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Republican Voters Reflect On The Republican National Convention

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Republican National Convention wrapped up on the South Lawn of the White House last night. That's where President Trump gave the final speech of the week. He talked about law and order, about American greatness, and bashed Joe Biden. We wanted to hear from some conservative voters on how the messages from the RNC landed this week.

PAUL WHITLEY: From President Trump's speech last night, I feel like this was the line when he said that we do not put our trust in politicians or government as our savior. We put our faith in almighty God.

DICK BUTTON: This is Dick Button, and I would second that.

CHAUNCEY BLUMENFRUCHT: When I saw the young man speaking about how he was canceled...

CORNISH: So are you talking about Nick Sandmann, the young man who had had the experience on the National Mall? So he got featured and talked about the idea of cancel culture.

BLUMENFRUCHT: And it's something that is very important to me because my children are more conservative. When they go out to college or even at work, they will be - I don't know. They will be bullied. I feel that there's an issue of freedom of speech.

BUTTON: This is Dick Button, and I agree, Chauncey. I really appreciated his speaking. And for a young man, he really did a great job of stating how he felt.

CORNISH: There were so many Black Republicans. Black, Latino, Asian - it was sort of a multiracial vision of the party...

BUTTON: Yes.

CORNISH: ...That isn't necessarily in line with the data of the voting patterns. Can you talk about what you thought about what you heard from those speakers?

BUTTON: Well, I think it's something that needed to be pointed out, yes. And to have the Black people coming forward and making that statement I thought was good.

BLUMENFRUCHT: It was absolutely necessary for the convention to have people of different backgrounds and different status in life because it's the media, and it's the message. And that's what's causing all the unrest - that saying either you're here, or you are there. And that's unfair. It's been unfair to the president from Day One.

CORNISH: You said something that this is the cause of unrest, this divisiveness. What's your response to the viewers who say the cause of the unrest is police misconduct?

BLUMENFRUCHT: Listen; this country is a big country with a lot of police departments. And there probably are and there is justice that's not being served properly. To say that it's systemic - to me, that's cowardice. My daughter is a nurse, and there are good nurses, and there are bad nurses. There are good doctors, and there are bad doctors. And there are good policemen, and unfortunately, there are bad policemen. And I'm sure we've all had that.

CORNISH: Paul, let me let you jump in here.

WHITLEY: Clearly, there are instances of excessive use of police force. Police officers are, in fact, human beings, and some human beings do bad things, whether by mistake or by malice. The insistence on framing the use of police force in racial terms has ruined any chance of an honest conversation about it.

CORNISH: Right now the president is dealing with a number of crises. There's the pandemic. There's the massive job loss. And there are these protests...

BUTTON: Right.

CORNISH: ...Over police misconduct. These are all things that have happened under his watch. It's a little different from being new to the political scene and saying, here's how I'm going to improve things. If a voter is on the fence and watching all this, why should they not think that the buck stops with him?

WHITLEY: Paul Whitley here. I'll jump right in on that. The president actually tried to get out in front of the coronavirus. The steps that he tried to take initially were blocked, and he was chastised for them by the opposition party as well as the riots that have been going on. The president has offered help to these cities and states.

BUTTON: Right.

BLUMENFRUCHT: Not only has he been rejected. He's been ridiculed. He's been told to get out of their state. He's been...

WHITLEY: Vilified.

CORNISH: It sounds like what you guys are saying is the message to voters is none of this is his fault, and he tried. And he needs another four years to improve the situation.

WHITLEY: Oh, I would go so far as to say it's sabotage.

CORNISH: So it sounds like the argument that we heard from stage - that it's about cities, governors, that Democrats on the local level were the problem - you think that message will resonate.

BLUMENFRUCHT: I hope it resonates because all of this is extremely politicized. Why wouldn't the governors take help?

BUTTON: Right.

BLUMENFRUCHT: Because, as he says - and, you know, he likes to tout his own accomplishments. He'll stand there and say, I helped save the governors. They don't want him to be able to say that.

WHITLEY: Paul here. I'll jump in. Chauncey makes a very good point. It is political. When a governor says that they are more OK with people dying than the president being seen doing something good, then we've got problems.

CORNISH: And which governor said this? I want to make sure we're not putting anything on air that'll put you in trouble.

WHITLEY: No, no, no. No one said those words. But by their actions, they showed that's how they felt.

CORNISH: Paul Whitley, to you, is this a choice between two candidates or a referendum on the president's performance?

WHITLEY: I will have to say that it is absolutely a choice between two candidates. To say that this election is a referendum on Donald Trump is disingenuous. Even with the COVID state lockdowns that have crushed the economy, even with the civil unrest, even with the pandemic itself, looking at the state of the nation right now, A, we're recovering at such a rate that we're already better than we were when Trump initially took office. I think the only thing that you can honestly say that has gotten worse in the last four years has been the behavior of Democrats.

BLUMENFRUCHT: He did whatever a president could do at an unprecedented time. And I think people would probably be a little bit nervous to see what a Democrat government will do because - I don't know. I don't know if they would want to take this whole situation and just make people very dependent on government dependence, which will not help the country grow but will just keep people very, very dependent and not help America get back on its feet.

CORNISH: I just want to ask one other thing. The Democrats last week we spoke to came from sort of different corners of the party. For you, at the end of this week, did you see a party that actually reflects you?

BUTTON: This is Dick Button. Yes, I did.

WHITLEY: I am not yet ready to say that the Republican Party reflects me. I am not a registered Republican. I am an independent who happens to be too conservative for the Republican Party. But I feel like the president - I feel like the candidate that we were there to honor and put forth - I feel like he represents me more so than any other candidate that I've seen.

BLUMENFRUCHT: Chauncey. I felt that I did see the Republican Party representing more of what I feel - tearing down. There's fixing.

BUTTON: I agree.

WHITLEY: I feel like those are the two messages that the parties put forth - America is awful; it's always been awful versus America has always strived to be great. We've often fell short, but together, we can become greater.

CORNISH: I want to thank all three of you for taking the time out to speak with us.

BUTTON: My privilege.

BLUMENFRUCHT: Thank you so much.

WHITLEY: Thank you again for this opportunity. I had a blast.

CORNISH: That's Paul Whitley, Dick Button and Chauncey Blumenfrucht, conservative voters talking about the Republican convention, which ended last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF COCOS LOVERS SONG, "SILENCE OF A MOONLIT SKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.