More than 13 months after descending that escalator to announce his bid for the White House, real estate billionaire and reality TV star Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president the way he began his campaign — with a speech that evoked dark themes of immigration violence, economic chaos and American weakness.
“I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Trump told a cheering crowd at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday. “We will be a country of generosity and warmth but we will also be a country of law and order.”
He quickly turned to attack his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“America is far less safe — and the world is far less stable — than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy,” he said, adding, “I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets. Her bad instincts.”
He then called the legacy of Hillary Clinton: “death, destruction and weakness.”
The crowd seemed to agree, shouting in a unified chant: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Trump’s speech was one of the longest in recent history — an hour and 15 minutes, according to cable news. In an often repetitive stemwinder, Trump promised to simplify international trade agreements, build a wall on the Mexican border, defeat the Islamic State and end violence in the country. He also promised to do all these things “fast.”
He emphasized that he was a different kind of candidate — and represented a different tone from politics as usual. “We can not afford to be so politically-correct anymore,” he said. “At our convention there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth and nothing else.”
Despite a week of hiccups that nearly overshadowed his big moment, Trump seemed to have the audience in his thrall, with delegates stopping him for nearly a minute chanting, “USA! USA!”
Trump was introduced by his daughter, Ivanka, who praised him as a “colorblind, gender neutral” person who was not the man painted as being racist and anti-women during the campaign.
Ivanka said she’d worked for 10 years beside her father and watched him promote women. “Policies that allow women to thrive should not be anomalies, they should be the norm,” she said, sounding more like a Democrat than a Republican.
“He will fight for equal pay and equal work, and I will fight too, right alongside him,” she vowed.
In his own speech, Trump told the story of a woman killed by an immigrant, after which the crowd shouted, “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
Trump also addressed the recent shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas telling delegates, “Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on Jan. 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”
Looking determined in a dark suit with a satin red tie, Trump pivoted to speak of championing the Amerian worker who has been “ignored, neglected and abandoned. The forgotten men and women of our country. But they’re not gonna be forgotten long.”
Pointing into the camera he said: “I am your voice.” At this point, the crowd rose in a frenzy, roaring approval with wave after wave of full-throated noise.
Breaking from the party’s platform, which was recently criticized for being one the most anti-gay platforms in its history, Trump made a point to address LGBT voters.
“Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist,” he said. “This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community,” he told the crowd. “As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
The line was as unexpected as the reaction it got from the thousands of conservative delegates who are more accustomed to hearing their representatives oppose marriage equality than embrace the gay community.
After the crowd roared in approval, Trump added: “I must say as a Republican it’s so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
On Muslim immigration Trump said: “We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place. We don’t want them in our country,” adding that, “anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never will be.”
He also promised to deliver on his biggest campaign promise while bringing up what many in the Republican Party believe to be his biggest selling point: his business acumen.
“It’s been a signature message of my campaign from day one,” Trump said. “I have made billions of dollars in business making deals, now I’m going to make our country rich again.”
Trump did not explain how he would go about doing it but did say he would turn around the country’s bad trade agreements, calling NAFTA “one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country.”
He also vowed a tax reform, proposing the largest tax deduction of any candidate running this year, Democrat or Republicans, with “taxes simplified for everyone.” This, he said, will result in jobs “roaring back.” Per usual, none of this came with any specifics.
“My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: ‘I’m With Her’. I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: “I’m with you – the American people.”
Trump sealed his address with a promise: “I’m with you, I will fight for you and I will win for you,” he concluded. “We will make America strong again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.”