Trump declares himself the law and order candidate
Focuses on recent terrorist attacks to assure Americans they will be safe under his leadership
By Dan Roberts and Ben Jacobs, The Guardian, July 22, 2016
Donald Trump stoked the fears of an angry Republican convention on Thursday as he declared himself the law and order candidate in a 75-minute acceptance speech that took a sharply authoritarian turn.
Promising supporters that “safety will be restored” once he becomes president, Trump sought to harness concern over terrorism and domestic crime to challenge Hillary Clinton on territory that has long proven a reliable rallying cry for parties of the right.
“In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate,” he claimed, encouraging and directing loud chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A” like the conductor of an orchestra.
“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country,” he added.
The four-day convention in Cleveland has seen repeated cries of “lock her up” when Clinton’s name is mentioned, but Trump waved these chants aside as if granting mercy with his hands and urged instead: “Let’s defeat her in November.”
“Illegal immigrants are roaming free to threaten innocent citizens,” Trump told the booing crowd, which responded by chanting “build the wall.”
Another theme of the week in Cleveland has been loud cheers whenever speakers replace the “black lives matter” slogan with “blue lives matter” to signify sympathy for police over African American shooting victims and Trump received a standing ovation when he declared: “An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans.”
The interruption of a protester 23 minutes in prompted Trump to ad-lib: “How great are our police?” as the cries of a woman being removed could still be heard in the distance.
But as the giant Quicken Loans Arena eventually filled with thousands of red, white and blue balloons to signify the end of what has been something of an awkward convention, the party’s once unthinkable nominee sought to strike a message of unity too.
Drawing a contrast with Clinton’s campaign slogan “I’m with her,” he declared: “I am with you.”
“I am your voice,” he pledged, stressing each word carefully.
Trump said his business experience had given him the skills to fix a rigged country. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he shrugged with a smirk. “Which is why I alone can fix it.”
And he painted a bleak view of the U.S. economy, promising “Americanism not globalism” and seeking to convert Democratic-leaning Bernie Sanders supporters with his opposition to free trade deals.
“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. But his supporters will join our movement because we will fix his biggest issue: trade deals that strip our country of jobs.”
The Republican nominee echoed Clinton’s former Democratic challenger by promising to create millions of new jobs by building “the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow.”
He stuck to his controversial campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border but slightly adapted his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
“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.”
“We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”
In his warnings of “crime and violence” and his solemn pledge that “I am the law and order candidate,” Trump sounded notes eerily similar to Richard Nixon’s campaign rhetoric in 1968, when, in the aftermath of consecutive summers of widespread riots across the U.S., Nixon ran as the candidate of “law and order.”
Amid a backdrop of terrorist attacks and police shootings, the celebrity billionaire seized on the theme of law and order as a potential rallying cry for a party bruised by internal feuds and a chaotic convention.
The torrent of violent news flooding into American TV screens in recent months was used to boost his own campaign at the expense of Democrats.
“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims,” he said.
“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 all Americans tonight, in all our cities and 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.”
Red, white and blue balloons floated down from the rafters. The RNC had inflated 120,000 of them. Some delegates on the floor were buried waist deep as they thrashed about the kaleidoscopic scene.
They hugged, danced and embraced. Some had even smuggled alcohol on to the floor. Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state representative who supported Trump since he launched the campaign and has had a penchant for controversy, was euphoric. “It feels awesome,” said Baldasaro.
“Donald Trump is the real deal.”