The ratings for the first three nights of the Republican National convention came in well below those of the Democratic convention, and, naturally, Donald Trump took the news as an opportunity to throw his fellow Republicans under the bus.
Asked about the ratings, Trump told the New York Times, “I didn’t produce our show — I just showed up for the final speech on Thursday.”
Trump did in fact appear at the convention to introduce his wife Melania, and more to the point, he had guaranteed that the spectacle would be great. Before it started, Trump had promised that he would bring “showbiz” glamour to the convention; instead the week showcased just how assiduously Trump has driven away the GOP’s most attractive voices. No-shows included Never-Trumpers like Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney, along with a diverse group of fresh conservative faces that do not even oppose Trump, such as South Carolina’s senator, Tim Scott.
Also staying away from Cleveland were Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, and most other figures that would make the party appear young and diverse. As Charlie put it a fortnight ago, “Were the organizers determined to say ‘we’re a small, white rump, ignore us!’ they could barely have done a better job.”
Trump’s actions led directly to this state of affairs. In consequence the Celebrity Apprentice-like ratings can only be blamed on him. Rather than seeking to expand the party’s appeal, Trump’s convention offered a parade of sycophants and family members.
This was no surprise. Trump has feuded with Republican leaders such as Susana Martinez, who in another year would have made an appearance. He has called Illinois Senator Mark Kirk — a man who needs as much support as he can get this election year — a “loser.” And he has indicated his conditional support for the party he putatively leads, saying, “If somebody is going to say a little bit negative or a lot negative about me, and if they happen to be a Republican, I may choose to hit them back.”
By dismissing the RNC’s low ratings, Trump implies that voters only wanted to see him. By driving away key figures that will help the party put its best foot forward, he hamstrings the quality of the Republicans’ offering. One can only hope that his self-centeredness does not hurt the party down-ballot in November.