Donald Trump’s acceptance speech played like a best-of episode of his dark reality TV primary season. Immigration = crime = terrorism = political correctness = economic decline. Trump put it all together in one scary ball that defined a moment of crisis in the country.
And, for those hiding under the couch? “I am your voice,” he said.
President George H.W. Bush’s speechwriter Mary Kate Cary called the 75-minute speech, one of the longest in RNC history, a “very dark and frightening” address.
“Our convention occurs at moment of crisis for our nation,” Trump began. “Attacks on our police, and terrorism of our cities threatens our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.”
Among the highlights, he said:
“Americans watching this address tonight have seen recent images of violence in our streets. … Some have been its victims. I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today affects our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, will come to an end.”
“Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored. The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens and any government that fails to do so it a government unworthy to lead. It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the states of our nation.”
“On January 20, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.”
“We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.” That one got maybe the biggest applause of the night.
“I have embraced crying mothers who have lost their children because our politicians put their personal agendas before the national good. … I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens. When innocent people suffer, because our political system lacks the will, or the courage, or the basic decency to enforce our laws – or worse still, has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash – I am not able to look the other way.”
“The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit to divide us by race and color, has made us a more dangerous environment than I have ever seen. This administration has failed America’s inner cities.”
“The first task for our new administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens their communities,”
“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 to our country. Believe me. Believe me.”
“America is far less safe – and the world is far less stable – than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy,”
“To make life safe for all our citizens, we must all address the growing threats we face outside the country. We are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS, and we’re going to defeat them fast.”
“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders – he never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade deals that strip us of our jobs and strip us of our wealth as a country.”
“I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice.”
“I am your voice,” he said. And then he said it again.
The speech also was remarkable for the many Republican orthodoxies it ignored. Trump did not discuss his faith but spoke touchingly of his mother and father. And he thanked the evangelical community for the role they played in securing him enough delegates to secure the nomination, but said he probably did not deserve the effort.
Then there was his promise to do everything in his power to protect the LGBTQ community, which is likely a first at an RNC. Some skeptics noted he only promised to protect them from being killed by “hateful foreign ideology” – and even then he thanked the RNC crowd for not booing him over that, saying: “I have to say, as a Republican, it’s so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”
He also dinged trade deals that have been GOP dogma for years.
Afterward, TV talking heads talked about it being one of the most relentlessly negative acceptance speeches in broadcast history. Whereas Franklin D. Roosevelt told people listening on their radio at his first inaugural address in 1933 that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, Donald Trump in 2016 preached on TV that we should be very afraid, Dem strategist David Axelrod noted on CNN.
But George W. Bush’s first press secretary Ari Fleisher insisted that, for everyone saying this speech is “too dark,” “remember – 69% of the nation thinks the USA is on the wrong track. Many will agree with Trump.”
KKK bigwig David Duke liked the speech even better, tweeting: “Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!”
Daughter Ivanka Trump, on the other hand, gave a much more upbeat speech, by way of introducing Dad. Eric Trump had predicted as much, telling CNN’s Sara Murray this morning that his sister would win over the crowd in her primetime speech tonight, because “She does the princess thing very well, and she’s immensely close with my father.”
After Trump’s speech was over, the Trump campaign played the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”