The RNC takes a hard-right turn, with speakers known for triggering liberals

Mark and Patricia McCloskey point guns at protestors marching by their St. Louis mansion in June.
The Republican National Convention will feature a message from Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters on June 28.
(Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch )

President Trump is fond of binge-watching Fox News from the White House and Air Force One, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the speaking lineup at the Republican National Convention resembles his favorite prime-time programming.

The convention’s first night included remarks from two of Trump’s most ardent congressional loyalists, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). There was also Charlie Kirk, a conservative provocateur who targets college campuses as the leader of Turning Point USA.

And of course the event was a family affair, featuring the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox personality who’s now a campaign fundraiser.


But perhaps no one symbolizes the convention’s hard-right turn under Trump more than Mark and Patricia McCloskey.

At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has gained widespread political support, Trump chose to spotlight a white couple who pointed firearms at protesters marching past their mansion in St. Louis. They recorded a message that was shown during the convention’s first night.

The McCloskeys face felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon. They’ve claimed they felt threatened and were only protecting their home when protesters started marching down their private street on June 28 on their way to the mayor’s home.

“Not a single person in the out-of-control mob you saw at our house was charged with a crime,” Mark McCloskey said. “But you know who was? We were. They’ve actually charged us with felonies for daring to defend our home.”

Trump has defended the McCloskeys as part of his effort to spread racist fears about supposed threats to the suburbs.

“They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning,” Patricia McCloskey said. “This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods.”


Amanda Carpenter, a conservative writer who previously worked for Republicans on Capitol Hill, described the McCloskeys as “people who wouldn’t be on the stage in a normal political environment.” She added, “They’re famous for theatrics and provoking liberals in wild and reckless ways.”

Other speakers used apocalyptic rhetoric to describe the threat of Democrats winning the White House. Kirk said Trump is “the bodyguard of western civilization.” Gaetz said Democrats will “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.”

Provoking liberals — “triggering” them, in the parlance of the right — appears to be a central goal of the convention rather than broadening Trump’s appeal beyond his base.

In a year where Democrats are pushing to retake the U.S. Senate, there is only one vulnerable Republican senator shown on the convention schedule: Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who all face tough races in November, are all absent.

But the convention featured Kim Klacik, a long-shot Republican candidate for a congressional seat in Baltimore. A young Black woman, Kacik released a video of herself wearing a red dress and heels while walking the city’s streets to complain that “the Democrat Party has betrayed the Black people of Baltimore.”

“The days of blindly supporting Democrats are coming to an end,” Klacik said in her convention video.

The lineup is also about settling scores with the media. Tuesday night’s schedule includes Nicholas Sandmann, a young student who was accused of mocking a Native American man near the Lincoln Memorial last year.


The confrontation became a viral story — in part because Sandmann was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat — and Sandmann said media coverage was defamatory. He recently settled lawsuits with the Washington Post and CNN.

Trump cheered on the lawsuits, tweeting, “Go get them Nick. Fake News!”