Painting a grim picture of America, Donald Trump promised to protect the country and restore “law and order” by putting “America First” in his address Thursday evening formally accepting the GOP nomination for president.
“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” Trump said. “Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.”
Safety and security at home
He put the responsibility for recent unrest — both domestically after the shooting of police and internationally with the growing threat of terrorism — squarely on the soldiers of President Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,” Trump thundered. “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. A change in leadership is required to change these outcomes.”
A big way to do that came in a familiar refrain for Trump — building a border wall along the Southern border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. The first night of the convention heavily featured mothers whose children had been killed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and Trump circled back to that theme as chants of “Build the wall!” rang out.
“To make life safe in America, we must also address the growing threats we face from outside America: we are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS,” he promised.
“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, as one of the most familiar refrains of the convention rang out — “Lock her up!” — convention-goers’ own indictment of the Democrat’s actions in Benghazi, Libya, and her secret email server.
But Trump waved off the crowd, and instead told them, “Let’s defeat her in November, okay?” The crowd roared.
He also repeated his controversial pledge to block immigration from Muslim countries as a way to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
“Lastly, and very importantly, we must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place,” Trump said. “We don’t want them in our country.”
Harking back to the deadly terrorist attack last month in Orlando, Fla., at a gay nightclub, he also promised, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.”
It was an unusual declaration in a GOP crowd — especially one that just passed a platform that moved to the right on gay rights — but Trump didn’t dwell on those social issues, saying instead, “I have to say as a Republican it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”
Trade and ‘Americanism, not globalism’
The billionaire real estate mogul also repeatedly cast himself as a champion for blue-collar workers and the middle class and advocated rolling back trade deals.
“Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” Trump said. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. The respect that we deserve.”
Trump doubled on his promises to provide tax relief for business and renegotiate trade deals, ushering in more protectionist policies that are not typically hallmarks of the GOP platform — and that his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has opposed.
“I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and Pennsylvania, and New York, and Michigan, and all of America,” Trump said, ticking off several Rust Belt swing states he hopes his populist pitch can appeal to, “and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequence. Not going to happen anymore.”
“My opponent, on the other hand, has supported virtually every trade agreement that has been destroying our middle class,” he continued, contrasting his positions with those of his Democratic opponent and former President Bill Clinton.
“Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned. I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals,” Trump said.
“These are the forgotten men and women of our country — and they are forgotten. But they’re not going to be forgotten long. These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice,” he said to thundering applause.
“With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into
our country,” the newly minted Republican nominee promised. “This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans. We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow.”
Trump ended speech with an emotional appeal to parents, casting himself as the champion of future generations.
“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, I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
“To all Americans tonight, in all of our cities and in all of our 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,” he concluded, echoing the theme of this campaign.
The Clinton campaign quickly responded, condemning Trump’s acceptance speech as “a dark picture of an America in decline” that would foster “more fear, more division, more anger, more hate.”
“He offered no real solutions to help working families get ahead or to keep our country safe, just more prejudice and paranoia. America is better than this. America is better than Donald Trump,” Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta said in a statement. “Next week in Philadelphia, Democrats will focus on issues, not anger. We’ll offer a positive vision for the future based on lifting America up, not tearing Americans down.”
“Make America One Again” theme on last night
Trump was introduced by his eldest daughter, Ivanka, who spoke of how her father taught her the construction business and how to treat employees.
“My father has not only the strength and ability necessary to be our next president, but also the kindness and compassion that will enable him to be the leader this country needs,” she said.
She particularly spoke about his hiring practices to help minorities and women — weak demographics for Trump worsened by controversial comments he has made over the course of the campaign.
“My father values talent. He recognizes real knowledge and skill when he finds it,” Ivanka said. “He is colorblind and gender-neutral. He hires the best person for the job, period.”
One of her most rousing lines was a call for better family leave policies for women — typically Democratic talking points.
“Women are paid equally for the work that we do and, when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out,” Ivanka said to loud applause.
“Gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy motherhood is,” she continued. “As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place during a time in which women were not a significant part of the workforce and will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all.”
The billionaire businessman’s address comes after three days of a chaotic Republican National Convention to officially launch his general election, where he trails rival Hillary Clinton in polls. On Day 1, anti-Trump delegates caused a commotion when they tried to force a roll call vote to try to unbind delegates. And on Wednesday, Trump’s former rival Ted Cruz took the stage, only to be booed off after the Texas senator still declined to endorse Trump.
Thursday’s festivities kicked off with a more energized mood and, for once, most stuck to the theme of the night, “Make American One Again.”
South Carolina African-American pastor Mark Burns turned the decibel level up in the arena early, leading the crowd in chants of “All Lives Matter!”
“Even though I disagree with the tactics and the divisive rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement, I do understand that hopelessness and lack of opportunity breeds this type of desperation,” Burns said, explaining what he believes is responsible for the current unrest in the country after police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., along with the deaths of young black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
And other speakers deviated from the typical GOP orthodoxy on key points, particularly Silicon Valley tech investor Peter Thiel.
“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American,” Thiel said, getting cheers from the culturally conservative audience. “I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.”
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio both spoke earlier in the evening.
Falwell, an influential evangelical voice who gave Trump his blessing early on, praised Trump as “America’s blue-collar billionaire.”
Arpaio, a famed immigration hard-liner, praised Trump’s border wall, telling the crowd, “We need a leader who will protect our border and enforce our laws because a nation without borders is a nation without laws is no nation at all.”