trump: suburban women. 

Republicans argued that a Biden presidency would jeopardize the safety of their families and their healthcare while female speakers spoke about why they supported Trump. 

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, noted that Democrats in their convention last week started off with host Eva Longoria, who starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives." 

"Well, I’m actually a real housewife and a mom from Michigan with two wonderful kids in public school who happens to be only the second woman in 164 years to run the Republican Party," McDaniel said. "And unlike Joe Biden, President Trump didn’t choose me because I’m a woman – he chose me because I was the best person for the job."

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising aide for Trump's campaign and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., gave an impassioned speech on behalf of the president after introducing herself as a single mother and Latina. She accused Democrats of trying to impose socialist policies.

"My mother, Mercedes, was a special education teacher from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. My father also an immigrant came to this nation in pursuit of the American Dream. Now, I consider it my duty to fight to protect that dream," she said.

Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle give an interview to USA Today in Inwood, W.V. on the campaign trail for Patrick Morrisey

"Don’t let the Democrats and their socialist comrades take you for granted. Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future. Don’t let them suppress future generations, because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough," Guilfoyle said.

"This election is a battle for the soul of America," she said, asking voters to decide whether they wanted "cosmopolitan elites" and whether they supported "cancel culture," before stating, "Your choice is clear."

Trump narrowly won suburban voters in 2016 but his polling with those voters, especially suburban women, has been falling. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll in June showed 66% of suburban women disapproved of Trump's performance, including 58% who said they "strongly" disapproved.

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