Donald Trump pushed all the right buttons tonight. And pushed them, and pushed them, and pushed them.
His address was too long and too loud. It was a sledgehammer of a speech, in keeping with Trump’s sledgehammer of a campaign. It gave me a headache.
I don’t mean to say the speech was ineffective. Actually, I believe it probably worked, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump moved the needle in his favor. As was true throughout the convention, there was plenty of quality in the speech, but also unforced errors — in this case, length, monotonous volume, and lack of structure.
The speech was disciplined in the sense that Trump stuck to the script, but undisciplined (maybe self-indulgent is the better word) in the sense that it went on far too long. On the other hand, a speech need not be heard in its entirety to be effective. If a viewer listened with approval for 15 minutes before tuning out, that’s a win for Trump.
Considering the length (about an hour and fifteen minutes), it’s not surprising that this address seemed like three speeches in one. There was the attack dog speech (usually reserved for the VP nominee), the laundry list (usually reserved for the president’s state of the union address), and the theme speech (the normal fare of a presidential nominee’s acceptance speech). To some degree they were intermingled.
The attack dog speech, again not surprisingly, was excellent, I thought — just about as good as it gets.
The laundry list was reasonably comprehensive — law and order, defeating ISIS, trade, immigration, deregulation, energy development, Obamacare repeal, student debt, rebuilding the military, veterans, the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, school choice, free speech, and religious liberty. There was nothing about the right to life, but that’s not something Trump wants to push.
Other than that, he touched just about all the bases. And all or virtually all of them resonate with a majority of voters, I think.
The campaign theme was, of course, all about “making America great again.” The theme wasn’t woven artfully into the speech, the way good speechwriters do it. Instead, the theme was pounded home intermittently. As I said, this was a sledgehammer of a speech.
The address contained memorable lines, but with one exception they were memorable only because we’ve heard them so many times before. “Make America great,” “we don’t win anymore,” etc.
The only memorable new line was when Trump thanked evangelicals for their support and allowed as how he “isn’t sure he deserved it.” Thirteen months into his campaign, we finally hear self-deprecation from the tycoon (Mike Pence had several such lines in the first few minutes of his speech last night). You could have knocked me over with a feather
Trump handled the “lock her up” chant well. As soon as it started, he simply said “defeat her.” That was that.
Give the man credit. Tonight, he was in control of the proceedings and control of himself.
Finally, a word about Ivanka Trump’s speech. It was aimed at millennials, women, and independents (she emphasized right off the bat that she belongs to neither party). As I fall into none of these categories, maybe I shouldn’t evaluate it. If I were to do so, I’d say the speech was excellent, but a bit too long.
Finally, a word on one of the themes Ivanka and several other Trumps have pushed: the idea that Trump has sacrificed greatly by running for president.
All presidential candidates make important sacrifices by running. At a minimum, they give up family and leisure time, and subject themselves to a lot of abuse (even if they aren’t running against Donald Trump). Sometimes they give up hard-won political positions.
But it strikes me as unseemly to boast, or have others boast on your behalf, about the sacrifice. It makes it sound like the candidate is doing us a favor by seeking power.
An accompanying claim, also made by Ivanka, is that Trump doesn’t need this job. But there’s actually a tension between this and the assertion of “sacrifice.” The greater the sacrifice, the more likely it is that the person making the sacrifice badly needs the job at some level. Or so it seems to me.
I don’t know whether Trump needs the job of president, but I sense that, for psychological reasons, he very badly needs to win the position.
That’s okay I guess, and it’s certainly true of Hillary Clinton too. But I’m offended by the notion that in running for president Trump is sacrificing himself by seeking a job he doesn’t need.