Substantively, he didn’t say any more than he has already about how he proposed to help the disadvantaged, clean up the cities, reduce violence, reorder the country’s relations with the world, and specifically, as he promised, stamp out “radical Islamic terrorism,” words that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton notoriously declined to utter. But that also meant that he did not back off his pledges to replace Obamacare with a more efficient and less onerous universal system of health care, for higher taxes on luxury spending and non-essential financial transactions, lower taxes on small incomes and corporations, and a mighty effort to repatriate jobs and rebuild infrastructure.
While I have the same reservations as most foreigners and many Americans about too much flag-waving, I agree with his program and think it is rivalled only by (F.D.) Roosevelt’s and Reagan’s as the most imaginative and timely that any presidential candidate has advanced. (Lyndon Johnson was as ambitious, but was too dependent on just throwing money and more government agencies at complicated domestic problems. Reagan was much closer to the mark with “The only welfare system that works is a job.”)
I even liked the religiosity of Trump’s speech, not least because it was so unexpected. I don’t believe he and his wife are regular religious communicants, but his invocation of divine power and obligations was not sanctimonious or pious or fervent, but rather respectful. It wasn’t the hackneyed cant about God having made America exceptional and superior, but an invocation of a sacred duty to make more of such a magnificent country. It was a legitimate lamentation of what a mess America has become, and of both the duty and the possibility of raising it back up and above the heights that once seemed to justify some of the insinuations of a chosen and preferred nation.