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Democratic National Convention Flips The Script With Reagan-esque Themes


For more convention recap, we turn now to Charlie Sykes. He's a radio host in Milwaukee. He's got a talk show on WTMJ AM, and he runs the Right Wisconsin website. Thanks very much for being with us, Charlie.

CHARLIE SYKES: It's my pleasure.

SIMON: I want to read a tweet you tapped out on Thursday night, quote, "snark aside, GOP needs to understand what is happening to them tonight." What did happen?

SYKES: Yeah, what was happening was the Democrats were stealing all of their good lines. A lot of the themes that you would expect to see at a Republican convention - you know, the American exceptionalism, the American dream, opportunity, you know, this - the party of optimism and confidence - had basically been hijacked. And I was looking at these speeches and asking, why are these at a Democratic convention rather than a Republican convention? So I hope Republicans realize that a lot of the themes they thought were theirs are actually being taken by the Democrats.

SIMON: Well, maybe you just convinced them, Charlie.

SYKES: Yeah, that could be one, but also - it's also just a sign of the direction the Republicans have taken and some of the issues that they have surrendered by nominating Donald Trump, by going with nationalism rather than some of the themes that, I think, had been emerging in the party in recent years.

SIMON: I mean, I made some notes - quoting Ronald Reagan and John McCain, even George W. Bush - speaker after speaker saying the United States is the greatest country in the world - the parade of military officers, police officers. This is the kind of thing that used to make some Democrats roll their eyes.

SYKES: Yeah, this was extraordinary. And, you know, as a conservative, it was a surreal experience to see Democrats chanting, USA, USA. And, you know, when President Obama cites Ronald Reagan in talking about a shining city on a hill, again, you realize this, I guess, another way in which Donald Trump has totally transformed the political landscape. But they did a very, very good job of being able to flip that script because last week in Cleveland, the dark night speech that Donald Trump gave was certainly not, you know, the sort of optimistic, aspirational speech that you might get from Ronald Reagan. And so it was really striking to hear some of those notes being struck by Democrats.

SIMON: I suspect, in fact I'm pretty sure, we're going to get some emails and tweets from listeners who identify themselves as liberals and Democrats who would say, no, we're not imitating the Republicans. It means something different when we use some of the same words, and you can see that in our record.

SYKES: Oh, no, I actually would agree with that. I think what they have done, though, is they've seized the attitude. They've seized some of the language. You would normally, you know, think that a convention that's emphasizing opportunity, emphasizing the future and inclusion, would also embrace some of the things that some of the leaders of the Republican Party had been talking about. Look, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan would have used some of the same themes and language to advance obviously a very, very different agenda. But the - just the atmospherics of the convention - I was in Cleveland, I was there in the hall when Trump spoke and it was a - just a dramatically, dramatically different tone watching what was going on in Philadelphia.

SIMON: Charlie, is your feeling that a lot of Republicans, whose names are down on the ballot, are going to distance themselves from their presidential candidate?

SYKES: I think they will because they have to because if they don't distance themselves from Donald Trump, then they're going to spend the next three weeks in the position of having to explain or defend or rationalize everything he says or does. I think it's evident by now that he's not going to make a pivot, that he's not going to be something other than what he is. So I do think that you're going to have a lot of them distancing themselves. But also it's a terrible dilemma because Republicans are not sanguine about the prospects of another four years of Democratic rule. But it is what it is, and they have the candidate they have.

SIMON: Charlie Sykes, who's a talk show host and editor of Right Wisconsin, thanks so much for being with us.

SYKES: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.