Republican Convention: Speeches by Ordinary Americans Benefit from Crowd-Free Format

Florida businessman Maximo Alvarez speaks during the 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, D.C., August 24, 2020. (2020 Republican National Convention/Handout via Reuters)

Imagine that on Sunday, before the Republican convention began, I told you that some of the best and most memorable remarks would come from recovered cancer patient Natalie Harp, Cuban-American immigrant Maximo Alvarez, father of a Parkland school-shooting victim Andrew Pollack, Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce, little-known Democratic state legislator Vernon Jones, 25-year-old GOP congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn, pro-life activist Abby Johnson, former NFL player and minister Jack Brewer, and Sister Deidre Byrne, a surgeon, retired Army colonel, and member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary religious order.

Oh, and former college football and NFL great Hershel Walker.

You would probably wonder what happened to all the elected officials. And to be sure, some of the speeches from experienced elected officials have been quite good, particularly from Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. But a lot of the messages from GOP officeholders are . . . flat, predictable, the usual political stump speeches.

On The Editors podcast, Rich observed that a lot of big political events, the “ordinary American” speakers usually don’t work out as well. They usually don’t have much experience in public speaking, they get nervous, and so on. (Fear of public speaking is apparently the single most common phobia.) But for some reason, almost all of the “ordinary Americans” selected to speak at this convention have done really well, utterly at ease with speaking to the entire country.

And then it dawned on me: For these speakers, there’s no crowd in front of them to make them nervous. They’re mostly giving their remarks directly into a camera, either at the Mellon Auditorium or in some studio somewhere. And by and large, it’s working well.

We don’t know what the 2024 conventions will be like held in non-pandemic circumstances. But I would not be surprised to see more “ordinary Americans” making the case for each party, and more speeches delivered without the presence of an audience.

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