In his young political career, Donald Trump has given countless speeches. While fact-checkers are usually appalled, even Never Trumpers often agree: a Trump speech is always entertaining in one way or the other. One can even argue that now and then that he gave one or the other of a halfway useful speech, though whether on purpose or by mistake remains open for debate.
Trump’s Thursday Night RNC Speech: Dull and Full of Misleading Statements
Trump’s speech on Thursday evening was mainly one thing in particular: dull. While it entailed the usual falsehoods, attacks, and self-praise Stephen Miller – Trump’s speechwriter – is getting compensated for, it came across lifeless and judging by Trumpian standards incredibly mundane.
Now it obviously happens that politicians make bad speeches. However, Trump’s speech on Thursday was not just any speech. It was the closing speech of the Republican Convention, at which he had been named the party’s presidential candidate for the second time. The candidate’s speech is traditionally the highlight of this event, particularly if the majority of speakers are either part of the Trump family or somehow connected to it.
His speech was a long, not very exciting list of pseudo successes and horror scenarios — the latter remains a parade discipline of Trump’s speechwriter Miller. It was full of matters which he sees as the successes of his first four years in the presidency, followed by the things he seeks to achieve in the next four years.
The New Venue Cramped Trump’s Bombastic Style
As a result of this format, Trump not only described political decisions from the past in great detail but also dealt with some of the same points in the section that dealt with the future. For example, he not only praised himself for lowering drug prices in his first term but also promised to reduce drug prices in his second term.
Perhaps the atmosphere was the problem. Trump always inspires his listeners, especially when he speaks mostly improvised in large arenas. He knows exactly how to heat up and lead the audience. However, such an appearance was not possible this year. The convention, which should have taken place in a convention center in Charlotte, North Carolina, had to be mainly moved online because of the coronavirus.
Trump, therefore, decided to address the White House. From a legal perspective, that was questionable — a possibly illegal mixture of election campaign and office. In the best case, anyway, the White House is now available to all future presidents for such events: Republicans and Democrats. The floodgates are open.
The Core Message: It’s Us Against Them
In front of the White House and his guests, Trump wanted to sound statesmanlike, appropriate to the historic building he was standing in front of. It did not work. However, what became evident was the message with which Trump intends to move into the final weeks’ election campaign. This message can be summed up in three words: Us against them.
Us — according to Trump — are the real, patriotic Americans who believe in the Christian God, who love their country and who honor the flag and all heroes in uniform, be they soldiers, police officers or nurses.
Them — according to Trump, are the Democrats who hate America, the anarchists, looters, arsonists, agents of chaos and rioters, the whole left-wing mob that rages through the cities, who want to suppress all those who think differently and want to take the guns away from the Americans. Moreover, of course, Joe Biden, the “Trojan horse of the socialists,” as Trump described the Democrats, is one of them.
‘American Dream’ vs. the ‘Socialist Agenda’
The election campaign front that Trump drew in his speech was clear, the dreary trappings and the sluggish lecture did not change that. As Trump put it, the “American dream” and a “socialist agenda” face each other in November, the “American way of life” and a “radical movement that wants to destroy it.”
The speech contained the usual references to Trump’s core electorate groups — anti-abortionists, Second Amendment advocates, industrial workers, nationalists, and fiscal conservatives. However, it was also clearly aimed at potentially undecided, moderate voters who are now queasy when they see the demonstrations against racism and police brutality in more and more cities turn into violence, looting, and arson.
Trump’s Strategy is Smart
For Trump, who is behind Biden in the polls, this the strategy that promises tremendous success. After all, the country’s overall situation does not speak for the President, Trump can, as he did on Thursday, claim that he mastered the coronavirus crisis very well. However, more than 180,000 deaths prove the opposite. He can point to the rising stock markets. However, the unemployment rate is still in double digits.
Therefore, representing Biden as a puppet of the Democrats’ left-wing and attacking his reputation as a pragmatic center politician is an understandable decision of Trump from an electoral and tactical point of view.
However, the claims of chaos in Biden’s America are somewhat dubious, considering that the current carnage has been happening under President Trump’s watch — and any reasonable voter is cognizant of the latter.