GOP Convention To Count On Americans’ Collective Amnesia Of Trump’s First Term

Former President Donald Trump speaks on June 28 at Greenbrier Farms in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Republican Party is hoping voters won't remember much about his previous term in the White House.
Former President Donald Trump speaks on June 28 at Greenbrier Farms in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Republican Party is hoping voters won’t remember much about his previous term in the White House.
Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump left the White House with violent crime spiking, thousands of Americans dying each day from a disease he claimed was no worse than the common cold and having attempted a coup to remain in office despite having lost reelection.

The former and would-be future president and the Republican National Committee on Monday released a schedule of convention themes that counts on Americans forgetting all that and instead waxing nostalgic for his years in office.

“President Trump will Make America Great Once Again!” the RNC’s synopsis of the convention theme proclaims.

Each of the first three nights, though, promises a return to a Trump presidential past that did not really happen in the described way.

Monday, July 15, called “Make America Wealthy Once Again,” will focus on the economy under Trump, which it falsely claims was the best ever, thanks in part to “re-worked trade deals” he managed. In fact, the economy during Trump’s first three years ― before the COVID pandemic struck ― was similar to but slightly worse than during the final three years of his predecessor, Barack Obama. And Trump did not “rework” the North American Free Trade Agreement so much as simply rename it the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement. The few changes it did contain were mostly lifted from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama had negotiated but Trump then abandoned.

The theme for July 16, “Make America Safe Once Again,” suggests that crime has been rampant under President Joe Biden. In reality, crime rates spiked to their highest levels in years under Trump in 2020 and have been decreasing each of the three years since Biden took office.

And the final night before Trump is to be officially nominated ― labeled “Make America Strong Once Again” ― features Biden’s chaotic August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan but fails to point out that it was Trump, not Biden, who cut a deal directly with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government, even setting a deadline for the withdrawal. Trump’s administration then did no planning for the pullout, leaving the new Biden administration just months to unwind two decades of military presence in that country.

The Biden campaign said it was aware of its “voter amnesia” problem and has already begun an advertising and social media effort to remind Americans what Trump’s four years in office, particularly his final one, were truly like.

Polling, though, suggests Biden and his team face a difficult challenge, with many American voters quite receptive to Trump’s message. His campaign’s response to HuffPost queries for this article, in fact, consisted of a link to a poll showing Trump winning in each of the key swing states.

“Seems like it’s working pretty well,” veteran GOP consultant David Kochel said of Trump’s approach. “Grocery and gas prices were lower, mortgage rates were at an all-time low, Putin hadn’t invaded Ukraine and there wasn’t a war in the Middle East. That might have something to do with it.”

“Voters have short memories and they have a ‘recency bias,’ meaning that what is most recent is most impactful,” said Neil Newhouse a longtime Republican pollster. “Biden’s record of failure, to many voters, pales in comparison to how they remember the Trump presidency.”

Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois who unsuccessfully ran against Trump in the 2020 primaries, said some of the blame for voters’ erroneous beliefs about Trump’s presidency can be directed at Biden for failing to make his case forcefully enough.

“Sadly, that’s not how people remember those four years. And even more sadly, Biden is incapable of reminding people what those four years were really like,” Walsh said.