Accepting Nomination, Donald Trump Depicts U.S. as Lawless at Home, Disrespected Abroad
Donald Trump brought a close to the Republican National Convention on Thursday night by delivering a dark assessment of the country he hopes to lead, promising to restore safety and prosperity largely through the strength of his will.
The address played to his favorite issues, focused on the candidate’s bold, if vague, core principles, and included many of his standard campaign lines.
Trump talked once again about his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border. “We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities,” he said.
Trump attacked Hillary Clinton in unusually vicious terms for a nominee’s acceptance speech, focusing on the presumptive Democratic nominee’s foreign policy record and the scandal regarding her use of a private email server. On her tenure as Secretary of State, Trump said that Clinton’s legacy was “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”
And, of course, the Republican presidential candidate emphasized his own success as a businessperson as a key qualification for his election.
Trump referred to himself as “the law and order candidate,” promising that Americans would feel safer under his leadership.
“On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced,” Trump said. “We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone.”
At the top of his speech, Trump pledged to lay out some harsh realities. “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else,” he said, before launching into a litany of crime statistics chosen to conjure a scary picture of rising lawlessness. It was a theme he returned to later in his speech: “I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: when I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order our country. Believe me, believe me.”
But the national crime wave Trump presented isn’t backed up by the numbers, which show violent crime has dropped significantly since the early 1990s. A recent fact-check of Trump’s claims by the Associated Press, citing FBI data, found the violent crime rate topped out in 1991 with 758 attacks per 100,000 people and had dipped by more than half to 366 per 100,000 by 2014, the last year for which numbers are available. Further, there’s little evidence that voters see a threat as dire as the one Trump depicted. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found the issue didn’t rank in the top 14 concerns that voters listed as very important to their decision in the presidential race.
In full, Trump’s speech refuted the old saw that pols campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Implicit in that formulation is a recognition that candidates have to inspire with uplift and then, once in office, lead by reconciling their vision with the demands of the opposition. But Trump, in accepting the Republican nomination, offered a different model – he’s campaigning with fear and pledging to govern with blunt force.
In place of proposals he’ll pursue to advance his agenda, he offered QVC-worthy guarantees that things will turn around — “quickly” — as soon as he’s inaugurated, a point he frequently punctuated by adding one of his signature rhetorical flourishes, “Believe me,” though it never appeared in the draft version of his speech.
Otherwise, Trump mostly stuck to the script, avoiding his frequent pitfall of riffing extemporaneously to sometimes disastrous results. And, in a departure from his behavior during the campaign so far, Trump responded to chants of “lock her up” regarding Clinton by simply nodding and then saying that Republicans should “defeat her in November.”
As is tradition, the speech ended with Trump and his family on stage, along with vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his wife and children. The balloons fell from the rafters of the Quicken Loans Arena. The delegates cheered, screamed, clapped, and danced.
After a convention that was beset with a number of high-profile distractions — Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement, threats of revolt from delegates, and the plagiarism in Melania Trump’s speech — the event came to a fairly traditional ending.
The end of the convention, though, is where the real campaign begins. And with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats set to have their own four-day party/infomercial next week, the Trump campaign now faces the real test of both maintaining GOP unity and keeping its organization intact all the way to November.