I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear. I am a fan of Trump supporter Peter Thiel who addressed the RNC convention last night ahead of Trump’s acceptance of the party’s presidential nomination (more on that in a later post).
But Trump? I still don’t get it.
That said, his speech last night was impressive from a strictly political perspective (watch it in full below if you missed it). The message he sounded is going to be effective. It identified many issues Americans are frustrated with – from lawlessness at our borders to a lack of accountability for the political class to overbearing federal regulation – and positioned Clinton as the avatar of the status quo everyone is pissed about.
I’ve said before that Trump could win. Because anything is at least a little bit possible, right? But after last night I’m thinking he could very well be competitive.
That doesn’t mean he’ll win. He could still do something colossally Trumpian and derail his candidacy. It could turn out that the electorate isn’t angry enough at the political status quo to put a bombastic caricature of populist conservatism in the White House. But if I were Hillary Clinton, a deeply flawed candidate in her own right, I wouldn’t go measuring any drapes.
It is fair to say that Trump was light on the specifics of how his administration would address the issues he identified in his speech last night…
Too bad nothing he says is believable. He never explains "how" he will accomplish his stated goals. https://t.co/Hpl7fXgJV7
— Carter Wood (@N_Carter_Wood) July 22, 2016
…but I’m not sure Trump has to be specific. He’s the political outsider, remember? If he were perceived by the public as just another politician, then yes his lack of specificity would be a handicap. But a large part of Trump’s base of support is going to come from people who see him as an alternative to just another politician. What matters to them most is that he’s identifying the right problems.
They’re willing to give him a chance to come up with the right solutions.
And Ted Cruz’s convention speech tantrum helped Trump a great deal, I think. Trump looked magnanimous by letting Cruz speak while Cruz himself looked petty. The representative of a gasping, marginalized conservative movement which has for years been long on high-minded ideals but short on practical policy victories.
Trump frustrates many conservatives because he often eschews our ideology. Yet that’s central to his appeal. People are sick and tired of hearing about how Ronald Reagan would have wanted things. They want action, and Trump promises to deliver.
Whether or not he actually can is another question entirely. Whether or not we should want what he’s promising to deliver is quite another. “It was an argument for unlimited government under a single man, for rule by Trump’s whim,” Peter Suderman writes for Reason this morning. “He sounded less like he was running for president and more like he was campaigning to be an American despot.”
But what if a despot is what Americans want?
Here’s his full speech: