After eight years of a president who touted hope and change, we now have a Republican nominee using fear and anger in his attempt to win the nation’s highest office.
Coming into the 2016 Republican National Convention, Donald Trump needed to convince the party and the nation that the concept of him as president is possible, and desirable.
Now he leaves Cleveland with the challenge of holding on to his base while attracting the broader electorate. And Trump’s plan is to somehow make that broader electorate as terrified as his often angry and fearful base, and to argue that only he can save it.
The vision Trump shared Thursday night was of an unrecognizable America living in terror, a broken land only he can heal.
According to Trump, we crouch trembling in fear of crime and terrorism, are besieged by poverty and violent foreigners, and are bamboozled by timid, corrupt leaders.
“I have a message for all of you,” Trump said, “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end.”
But Trump is wrong to adopt the despot’s tactic of inflating fears to present himself as the deliverer from those fears.
He’s wrong to portray this wonderful country as a land of horrors. And he’s wrong in his inflated estimates of immigrant crime, and in his inaccurate assertions about the timeline of terrorism and warnings that Democrats are plotting to confiscate every gun.
But Trump is right that government is often ineffective and corrupt; that free-trade deals have cost too many good jobs, and cheating on those agreements has cost other nations too little; and that too often our wars have exacted a tremendous cost in lives and money without resulting in greater peace or security.
He is an effective spokesman for hardworking Americans who just want good wages and benefits in return for their labor. But his fearmongering threatens to overshadow his prescience.
The first two days of the convention in Cleveland were largely amateurish and uninspiring. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, though, the mood, pacing, passion and quality improved dramatically.
Trump’s choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had a fine introduction to the nation Wednesday night. He was reassuring, indicating Trump’s willingness to pick a seasoned, well-liked and respected professional with strong policy credentials. But the selection of Pence is also worrisome because he is out of step with the majority of Americans on issues like environmental protection and preservation of the social safety net.
Fortunately, Trump repudiated Pence’s positions against LGBT rights and, when cheered, he thanked the audience for registering its support.
On the last night, Ivanka Trump once again showed Trump has raised wonderful children. But the tone of Donald Trump’s speech overtook the rest of the evening. It was manipulative and dark. His most passionate fans loved it. And it repelled his detractors, and perhaps even many voters who entered the evening undecided.
In his acceptance of the nomination, Trump sought to appeal to our worst angels. The Republican Party granted him a great triumph, and in return he gave us only fear.