By Zander Kurita ’22
After watching the hopeful Democratic National Convention and nearly crying during Kamala Harris’s speech, I did not want to watch the Republican National Convention at all. I expected very little of the Republicans, but I had no idea that they would fill the convention with racist and hateful rhetoric of people like Kimberly Guilfoyle hidden behind prominent Republicans of color like Senator Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. The entire convention was a long fear-mongering Trump advertisement leading up to the main event, Trump’s acceptance speech, which clocked in at over an hour.
If I were to go through the speech word-by-word, we would be here all day, so I will try to keep it brief. Before I say anything about the content of Trump’s words, I want to address some of the other factors that made this speech unbearable.
First, the issue of the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act prohibits employees of the Executive Branch from engaging in many political activities, notably campaigning on White House grounds. If setting up an elaborate display of presidential power in order for Trump to give a speech at his convention is not a political act, I’m not sure what is. Just because an administration leaves its illegal actions out in the open does not make it okay.
Second, the crowd in attendance for the speech was, for the most part, not wearing masks nor socially distancing. This terrible example only reinforces the Trump Administration’s position that we all should just ignore science and do whatever we want.
Lastly, let me address the elephant in the room: Trump’s delivery. There are speakers who make any speech better with their delivery. There are those whose delivery does not have any particular impact on the speech’s quality. Donald Trump is one of very few politicians whose delivery makes any speech, even one written by Stephen Miller, worse. His leaning to either side, staring at the teleprompters as if he has never seen the speech before, and his grouping of words would make anyone uncomfortable. Even if the speech had some structure or real content, Trump’s delivery voids all of it.
Alright, now to the speech. First, Trump thanks his staff and family and acknowledges some of the things happening in the country. Overall, a pretty standard start to a speech. He then speaks about his next term specifically, rebuilding the economy, defending America, and rekindling faith and pride in this country. There would be nothing wrong with this broad opening had his COVID-19 response not caused the economy to collapse so dramatically or had the violence he wants to defend America from not been happening under his watch.
Finally, after using the grandeur of the White House to claim that the current Republican Party was that of Lincoln and to give the image that he is somehow fit to run the country, he directly acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, his way of speaking about the crisis is not to take responsibility or a nationwide mask mandate but rather the unsubstantiated promise of a vaccine by Election Day. Trust me; I would be glad to have a vaccine today, but the solutions he has given before have been conspiracy theories he has learned from the far-right.
From his skirting of responsibility for the disastrous response to COVID-19, he moves to attack Joe Biden, calling him “the destroyer of American greatness.” From a Democratic Convention which centered on Joe Biden being able to restore the “soul of the nation,” Trump countered saying Biden is “not the savior of America’s soul,” claiming Biden will send jobs overseas, open the borders, and send troops to fight in endless wars.
Once again, with help from Trump’s horrendous delivery, the speech makes a hard pivot to Trump’s record. He immediately boasts of his pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords and the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Then, in his anti-China theme, he speaks with pride about the trade war with China calling it the “toughest, boldest, strongest, and hardest-hitting action against China in American history by far.” That toughness seemingly does extend to stopping China from limiting democracy in its sphere of influence. His rhetoric, which continually stokes racial tensions, moves from China to south of the border. He brags about the number of Mexican immigrants he has deported, some through the criminal child separation policy.
Trump continues bragging about the “victories” of his first term like the creation of the Space Force, the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the arguably unlawful assassination of Qassem Suleimani. All his points are in contrast with Joe Biden whom he is trying to portray as a weak “Trojan horse for socialism.” The strategy for this speech appeared to be drawing as much contrast to Joe Biden as possible, even if it means lying to the American people.
In Trump’s America, all the violence and rioting is somehow Joe Biden’s fault. Mike Pence’s line: “you will not be safe in Joe Biden’s America” seems to be at the heart of Trump’s words. Associating Biden with phrases like “left-wing anarchy” and “mob-rule” is part of the Trump campaign’s strategy based on generating fear.
In continuing his attacks on the left, Trump then takes on “cancel culture.” The movement for more political correctness has made many traditionally conservative people scared. As when Trump talks about crime and riots, the cancel culture line is meant to scare people away from Biden. In a speech that jumps from idea to idea, often incoherently, Trump then moves back to attacking Biden and then thanks his supporters without much transition.
Fittingly, the speech finishes with Trump using the power and influence of the building behind him to assure that he will provide a safer America than Joe Biden and the anarchist Democrats. The quality of the speech was not better or worse than Trump’s usual, but that is not a high bar. I can’t even fact-check the speech because it was so riddled with lies. Watching for me (probably like many of you) was torture. I have no hope for a future with Trump as president, or faith in him whatsoever. His speech is a great representation of his administration—a bumbling mess of lies and failure.