It’s beginning to look like Donald Trump is going to give in to the reality of the pandemic and will be forced to hold a very limited nominating convention in Jacksonville, rather than the huge party he was envisioning just a few weeks ago.
Coronavirus infections in Florida are spiking and hospitals are filling up at an alarming rate. Even Governor Ron DeSantis is backing down, saying the state may have to reenter a lockdown phase.
If that happens, the Republican convention may not even happen at all.
As it is, planners are now looking at a much reduced, subdued event, even though they’re putting a brave public face on.
Already the 2020 event has seen a venue change –- to more Trump-friendly territory in Jacksonville, Florida, from Charlotte, North Carolina — and it has been drastically reduced in scope. For technical reasons, the convention will be unable to formally adopt a new party platform. And what is normally a highlight of the convention — the roll call of the states to renominate the president — is set to be conducted through proxy votes in the original host city.
Still, Trump and his aides had pinned their hopes on creating the pageantry of a formal acceptance speech in Jacksonville, envisioning an arena of packed with supporters, without face masks. Outwardly, the White House and the RNC have said they’re full-steam ahead with the revised plan.
But that’s not going to happen now.
But privately, concerns are mounting, and plans are being drawn up to further scale back the event or even shift it to entirely virtual. Officials who weeks ago had looked for the convention to be a celebration of the nation’s vanquishing of the virus now see it as a potent symbol of the pandemic’s persistence.
It had always been expected that reopening the economies of states would lead to a spike in infections. But it had been hoped that by late August, the increase in positive tests would settle at a reasonable number and the party could have gone forward. Convention planners are now looking at the optics of holding an event with a large gathering at all.
Organizers now plan to provide COVID-19 testing to all attendees daily, conduct frequent temperature checks and offer face coverings. Even so, Trump aides and allies fear that the entire spectacle will be overshadowed by attendee concerns and already heightened media scrutiny on the potential for the convention to be a “super-spreading” event.
Key decisions about the event, including precisely where or if Trump will appear, need to be made in the coming days to allow sufficient time for the build-out of the space.
Donald Trump has to come to the conclusion that the coronavirus will not just “disappear” or “go away.” It’s here. It’s real. And it’s a problem. As the media continues to hype the coronavirus as something akin to the black plague, Trump must be the adult in the room and speak realistically about living with the virus. That means going back to work, going to school, and socializing. But it also means taking precautions like vulnerable people wearing masks and common sense social distancing being practiced.
If it were up to public health officials and Democrats, we’d lock ourselves away in our houses — at least until Joe Biden was elected. But the nation can’t afford to do that. And it certainly can’t afford a Biden presidency.