Donald Trump’s speech tonight was not exactly poetry, but it was clear and surprisingly coherent. It was also clever, sort of. And it might just help him win the election in November. People find it disturbing, but Trump’s anti-globalism, America First and law-and order-focus plays very well in America in 2016. Americans are less and less interested in hearing platitudes about ‘freedom’ these days; they want to hear banalities about law and order instead. Because they are more worried about civil breakdown and their economic security than anything else.
Freddy Gray and Scott McConnell discuss the American tragedy with Isabel Hardman:
After the text leaked a few hours before the speech, the big question was how would Trump deliver it? Would he be well-rehearsed? Will he use a prompter? Or will he blow everyone’s minds and do something completely different to the script? The answer is he didn’t do too badly. Yes, it was jilted, and went on for too long, but it was a great improvement from his previous auto-cue efforts. And for all the oddness, the message will have cut through. America First. Law and Order. These messages work.
Here’s what he said about crime:
‘Homicides last year increased by 17 per cent in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 per cent. They are up nearly 60 per cent in nearby Baltimore.
In the President’s hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 have been the victims of shootings this year alone. And more than 3,600 have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office.
The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 per cent compared to this point last year. Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.
The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.’
And on globalisation, he added:
‘Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. 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. This will all change in 2017. The American People will come first once again. My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighbourhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.’
Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort promised on Monday that Trump has used Richard Nixon’s 1968 ‘law and order’ speech as his template, and he wasn’t lying. However, the comparison should not be overcooked. Nixon’s speech was actually more lyrical, and dramatic: ‘We hear sirens in the night,’ said Nixon. ‘We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish. Did we come all this way for this?’
Trump’s rhetoric was far less vaulted. But there is no doubt that Trump speaks directly to a large part of the American public whom the rest of the world does not understand. The odds are still against him and the polls suggest most Americans don’t share his America First vision. But if he can speak more coherently, and less offensively, to American anxiety from now on, he could beat Hillary Clinton on November 8.