Last night, the Republican National Convention ended with a speech from President Donald Trump in which he characterized the November election as a choice between total chaos under Joe Biden or "law and order" if he is reelected. This isn't the first time Trump has portrayed himself as a "law and order president," accusing the Democrats of being in love with violent crime.
The Republicans sure love to talk about this idea, using it to vilify protestors and those who propose defunding the police. But for a party so performatively invested in peddling the importance of law and order, they upheld none of it at the RNC. They broke the rules knowingly, and they didn't care.
Thanks to the 1939 Hatch Act, it’s illegal for federal employees to use government property or resources to advocate for their political beliefs. Therefore, say experts, holding part of the RNC at the White House potentially violates federal ethics law. "The Hatch Act was the wall standing between the government's might and candidates," Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, tweeted this week.
But that was only one of the RNC's potentially illegal acts. Trump gave his speech to about 1,500 people crowded on the lawn of the White House — most without masks and with hardly any proper social distancing in sight. Masks and social distancing were not required to attend the event, nor were most attendees tested for COVID-19. Gatherings of over 50 are not allowed in Washington, D.C., and not wearing a mask could be punishable with a $1,000 fine.
But the president sees himself as an exception to these rules. And despite touting his own response to the pandemic in his speech, he doesn't seem to care about his supporters' wellbeing. According to CNN, a senior White House official responded to the safety concerns by saying, “Everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.”
None of this behavior is a departure from the way that Trump has led his administration. It only illuminates the one rule that he’s been following all this time and will continue to follow should he win again — the idea that he can do no wrong and takes no responsibility. And it has disturbing implications for November.
"Tonight a candidate tore down that wall and wielded power for his own campaign," Shaub wrote. "Citizen Trump is no longer presenting himself as a candidate. Now your government is telling you who should rule you."