Letters From an American

MAGA Hats, QAnon, the Postal Service War…and the DNC

MAGA Hats, QAnon, the Postal Service War...and the DNC

In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, former U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the virtual convention on August 19, 2020. The convention, which was once expected to draw 50,000 people to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is now taking place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by DNCC via Getty Images)

August 19, 2020

In a sign of just how rough things have been lately, I read the news today and thought, “Oh, good. Nothing much has happened today, so tonight’s Letter can focus on tonight’s Democratic National Convention.”

Here’s the “nothing much”:

This morning, Trump urged Americans not to buy Goodyear tires because of a rumor that the company had banned MAGA hats. Goodyear tweeted that its policy had been misconstrued, but Goodyear stock dropped more than 2% after the president’s tweet. The company’s headquarters are in Akron, Ohio, a city in an important swing state for the upcoming election. Goodyear employs about 63,000 people. But if his call for a boycott hurts the company, Trump said, workers will “be able to get another good job.”

On Twitter, the City of Akron, Ohio responded: “Goodyear has believed in this community for generations, investing in the power, tenacity and honest people of the heartland, which is more than we can say for this president. # WeStandWithGoodyear”

At a press conference this afternoon, Trump appeared to endorse QAnon, the conspiracy-theory group that believes Trump is secretly undermining a ring of elite pedophiles and cannibals who have taken over the highest ranks of world government and economy. The FBI assesses that the spread of QAnon will likely lead to more domestic terrorism and is a threat to national security. When asked about the group, the president said “I don’t know much about the movement other than, I understand, they like me very much which I appreciate… I have heard that it is gaining in popularity… I heard these are people who love our country.” A reporter followed up: “QAnon believes you are secretly saving the world from this cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Are you behind that?” Trump responded: “Is that supposed to be a bad thing? We are actually. We are saving the world.”

Reporter Ally Mutnick in Politico today pointed out that Trump has remade the Republican Party in his image. In districts with safe Republican seats, the ticket to winning primaries this year was to cling tight to the president. As a result, the Republican ranks next year will have Trump loyalists, including QAnon supporters, where there previously were Republicans willing to criticize the president. The new Republicans’ only political principle is blind devotion to Trump.

The scandal in the United States Postal Service continued to grow, as we learned that the USPS refused to share with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) information about how its board of governors chose new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump loyalist. It appears Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was involved in the selection, suggesting inappropriate political influence.

Yesterday, DeJoy stated that he was halting further changes to the USPS until after the election, but today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that DeJoy has no plans to replace the sorting machines and post boxes already removed on his orders.

Yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Report on connections between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian operatives is beginning to attract the media notice it deserves. Authored by a Republican-dominated committee, the report established that Konstantin Kilimnik, the longtime business associate of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, is a Russian intelligence officer. While chairing Trump’s campaign, Manafort both communicated often with Kilimnik in encrypted conversations and gave him sensitive internal polling data from the campaign. The report says Kilimnik may have been directly involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and handing the stolen files to Wikileaks. The report also establishes that Trump repeatedly discussed the Wikileaks document dumps with operative Roger Stone, then lied about those discussions with investigators.

Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin today published an article titled “As it turns out, there really was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.” Norman Eisen, lawyer for the House impeachment managers, told her: “Collusion simply means Trump and those around him wrongly working together with Russia and its satellites, and the fact of that has long been apparent…. Indeed, it was clear to anyone with eyes from the moment Trump asked, ‘Russia, if you’re listening.’… The Senate report is a valuable contribution advancing our understanding, including explaining former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s nexus to Russian intelligence. The report further elucidates our understanding of collusion via WikiLeaks, which acted as a Russian cut-out.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi focused not on 2016 but on the present, noting that “America’s intelligence and law enforcement communities have made clear that the Russian Government is continuing to wage a massive intervention campaign to benefit the President, warning of a ‘365-days-a-year threat’ to compromise the 2020 elections and undermine our democracy.” She noted that the very first thing the Democrats did when they took a majority in the House was to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to secure our elections, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to take the bill up.

And now, tonight’s Democratic National Convention….

With actress Kerry Washington as emcee, the convention tonight first focused on the power of immigrants and investment in green energy to create jobs and protect the planet. Then it turned to a celebration of women in politics.

A hundred years after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote, American women are redirecting American democracy to a new emphasis on community and inclusion. In her segment tonight, Pelosi—the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives– noted that there are now 105 women in the House (this number includes women delegates from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). Ninety are Democrats.

Tonight’s DNC emphasized issues important to women, including the provision of childcare as national infrastructure and legislation addressing domestic violence. It showed images of women who “make trouble… the good kind.”

Former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords, shot in the head in 2011 as she held a constituent event, set the message for the evening: “Today, I struggle with speech, but I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words. We are at a crossroads. We can choose to let this continue or we can act.” She implored listeners to vote.

In a somber speech, former President Barack Obama warned that, in this election, American democracy is at stake. He outlined the strengths he sees in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, then warned people not to let “this president and those in power… those who benefit from keeping things the way they are… [to] take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy…. What we do echoes through the generations.”

It was a powerful speech—one for the ages, really—and it set up the night’s final speaker, California Senator Kamala Harris, now the Democratic candidate for vice president.

Harris tied Obama’s theme to her own story as the American-born child of immigrants, reminding us that America is a “a beloved community where all are welcome.”

But not everyone sees America that way. “I think we need to ask ourselves, why don’t they want us to vote?” she said. “Why is there so much effort to silence our voices? And the answer is because when we vote, things change. When we vote, things get better…. Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? … And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”

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Heather Cox Richardson

Heather Cox Richardson teaches American history at Boston College. She is the author of a number of books, most recently, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She writes the popular nightly newsletter Letters from an American. Follow her on Twitter: @HC_Richardson.