Speaking from the White House, a noticeably measured and restrained President Trump officially accepted the 2020 Republican presidential nomination on Aug. 28. The tone was in keeping with what apparently will be his campaign strategy in the general election: offering up an aura of accomplished incumbency to serve as stark contrast to a tempestuous and chaotic Democratic Party.
In a speech that easily eclipsed the one-hour mark and often sounded more like a State of the Union address than a rallying call to partisan supporters, Trump rattled off a string of issues and his administration’s various responses to them. He checked off the populist outsider themes that first got him elected, from immigration and the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs to pursuing a less interventionist foreign policy. In doing so, he made sure to portray his rival, Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden, as a four-decade-plus opponent of his America First agenda.
Taking on the Insiders
This framing led to one of the wittiest and most compelling moments of the night.
“For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue-collar workers, gave them hugs – and even kisses – and told them he felt their pain,” Trump exclaimed, deftly hinting at Biden’s reputation for being inappropriately touchy-feely on the campaign trail.
“And then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship our jobs to China and many other distant lands,” he continued. “Joe Biden spent his entire career outsourcing their dreams and the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars, wars that never ended.”
Trump touted his administration’s moves to end the NAFTA trade deal and withdraw from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Asian trade pact. “I then immediately approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access [oil] Pipelines,” he added. “Ended the unfair and very costly Paris Climate Accord. And secured for the first time American energy independence.”
He also highlighted his tough stance on China, something he said he pursued against the wishes of establishment politicians. “Washington insiders asked me not to stand up to China,” Trump declared. “They pleaded with me to let China continue stealing our jobs, ripping us off, and robbing our country blind. But I kept my word to the American people. We took the toughest, boldest, strongest, and hardest-hitting action against China in American history by far.”
Trump painted his determination to clamp down on illegal immigration as one of the most challenging battles of the past four years. “And perhaps no area did the Washington special interests try harder to stop us than on my policy of pro-American immigration,” the president said. “But I refused to back down, and today America’s borders are more secure than ever before.”
“We ended catch-and-release, stopped asylum fraud, took down human traffickers who prey on women and children,” he explained. “And we have deported 20,000 gang members and 500,000 criminal aliens. We have already built 300 miles of border wall, and we are adding ten new miles every single week. The Wall will soon be complete. And it is working beyond our wildest expectations.”
Trump punctuated what had been a major theme of the week’s Republican National Convention, his outreach to black Americans. “I have done more in three years for the black community than Joe Biden has done in 47 years,” he stated, citing criminal justice and prison reform measures promoted by his administration as well as increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The president emphasized his work to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: “We also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. And this month, we achieved the first Middle East peace deal in 25 years.”
Biden on ‘Wrong Side of History’
Trump gave clear notice that constant references to Biden’s nearly half a century of experience in the political halls of power will be a point of attack. “Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime,” the president proclaimed. “He has spent his entire career on the wrong side of history. Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single-worst trade deal ever enacted. He supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time.”
“China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected,” Trump asserted. “Unlike Biden, I will hold them fully accountable for the tragedy that they caused, all over the world, they caused.”
That tragedy would be the Coronavirus crisis, which he once again called “the China Virus” as he defended in detail his administration’s work to deal with the health and economic fallout from the unprecedented shutdown of the nation due to the pandemic.
‘Trojan Horse for Socialism’
Trump lashed out at Democrats as the party of leftist extremism. “During the Democrat convention, the words ‘under God’ were removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, not once, but twice,” he noted. “We will never do that.”
“But the fact is, this is where they’re coming from,” he continued. “Like it or not. This is where they’re coming from. If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns, and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other constitutional freedoms.”
In what will also undoubtedly be another often-used campaign theme, Trump portrayed Biden as the smiling front for a radical progressive agenda. He said:
“Biden is a Trojan Horse for socialism. If Joe Biden doesn’t have the strength to stand up to wild-eyed Marxists like [Sen.] Bernie Sanders [I-VT] and his fellow radicals – and there are many, there are many, many, we see them all the time, it’s incredible, actually – then how is he ever going to stand up for you? He’s not.”
Alluding to the Black Lives Matter-promoted riots that have plagued American cities since the death of George Floyd in police custody in late May, Trump warned what a Biden presidency would mean for law and order:
“Make no mistake, if you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will defund police departments all across America. They will pass federal legislation to reduce law enforcement nationwide. They will make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon.”
“My administration will always stand with the men and women of law enforcement,” he vowed. “In the strongest possible terms, the Republican party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities all, like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago and New York, many others, Democrat-run.”
It was a lengthy and confident address, and one most definitely given from the pedestal of a sitting president. Trump and his campaign team are making his administration’s record the rock upon which it will stand over the next two-plus months.
It will be Incumbent Trump, not Insurgent Trump, moving forward. And now the general election battle officially begins.
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