The workmen are tearing down the stage in Cleveland, packing away the banners and making room for the next event. The Republican National Convention for 2016 has come to an end, and the party has made history by nominating a larger-than-life businessman celebrity. The pundits have already begun to tell you what really happened, as if you couldn’t make up your own mind. Here is my take on the RNC and what it means going forward as we leap into the hot summer of the general election.
Gays are welcome in the GOP. It is not exactly a secret that gay Republicans exist, just ask the Log Cabin Republicans. What made this RNC notable was the six minutes given to billionaire businessman Peter Theil in prime time on the last day of the convention. Theil told the crowd, which included thousands of social conservatives, “Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay,” he said to applause, including from the Trump family. “I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all I am proud to be an American.”
There have always been gay people in the world and there always will be. Being gay isn’t the issue, the political principle is treating all Americans equally under the law. Trump himself proclaimed in his acceptance speech he would “do everything” in his power “to protect LGBTQ citizens.”
Given the applause to these messages, it is clear the attitudes in the GOP have changed. Of course, there are still extremists in the GOP, just as there are in the Democrat Party. However, it is clear that if you – gay or straight – are fiscally responsible, pro Second Amendment, strong on national defense and believe in a culture of individual achievement for public good, then the Republican Party is your home. Theil’s speech at the RNC will likely loosen the grip of identity politics on the electorate.
Law and order. In his acceptance speech, Trump defined at least one axis of the general election campaign – law and order. Much like Nixon did in 1968, Trump has recognized the rising anxiety among voters fueled by the assassinations of police officers and random attacks on U.S. soil by self-radicalized Islamic jihadists, things that the left are either sympathetic to or unable to confront because of the dogma of political correctness. The Democrat answer to law and order will be, of course, more gun control, but thoughtful Americans have become necessarily wary of so-called solutions that impair their right to self-defense.
Trump has big lungs. Trump stayed on message and delivered his best performance of the campaign, but it was an hour and fifteen minutes long, reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s rambling State of the Union speeches.
He probably did not need to go that long, and what was most difficult for listeners at home was the impression he was yelling at them the whole time. These are style issues that can be overcome, and if we have learned one thing about Trump it is that he is a quick study.
Why Trump’s speech went so long (hint: Hillary). Criticizing the length of Trump’s speech is legitimate, but the reason for the feature-length duration has more to do with his opponent than him. It is Hillary Clinton’s multi-decade long trail of scandals, controversy, corruption and self-dealings that gave Trump so much material to work with. Even Democrats privately admit their standard bearer is hopelessly flawed.
Outsider versus Career Politician. Trump further defined the election as one of a populist outsider, a champion of the working man, against a corrupt career politician who has enriched herself by selling political influence and favors while Trump has made his fortune by building city skylines and putting Americans to work. Forget about the personalities for just a minute, albeit it is difficult in a campaign dominated by two larger than life personalities, this archetypal contrast is powerful. It reaches deep into the emotional and mental subconscious, reaching people at a primal level. It is what every novelist wants to achieve with his or her readers, and Trump has brought it to life.
Who the Democrats are really running against. It will be interesting to see how the Clinton campaign and Democrat Party will attempt to counter Trump next week at their own convention in Philadelphia. If recent history is any guide, they will fall back on reliable themes based on identity politics, such as the perennial “war on women,” and use selective examples of fringe Republicans to paint the entire GOP as racist, bigoted, hateful, etc. etc. etc.
They do not know it yet, but the Democrats’ most formidable opponent is themselves, not Trump. Their willing embrace of intolerant social extremists, the continued advertising of a false narrative (“Hands up, don’t shoot” did not happen), recasting the role of government as an agent of economic redistribution instead of a protector of individual liberties and the continued willingness to grant favors to their big business donors at the expense of American workers has shown moderates and unaffiliated voters that the new Democrat Party is hostile to the truth, thrives on division and cares not about working people.
Not only does Trump not care about political correctness, he has made standing up against the oppressive impact of PC on free speech and religious liberty a strength. The tables have turned and Democrats cannot shame, brand or otherwise appear morally superior against a candidate and growing tide of public opinion that sees political correctness increasingly as the problem, instead of the solution.
As the failure of ever more stringent gun control to change the behavior of criminals and terrorists and the inability of first generation Muslims to assimilate into Western society become more apparent, Democrat support from unaffiliated voters and moderates in both parties will likely fall.
Add to the mix the most corrupt candidate a major political party has offered to the electorate in memory make 2016 a difficult year indeed for any independent voter or Bernie Sanders supporter to vote for Team Blue.
Readers of this blog will note that almost a year ago I predicted Trump would drop out of the race before Super Tuesday. Yet, he has defied all conventional expectations, even his own, and he is now the GOP’s presidential nominee. If we learned anything from the 2016 Republican National Convention is that there is nothing conventional about this election.