For many first-time convention viewers (like myself), Monday's kick-off of the Republican National Convention was an intense and scary introduction. The theme of the day, "Make America Safe Again," was fulfilled by tearful tales of tragedy, graphic accounts from veterans, and fervent outcries from Republican lawmakers, all with the aim of emphasizing threats to Americans from undocumented immigrants and terrorists. It's easy for us first-timers to attribute the bravado and intensity of Monday's national security rhetoric to the unconventional Republican nominee, Donald Trump, but CNN's Dana Bash offers a different perspective.
In an interview with Bustle at the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, Bash explains that the heavy partisanship showcased on the convention's first day was not exceptional compared to past conventions. Bash says of the strength of the tone that Trump set at the convention:
I remember other conventions on both sides of the aisle where it's been incredibly and intensely partisan. Because, not only are these delegates gathering to ... formally nominate their person for president, but it's also for people who are the most die-hard of die-hards in each party to gather and to ... not only let off steam, but to hear what they want to hear when it comes to the party's message going forward.
Bash suggests that the intense tone of political conventions in general is not necessarily representative of mainstream voters. This idea is bolstered in the present context by the fact that most Republican primary voters voted for someone besides Trump, as well as the results of a June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which found 52 percent of Republican voters wished they had a different candidate.
Trump's over-the-top, tough guy tone may not be a favorite among many Republican voters — many may not agree, for example, with Trump's common refrain that undocumented ("illegal") immigrants are dangerous, something he attempted to impress on Monday by featuring speakers who had lost loved ones at the hands of undocumented immigrants. But, across a number of polls, majorities of Republican voters support many of the policies Trump has put forth regarding immigrants and national security, the theme of Monday's events.
Back in February 2015, for example, 74 percent of Republicans told Pew Research Center that overwhelming military force was the way to deal with terrorism. A Quinnipiac poll from June of this year found 73 percent of Republicans in support of temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States, while an ABC News/Washington Post poll from December found support to be at 59 percent.
Republican voters' views on immigration appear softer than Trump's criminal rhetoric. A Public Religion Research Institute report for 2015 found that only 30 percent of Republicans support deporting undocumented immigrants. But they're down with the U.S./Mexico border wall; in April, Pew found 63 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters polled support it.
The tone of Monday's "Make America Safe Again" convention night may have been on par with other conventions concerning intensity, but this year, that intensity may have matched mainstream voters' attitudes more accurately given its topic of national security, over which the American public is polarized.