President Trump brought the Republican convention to a close with a night long on pageantry, and longer on words.
Trump’s acceptance speech went on for more than an hour. It bore more of a resemblance to a State of the Union address — a lengthy catalogue of goals and successes, as well as presidential recognition of people in the audience — than to a convention speech. All week, Trump shamelessly used his presidential powers and the White House itself to add drama to the convention, and last night was no different. He transformed the White House lawn into a substitute for the floor of convention hall, a misuse of that setting, although the White House was the third option for Trump’s speech after two other venues and cities didn’t work out. (A president hadn’t given an acceptance speech at the White House since FDR in 1940.)
Amid all the words and the Trumpian bluster, the speech hammered away at what will be the main lines of attacks against Biden in the fall: He can’t be trusted with the economy; he’s been in Washington forever and has a terrible record; he is a vessel of an increasingly radical Democratic Party; and he is soft on disorder and crime in the cities.
Biden and the Democrats left Trump and Republicans an enormous opening by not condemning looting and other violence in the cities at their convention, and the GOP, rightly, exploited it to the hilt.
A hallmark of this week’s convention was that the non-politician speakers were often more compelling than the politicians, and none more so than Ann Dorn. The widow of a retired police officer, David Dorn, killed in St. Louis after responding to looting at a friend’s pawn shop, she gave a wrenching account of her loss and a moving appeal for peace. The country would be in a better place if everyone took her words to heart.
The theme that ran throughout the GOP convention was that America is a great, lovely country that is being run down by a Left that believes it has been rotten to the core since the beginning. This is certainly true, from the 1619 Project to Black Lives Matter. Biden may not think this way, but many of his allies do. How he navigates between keeping the Democratic base engaged and energized and reassuring swing voters, especially on questions of law and order, will have much to do with whether this week will be remembered as the moment when President Trump began his comeback or not.