On 21 July 2016 Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination as candidate to be the next US president. Although this was predicted in my first blog post, many political experts considered the unthinkable, well unthinkable. On the Radio 4 Correspondents Look Ahead at the beginning of the year, not a single one of the experts predicted that Donald Trump would actually win the GOP nomination.
I have written before on the need for Trump to introduce himself onto the national stage, articulate his national vision for the country and to detoxify his personal reputation with the American electorate. Overall, he has succeeded in all three of these priorities.
The convention speech was presidential, solid and hard-hitting on his core policies on law-and-order, national security and economic populism. It was a Putinesque speech with Trump, the blue-collar billionaire, auditioning himself as America’s strongman capable of overcoming the economic and national malaise affecting the country.
Trump’s unpolished, unspun and at times brutal speech dissected using economic data the parlous state of Middle America. For the working and middle classes listening, it was inspiring to hear an US politician speak frankly of the dire state of the economy, the national debt and the levels of crime in a way that treated the voter as an adult, not a child. Trump speech chimed with the day-to-day experiences of that 75% of the population who have not benefited from the economic recovery and are most exposed to the rising violence against policemen in America’s towns and cities.
The critics within the Pundocracy dismissed the speech as “dark” but this reflects more on how distant the upper classes are in America to the true economic realities facing ordinary Americans. A CNN poll conducted just after the speech confirmed that 75% of Americans had a positive reaction to the Donald’s speech and 57% would be more likely to vote for him in a general election. There is a massive gulf between the financially comfortable upper echelons within American society who live in a First World golden bubble and the rest of the population who are sinking into Third World poverty.
The Pundocracy talking heads made much of the plagiarizing row which blew up after Trumps wife Melanie made her speech. The truth is that the average voter would have barely registered the “scandal”. What actually matters is that the public saw a beautiful, polished and elegant First Lady in making who clearly loves and admires her husband. No words can fake the true emotion that Melanie Trump clearly feels for Donald Trump, and the voters picked that up.
I have written before that the greatest handicap facing Trump is the successful portrayal of him as a racist buffoon by the Clinton campaign and the media establishment. The most significant legacy of the convention will be the humanizing of the candidate to those open to voting for him in the country. The speeches by the Trump clan, in particular his sons and daughters, make clear that Donald Trump, whatever his other flaws, has been a great father. Focus groups have picked this up and it has transformed their perception of the Republican nominee.
Donald Trumps narrative of economic decline and grave domestic and foreign threats was ridiculed by the Pundocracy as dystopian and dark. To Middle America, watching the news every night with coverage dominated by police being gunned down and horrific Islamist terror attacks in Europe, the world is frightening and scary. Right now, only Donald Trump is taking seriously their concerns, which is why he is very likely to end up in the White House.