I wrote this after the 2016 election had concluded, though I had also watched this speech for the first time live as it was delivered. I would like to emphasize here and now that I do not like Trump as a man or as a president. I shouldn’t have to explain why. But I’m not going to summarily dismiss everything he does as “stupid” or “bad” either. If he makes a good point, or speaks effectively, I will honestly admit so when I talk about his oration and debate performances.
I differ from a lot of left-leaning people these days in that I actually thought Trump did better at his speeches and even the debates than he’s often given credit for. The conventional wisdom would tell you that Trump got outplayed by Hillary at every turn and she only lost because…well, take your pick, she’s offered every excuse under the sun except herself. I think that to pretend Trump was a worse campaigner than he actually was, is not only reductionist and sanctimonious but it’s also DANGEROUS. We need to understand, acknowledge and learn from our mistakes that led to this unstable man gaining power. In particular, the media, the Democratic Party and the current toxic/closed-off online discourse has a lot to answer for. I say, judge the man and his base of support accurately in order to prevent this fiasco from ever happening again.
In short, for whatever else his faults are, and they are many, Trump was an effective campaigner and he had a certain prescient instinct to how disaffected large segments of the American public had become. To pretend otherwise is to set the stage for another, more dangerous demagogue to take power in the future.
I remember even at the time being weirded out by that hip-pat Trump gave his daughter on stage. He’s more intimate with Ivanka than his own wife, and
now that she’s set to take over the office of the First Lady, it seems he trusts her more as well. It’ll be difficult to say who holds his ear the most in office, but he clearly values her opinion very much—and that’s a good thing. She’s no saint, but Ivanka is at least far more reasonable and (based on her own speech) liberal than anyone else in the inner circle. She’s the best hope we have that he doesn’t cave into the more draconian GOP measures. [Look at me, clinging to whatever scraps of hope I could muster. This naivete aged like milk.]
It’s an interesting combination of selfishness and selflessness in the beginning, as Trump calls everyone in the audience a team and says this is their victory, yet he brags about how many votes he’s got. Even though Trump’s a well known narcissist and I have no doubt this is an expression of that, he’s certainly earned the right to be proud of what he’d achieved this night. This was the most long-shot, grassroots, against-the-will-of-the-establishment nomination since McGovern in 1972.
Of course, in rhetoric, Trump actually channels McGovern’s opponent, Nixon. Law and Order became one of his campaign’s slogans during the Manafort era of his campaign. I think it was a smart choice, considering the chaos that was going on in Europe and the US with the increased Muslim extremist attacks, the mass shooting and Cologne assaults. The Democrats were falling all over themselves to be the first to say “Not all Muslims!!!” and call anyone racist who suggested we address this issue. The GOP said “we’ll protect you, we’ll bring back stability” and that resonated. This is to say nothing of the Black Lives Matter protests and, as much as it pains me to say but the swift push for total Transgender acceptance. I’m sure for many Americans it must have felt like things were getting out of hand, and rather than take a strong position either way (like, say, putting forth legislation to stop police brutality or protect LGBT people from discrimination) all the Democrats seemed able to accomplish was calling people a bunch of “isms” for daring to question any of it, or react in a way they deemed “problematic.” I don’t think this aspect of Trump’s victory and Hillary’s loss has gotten nearly enough attention from major outlets.
Whether you hate Trump and what he stands for or not, surely anyone can agree with what he says around 6 minutes in, which is that the first duty of government is to defend its citizens. Open borders, shaming people for talking about security threats, and inviting in swaths of unchecked Muslims from radicalized areas is not conducive to this. Europe [was at the time] the ultimate example, and Hillary wanted to take in a bunch of Syrian immigrants here too, which considering the contemporary events, had people worried. And we weren’t allowed to stop for a minute and fully discuss that issue without being insulted.
ASIDE: I’d argue though, that defending our people should extend to healthcare and economic well-being which is why I support single payer and basic income. Trump definitely agrees with defending economic well-being, but certainly doesn’t agree with my solution. And in the past he’s been a strong proponent of universal healthcare. We can only hope he’ll support it in office. I’m not holding out much hope, but if the GOP were to see the writing on the wall and pass universal care…they’d probably own the government for a generation or more. [Spoiler Alert: They didn’t.]
I actually agree with Trump on political correctness…but I fail to see how it’s such a big deal that it warrants such a spiel at the beginning of his speech. At worst, it’s a bunch of obnoxious, judgmental blue-haired hippies on Tumblr with too much free time. From what I understand, his emphasis on shootings is also somewhat overblown. The rate of violent crime has been on the decline since I believe the ’80s—the ’90s at the latest. The over-reporting on shootings, and Trump feeding off that to paint this gloom and doom narrative is a perfect example of how these two had a co-dependent relationship the whole campaign. Swooping in to be the saviors of the increased racial tensions made in response to Obama existing as a black president was also a pretty sleazy, yet savvy, move on Trump’s part. It’s very reminiscent of the Nixon Southern Strategy.
I think Trump’s criticisms of Obama as weak on foreign policy are fair—he has been outmaneuvered by Russia at almost every turn for example. But if what’s happened with Russia and China lately are any indication, Trump will be worse. [And it only got worse since I wrote this analysis.] I also think Trump is right when he says Obama regrets having Hillary as SOS, and anyone who would argue with that are letting partisan loyalty or misguided admiration of her cloud their judgement. She spearheaded the Libyan intervention which Obama considers his biggest mistake, she kept Blumenthal on staff against his express orders, and the server scandal is now a black mark on his administration by proxy. Obama probably loathes Hillary behind closed doors, but we won’t hear about that in any kind of detail for decades until a tell all book is released. Despite what you may think of Trump himself, his reviewing of Hillary’s record is scathing and disqualifying.
Trump’s whole segment where he shouts different variations of “fuck globalism” is pretty juvenile in rhetoric but powerful in emotion. Globalism has completely failed and been rejected by nearly every country it has been forced upon. Globalism was the goal of the international corporations and elites as well as the product of crony capitalist neoliberalism. It began as a right-wing movement to make exploitation by businesses easier, but when the Democrats embraced it here in America under Bill Clinton’s Third Way policies, it set them up to be blamed. Had they been looking out for the working man this whole time they might have been the beneficiaries of this populist-protectionist backlash happening all over the world, but instead Democrats lost sight of their founding principles and threw their lot in with the businesses, then called anyone who fought back a racist. Now this has allowed radical right-wing movements like Trump and Brexit to sweep in and offer the people what they wanted all along. By refusing to listen to the common man, the Democrats and liberals worldwide pushed them into the arms of Farrage and Trump. It really says a lot when the party of the working man has lost its trustworthiness while people are so desperate they’d listen to a billionaire calling the system rigged. It’s shameful that the Democrats dropped the ball this bad that Donald Trump is seen as the voice of the underprivileged. This is the legacy of the Clinton’s and their Third Way. It’s almost poetic that Hillary was Trump’s opponent.
Trump wisely takes a page out of Cheney’s playbook (maybe he came up with it independently?) of turning your opponents against each other as he quotes Sanders against Hillary. It’s a smart move, and for all the shit Sanders gets even now by entitled Hillary apologists for daring to run, the fact is she brought this line of attack on herself. If she just ran a fair primary with no DNC collusion she likely would have won anyway and there wouldn’t be this baggage or suspicion to drudge up. But the fact that there was this scandal to exploit at all is on her head, not Bernie’s for having the audacity to run at all. It was a good strategy to embrace Sanders and claim to be fighting for a lot of his same issues. They did have some legit similarities in rhetoric on the campaign trail despite huge differences in solutions. But a lot of both men’s supporters were independents and/or political newbies with no loyalty to the Democrats and no reason to be either.
Speaking of which, Trump is also wise to pound the emails into our heads. Unlike the Democrats trying to make the tax returns a big deal, this scandal had weight to it as far as Joe Blow is concerned. Because the right-wingers take nothing more seriously than our military and strength and if you undermine that they will never forgive you. Hardcore liberals hated Hillary for this because we’ve seen our heroes like Snowden and Chelsea Manning either driven out of the country or put in lifelong solitary confinement for less. This scandal also resonated because it further accentuated Hillary’s image as crooked and the double standard between rich and poor people. The apologists kept trying to brush it under the rug with “its over!” or “well, it wasn’t technically illegal if you interpret the law this way…” but they were alone on that defense. Trump may have been a sleazeball but not releasing tax returns and being a womanizer isn’t as offensive to the average Joe as getting away with something the government would bury anyone else for. Again, Hillary 100% brought that on herself. People bitching at Comey for doing his job and informing Congress, or the media for doing their job and talking about it, are missing the point. It never would have been a factor in the first place if she just followed the goddamned law. She knew she was gonna run for President, and having even a perception of wrongdoing surrounding her was very, very stupid. I do have to agree with Trump, that the most amazing thing about her otherwise mediocre career is how much she has skirted the law and got away with it.
Trump, again for all his faults, brilliantly came out ahead of his own issues, and this is a great example. “No one knows the corrupt system better than me—that’s why I know how to fix it.” You can say he’s lying and a phony, because he absolutely is. Still, that’s the way to get out ahead of a scandal. It’s like the advice they give to kids worried about getting picked on for something; if you own it, and laugh at it yourself, it cannot then be used to hurt you. Again, this is why Trump succeeded where Hillary failed. She was so evasive about the server and everything else so that we naturally assumed the worst. She tried to run away from her problems in the hope that they would go away, but in the modern internet world they don’t. Trump came out ahead of his shortcomings and (to a large enough swath of voters) turned them into positives.
Where this speech starts going off the rails is when Trump introduces Mike Pence out of the blue, 30 minutes in and then moves back to talking about slain cops yet again. If he wasn’t going to use Pence to talk about their shared policies or values, he should have introduced him at the very beginning or end. And anything he wanted to say about police and law and order he ought to have done earlier when he was already talking about this subject. Doing so now is just awkward and breaks the momentum of the speech. There is speculation that Trump has early stage Alzheimer’s and seeing moments like this makes me believe it. He seems to be a frazzled, unfocused speaker a lot of the time. Charismatic as hell to be sure, but directionless.
I dont expect Trump to actually help us in any way, [and, spoiler, he hasn’t] but it was also smart strategy to mention protecting LGBTQ people from radical terrorism. Speaking for myself, I felt very much abandoned by the Democrats after Orlando when their response to that shooting was to push gun control, shame anyone against gun control, and fall all over themselves to remind us it’s “not all Muslims!!!” who kill and call everyone a racist who raised concern about the attack. It really felt like the fact that the biggest hate crime against LGBTQ people ever had just occurred was not even worth mentioning to them. It was then that I realized that for all their rhetoric, the top brass at the DNC just see us as political pawns and nothing more. Apparently placating Muslims and taking away our second amendment right was more important than standing up for us when we needed it the most. Kaine didn’t even mention the GOP’s awful LGBT record at the debates when the subject came up, nor did Hillary. Now, does that mean Trump and the GOP are gonna be some great paragon of gay rights now? No chance in hell. But the Democrats made me, and presumably others like me, feel very much taken for granted. If you’re gonna drop economic leftism from your platform at least take social leftism seriously. Also, the way the Democrats act like all minorities love each other and will just hold hands and sing kumbaya together if given the chance is very naive and, frankly, stupid. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few right-leaning LGBTQ people heard this kind of rhetoric from Trump and thought “FINALLY! Someone is addressing the elephant in the room!”
Again, I have to say I do agree with Trump that taking in a shit ton of Syrians, spending probably millions if not billions moving them here and accommodating them, then lumping them into Sanctuary cities is a really stupid idea. After reading about the Cologne sexual assaults, or the transgender woman who was stoned to death in Germany, or the rise in terrorist attacks (including Orlando)…forgive me if I don’t want to open up the floodgates like they did in Europe. If that makes me a racist, so be it. But that’s exactly the point, and exactly why Trump won. If the Democrats refuse to listen to reasonable concerns and have a conversation about this kinda stuff, it will continue to push people into the arms of right-wing extremists like Trump. And really, it makes no sense spending our tax dollars helping these people when we can’t even get our own cities working properly. When we have poisoned water in Flint and Detroit is bankrupt, when most of our bridges are near collapse and Americans die without access to healthcare, why the fuck is bringing more people into this mess (many of whom hate us) a top priority? That’s absolutely mad.
I’m not saying I want people abroad to suffer, I just mean we need to get our own house in order before inviting company over. That, and different cultural values between us is something worth discussing at least, without being shouted down by a bunch of naive social justice warriors for my concerns not being “woke” enough for their tastes.
The wall comes up again here, and on this issue I will say Trump is firmly in the wrong. The wall would be a colossal waste of money, a near impossibility to built, and wouldn’t solve the problems he wants it to. I think if anything, he’ll just have drones patrolling the border with rubber bullets or alerts to local law enforcement or something. [Spoiler from the future: Actually Trump really was that crazy and is actually trying to build a physical wall.] Ending the drug war, which would disempower the cartels, would also go a long way towards stopping illegal immigration.
Then the speech goes again into the law and order stuff, and a chant of “U-S-A!” Again, going off the rails, and it seems like Trump cannot keep focused for more than twenty to twenty five minutes at a time. He goes into his supposed prowess as a deal maker and business man…which I think could have been worked in earlier in the speech when he talked about the relevant topics before. This is when he ties Bill Clinton to NAFTA though, which was smart. He then drones on about this for a long time. Here, even more than before, the speech starts to drag and lose energy. As I’ve often said, these kinds of speeches have a natural half life which, if you cross, your speech becomes less and less effective by the minute. Trump definitely crosses it around 50ish minutes in. I think a lot of the things he’s saying here might have been more effective had we not had to sit through 50+ minutes of speech to get to this point. As is, listening to this I cannot help but think “ok dude, wrap it up.” Worse, he’s no longer speaking in “paragraphs” anymore and rather than speaking of topics at length, he instead bellows a series of “we will do _____, my opponent will not.” Out of nowhere, he thanks the evangelical community, and in a nod to the pussy-grabber scandal, he states that he “probably” doesn’t deserve it.
I like how Trump leaves the family shout outs to the end, this was one of my pet peeves about other speeches, that they dragged out the beginning with that stuff. Here though, coming after one hour in, it does feel something like an afterthought…but I prefer policy anyway so I kinda think they should be an afterthought.
FINALLY, after like 15 additional minutes of what can only be described as aimless rambling, Trump gets to the best line of the speech. This was the line I’ve remembered 6 months since I first heard it, because I thought it was brilliant and summed up the whole election very well. “My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three word loyalty pledge. 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!” Say what you will about Trump, but that was a perfect takedown of Hillary’s impossibly arrogant campaign slogan and one of the greatest endings to a speech I’ve heard. We can argue over whether he’ll really be there for the common people (I doubt it), [and he wasn’t] but the point is, he was PERCEIVED to be, and perceptions are everything in politics. Hillary’s campaign, including that stupid loyalty oath slogan, was all about her from the get go at a time when America needed a selfless hero. Again, that’s why she lost. Trump is not selfless nor a hero but it speaks to how truly desperate people were that they latched onto him anyway. Democrats abandoned their working class base and this was the result.
Overall, this was a surprisingly great speech for the first 30 to 50 minutes. The last third or so felt really rambling and tacked on, and Trump would have done well to cut it and/or condense a lot of his repeated law and order talk. This should not have been longer than 50 minutes under any circumstances. Still…Trump’s a charismatic speaker and I don’t think anyone could deny that. He takes the Sanders and McGovern approach of speaking towards higher ideals but in a very plain-spoken, straightforward way that anyone can understand. Especially after listening to so many of these convention speeches, his unusual oration is actually a breath of fresh air. A lot of these kinds of speeches blend together because they use the same cliches, or they try to sound really pretentious and important because this is the speaker’s big historical moment. Some guys like Goldwater can pull of the eloquent/philosophical approach, but others like Humphrey fucking suck at it. Trump was wise to go with what he’s good at even if it was “low brow.”
Comparing this to Hillary’s and putting them both in context…I’d say Trump’s was better by a mile. It dragged on at the end but was otherwise entertaining to listen to and spoke to a lot of issues I surprisingly agreed with–even though Trump’s solutions are crazy when he even offers solutions at all. Hillary’s? Not so much. Her own speech was so insufferable I recall having to pause the video every two or three minutes for a break. She’s just an awful speaker, and her speech was full of cliches (reminding us about the Constitution, complete with forced slang “stick with the king”/”stick it to the king” GAG). Were it not for the last 20ish minutes, I’d put Trump’s near the top of 21st century candidates’ speeches, just under Obama’s. As is, I’d put him towards the middle, either one spot above or below McCain. And Hillary’s I’d put at the bottom, either one above or below Romney’s. Like him, she was just so uninspired, stiff, entitled and out of touch and you could feel it listening to her drone on.
One of the big things I[ had been] hammering in all year is that appearances and charisma are the most important aspects to winning a national election. Trump was obviously the more charismatic, and he had the appearance of being a breath of fresh air. Clinton was one of the least natural campaigners ever and had the appearance of being a corrupt criminal hiding from the consequences of her crimes. Never bet against the more charismatic person in an election. If you learned nothing else from my many posts, I hope you’ve learned that.