Over the last week, Donald Trump has delivered a series of remarkable speeches that have, in my view, reinvigorated his candidacy. The most recent was yesterday, in Charlotte. The speech has gotten a lot of attention, much of it directed to Trump’s sort-of-apology for some of the rude things he said during the primary season. No doubt Trump is trying to unify the party and mend fences, but in context, his words of regret that have been widely quoted are hardly abject. Rather, Trump postures himself primarily as a truth-teller:
I’ve never wanted to use the language of the insiders, and I’ve never been politically correct – it takes far too much time, and can often make more difficult [sic].
Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.
But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth.
I speak the truth for all of you, and for everyone in this country who doesn’t have a voice.
I speak the truth on behalf of the factory worker who lost his or her job.
I speak the truth on behalf of the Veteran who has been denied the medical care they need – and so many are not making it. They are dying.
I speak the truth on behalf of the family living near the border that deserves to be safe in their own country but is instead living with no security at all.
So while sometimes I can be too honest, Hillary Clinton is the exact opposite: she never tells the truth. One lie after another, and getting worse each passing day.
That is not what I would call an apology, nor is it directed to anyone in particular (e.g., John McCain).
What is notable about Trump’s speech, in my opinion, is not that much-hyped expression of regret. Rather, it is the inclusive tone that he adopted and seamlessly incorporated into the powerful themes he has articulated in his recent set-piece speeches. Repeatedly, Trump appealed for African-American votes:
We cannot make America Great Again if we leave any community behind.
Nearly four in ten African-American children are living in poverty. I will not rest until children of every color in this country are fully included in the American Dream.
Jobs, safety, opportunity. Fair and equal representation. This is what I promise to African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and all Americans.
On education, we are going to give students choice, and allow charter schools to thrive. We are going to end tenure policies that reward bad teachers and hurt good ones. My opponent wants to deny students choice and opportunity, all to get a little bit more money from the education bureaucracy. She doesn’t care how many young dreams are dashed in the process.
We are going to work closely with African-American parents and students in the inner cities – and what a big difference that will make. This means a lot to me, and it is going to be a top priority in a Trump Administration.
Finally, we are going to bring this country together. We are going to do it by emphasizing what we all have in common as Americans. We are going to reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, which sees communities of color only as votes and not as human beings worthy of a better future.
If African-American voters give Donald Trump a chance by giving me their vote, the result for them will be amazing. Look at how badly things are going under decades of Democratic leadership – look at the schools, look at the 58% of young African-Americans not working. It is time for change.
What do you have to lose by trying something new? – I will fix it. This means so much to me, and I will work as hard as I can to bring new opportunity to places in our country which have not known opportunity in a very long time.
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have taken African-American votes totally for granted. Because the votes have been automatically there, there has been no reason for Democrats to produce.
It is time to break with the failures of the past, and to fight for every last American child in this country to have the better future they deserve.
In my Administration, every American will be treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all of its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people.
To the extent that African-American voters hear those appeals, I think they are powerful. Note how Trump weaves his appeal to black voters, gays, etc. into his discussion of immigration:
On immigration, we will temporarily suspend immigration from any place where adequate screening cannot be performed. All applicants for immigration will be vetted for ties to radical ideology, and we will screen out anyone who doesn’t share our values and love our people. Anyone who believes Sharia law supplants American law will not be given an immigrant visa. If you want to join our society, then you must embrace our society, our values and our tolerant way of life. Those who believe in oppressing women, gays, Hispanics, African-Americans and people of different faiths are not welcome to join our country.
Liberal commentators have bashed Trump so obsessively with regard to his views on immigration that they seem to have lost sight of the fact that he is on the winning side of the issue. How does Hillary respond to this?
Another major issue in this campaign has been the border. Our open border has allowed drugs and crime and gangs to pour into our communities. So much needless suffering, so much preventable death. I’ve spent time with the families of wonderful Americans whose loved ones were killed by the open borders and Sanctuary Cities that Hillary Clinton supports.
I’ve embraced the crying parents who’ve lost their children to violence spilling across our border. Parents like Laura Wilkerson and Michelle Root and Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw whose children were killed by illegal immigrants.
My opponent supports Sanctuary Cities.
But where was the sanctuary for Kate Steinle? Where was the sanctuary for the children of Laura, Michelle, Sabine and Jamiel?
Where was the sanctuary for every other parent who has suffered so horribly?
These moms and dads don’t get a lot of consideration from our politicians. They certainly don’t get apologies. They’ll never even get the time of day from Hillary Clinton.
But they will always come first to me.
How does Hillary counter that? She can’t. She just hopes Trump’s message is muffled by the press.
Finally, Trump postures himself as the outsider who can clean up a corrupt government. Ten years ago, the assertion that our national government is hopelessly corrupt would have been implausible. Today, it resonates with a majority of voters. So this is an effective theme:
I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens.
That’s why I am running: to end the decades of bitter failure and to offer the American people a new future of honesty, justice and opportunity. A future where America, and its people, always – and I mean always – come first.
Aren’t you tired of a system that gets rich at your expense?
Aren’t you tired of the same old lies and the same old broken promises? And Hillary Clinton has proven to be one of the greatest liars of all time.
Aren’t you tired of arrogant leaders who look down on you, instead of serving and protecting you?
I have no special interest. I am spending millions of dollars on my own campaign – nobody else is.
My only interest is the American people.
Don’t underestimate the appeal of the candidate who is rich and therefore won’t use public office to get wealthy, like the Clintons, and doesn’t need to follow the lead of donors and lobbyists. I have seen focus group data suggesting that in today’s climate, this theme–I am rich, and therefore I can’t be bought–is one of the most popular among voters.
Finally, Trump attacked the liberal media, as he has consistently throughout his campaign. This, too, is very popular:
The establishment media doesn’t cover what really matters in this country, or what’s really going on in people’s lives. They will take words of mine out of context and spend a week obsessing over every single syllable, and then pretend to discover some hidden meaning in what I said.
Just imagine for a second if the media spent this energy holding the politicians accountable who got innocent Americans like Kate Steinle killed – she was gunned down by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.
Just imagine if the media spent this much time investigating the poverty and joblessness in our inner cities.
Just think about how much different things would be if the media in this country sent their cameras to our border, or to our closing factories, or to our failing schools. Or if the media focused on what dark secrets must be hidden in the 33,000 emails Hillary Clinton deleted.
Instead, every story is told from the perspective of the insiders. It’s the narrative of the people who rigged the system, never the voice of the people it’s been rigged against.
In my opinion, Donald Trump is becoming a formidable candidate. On the key issues that he talks about the most, he takes positions that are, I think, both right and popular, with one exception–trade. He has given a series of excellent speeches, more or less as they were written, thereby demonstrating a discipline that was sorely lacking earlier in the campaign. No one should underestimate his populist appeal, including his appeal to minority voters.
Hillary Clinton, who at the moment is resting up from the rigors of the campaign while Trump tours Louisiana–she is an elderly lady, after all–can only hope that her allies in the press block voters from hearing what Trump is saying.