The first thing I would note about the final night of the Republican convention and Donald Trump’s acceptance speech is that we really need to start these things a bit earlier. It ran well past my bedtime and I wound up falling asleep three quarters of the way through, having to watch the rest of it this morning with my coffee. We have an aging population folks… let’s move these things a bit closer to the Early Bird Special, eh?
The speech was not, in many ways, what we’re used to hearing at a presidential convention, but is anyone truly surprised? Nothing about Trump has been conventional politics as usual from the moment he threw his hat in the ring. One could ably argue that this breaking of traditional molds is the only reason he’s gotten as far as he has. There was an immediate backlash from the press who seem perpetually put off their feed when Trump does anything other than the accepted political shtick. David Corn described it as a parade of fear and loathing.
As with all things in politics these days, I suppose we all brought our own expectations to the table and took away what we wanted. Unlike David Corn, I didn’t hear a dark, dystopian critique of America last night, but rather a frank assessment of the fact that there are real problems in need of solutions. Sweeping aside all the wonky details of the economy and the markets or the buzzwords which drive the political media, Trump addressed the very real insecurities which many Americans experience today in a nation where too many feel disconnected from the government behemoth in a system which doesn’t seem to be working. That’s not gloom and doom… it’s reality, and I think the message was one that many Americans were waiting to hear.
But Trump didn’t just condemn the status quo. He offered an option of security to people who frequently don’t even recognize much of the country as the one they grew up with. The AP described the security aspects of the speech this way:
In an appeal to Americans shaken by violence at home and around the world, Trump promised that under his presidency, “safety will be restored.”
He stuck to the controversial proposals of his primary campaign, including building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and suspending immigration from nations “compromised by terrorism.”
But in a nod to a broader swath of Americans voting in November, he vowed to protect gays and lesbians from violence and oppression, and said he would ensure that young people in predominantly black cities “have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America.”
To deny that Americans have concerns on this score is to deny reality. While overall crime numbers may be declining or at least remaining stable, violent crime in our major cities is on the rise. Voters see news of cops being murdered and angry protesters blocking the nation’s highways on a regular basis. Racial tensions are spiking domestically and there seem to be terror attacks being carried out or discovered in the planning stages almost weekly. Nobody sitting at home watching this speech was waiting for yet another politician to come along and blow sunshine up our collective skirts yet again.
But for all that, Trump wasn’t signaling despair. He was promising to be the person who would do something about it. The language may have been too vague or coarse for the usual media mavens, but Trump closed with the tone which worried voters no doubt wanted to hear.
“So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.
“To all Americans tonight, in all our cities and towns, I make this promise: We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And We Will Make America Great Again. I love you. God bless you.”
That hearkened back to what may have been his best moment of the night. When Trump look out from that stage and said, “I am your voice” he was talking directly to a large swath of the nation who feel as if they’ve had no voice in the direction of the country for a long time now.
If you were determined to hate Trump from the beginning I’m sure none of that adds up to a hill of beans. If you were one of the faithful, the speech was no doubt what you expected. But for the millions of Americans who weren’t tuned in to the campaign at every turn and are perhaps just now beginning to pay attention, this was a dose of tough medicine mixed with a positive note of assurance that these are all problems which can be managed if we first admit that there is a problem to be dealt with.
All in all, Trump did what he had to do. There was no reversal in style or sudden conversion to politics as usual. This was Trump being Trump on his biggest stage to date. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if that speech doesn’t resonate with Americans far more than the usual list of media critics are expecting.