Donald John Trump – that humble son of Queens, New York – accepted his riven party’s nomination Thursday night in Cleveland, proving that, in this most God-blessed and exceptional of republics, any child whose father lends him a million dollars to get started in business can grow up to be president.
At a Republican National Convention that had come to be encapsulated in three-word bursts – “Lock her up!” “Vote your conscience!” “I wrote myself!” – and with the federal election only 110 days in the future, Trump delivered a 4,500-word peroration devoted equally to condemnation of Hillary Clinton and vows of national redemption.
“I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you,” Trump promised, to roaring acclamation from 15,000 white people — and a tiny, tiny number of African-Americans other than concession-stand workers and security officers — in the tabernacle of King LeBron James and his world-champion Cavaliers in a city that is 54 per cent black.
“My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge,” he said. “It reads: ‘I’m With Her.’ I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: “I’M WITH YOU – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
“I am your voice.”
Typically for Trump, the speech was long on guarantees but short on contrition, noisy with thunderbolts but sparse on details.
“I have a message for all of you,” he said. “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean VERY soon — come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”
Speaking 13 months after he entered an overcrowded Republican primary field with less than one per cent support in public opinion polls — and 24 hours after Sen. Rafael Cruz, Jr. (R-Alberta) refused to endorse him in an act either of principled defiance or political suicide — the 70-year-old tycoon’s teleprompter recitation did not include a plea for party unity.
Instead, it included the first-person declaration that “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen first-hand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders; he never had a chance. Never.”
“Every day I wake up determined to deliver a better life for the people all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored and abandoned,” said Trump, who has boasted that he needs no more than five hours sleep a night.
“In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate,” he reiterated. “The irresponsible rhetoric of our President, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and colour, has made America a more dangerous environment, frankly, than I have ever seen.”
Hours before Trump spoke, as if by sardonic design, President Barack Obama hosted a dinner for more than 150 American Muslims at the White House in celebration of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the month-long Ramadan fast.
“In the face of terrorism, we will prevail,” Obama vowed. “But we will prevail by working together, not driving each other apart.”
Chants of “Four more years!” rang out as the president spoke, ABC News reported.
On Friday – as if twisting the knife even deeper into Trump — Obama will meet with the president of Mexico.
None of this fazed the New York billionaire on the final night of a convention that had been stained by a speechwriter’s plagiarism, the parliamentary legerdemain that shut down a last-gasp pro-Cruz rebellion, and the Texas senator’s dagger-thrust to the corpus of the Grand Old Party.
Introduced by his daughter Ivanka as “the people’s champion … colour-blind and gender-neutral,” the Republican nominee made it clear that he – like his Democratic opponent – will make Obama’s record the focal point of the fall campaign.
“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,” Trump said. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy. The problems we face now — poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad — will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness.”
“This administration has failed America’s inner cities,” he went on. “It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs. It’s failed them on crime. It’s failed them at every level. When I am president, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson who have really, in every way, as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?”
Turning to fiduciary affairs, Trump promised, “Middle-income Americans and businesses will experience profound relief, and taxes will be greatly simplified for everyone. America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world. Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into our country.”
In these affirmations, Trump echoed the words of the last Republican to be nominated for the presidency in Cleveland, the Kansas oil and gas millionaire Alfred Mossman Landon, who was anointed here, nearly unanimously, in 1936.
Eighty years ago, Landon declared in his acceptance speech: “We must be freed from incessant governmental intimidation and hostility. We must be freed from excessive expenditures and crippling taxation. The time has come to stop this fumbling with recovery. American initiative is not a commodity to be delivered in pound packages through a governmental bureau. It is a vital force in the life of our nation and it must be freed!”
Facing incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the general election at the depths of the Great Depression, Landon won two states out of 48. But he did live to be 100 years old.
Outside the hall, the riot and conflagration that many had predicted would consume the Forest City remained largely non-existent at press time. The week’s protest marches attracted participants in the tens – not the tens of thousands – and Cleveland officials were delighted to point out that, of 18 people arrested during a brief flag-burning ruckus on Wednesday, only two were residents of Ohio while the others hailed from such antipodean outlands as Australia and San Francisco.
In 2008, Republican nominee John McCain had proclaimed in St. Paul, Minn., that, “In this country, we believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential, from the boy whose descendants [sic] arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We’re all God’s children, and we’re all Americans.”
In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney had said in Tampa, Fla., that “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept.”
Both men were routed by Barack Obama. Come November, Donald J. Trump can do no worse against Hillary Clinton. Yet the roll of attendance in Cleveland on Thursday night revealed: Sen. McCain, absent. Former governor Romney, absent. President George H.W. Bush, absent. President George W. Bush, absent.
Trump’s acceptance speech did echo one prominent Republican: Donald Trump. It was March 2014, when, at a session of the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington, Trump declared that:
“Our country is in serious, serious trouble.”
“Our leadership is so weak and so pathetic.”
“We’re becoming a Third World country.”
“In 2016, you’re probably running against Hillary.”
“Whoever’s president, good luck!”
Come Jan. 20 — against all predictions and expectations but his own — that president may be the humble son from Jamaica, Queens.