When Donald Trump stepped onto the stage at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night and accepted the Republican nomination for president, it seemed certain that something interesting was about to happen.
After all, the night before, on that very same stage in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump's fiercest fellow presidential wanna-be, Sen. Ted Cruz, had spoken for about 30 minutes in primetime. Cruz gave a speech where he congratulated Trump on his victory and encouraged everyone to get out and vote in November and to vote their conscience, but then infuriated the audience by refusing to actually cross that final divide and endorse Trump, as we noted.
The crowd went bananas, with people booing Cruz, calling for him to say the name, to endorse. They even started heckling Cruz's wife Heidi who was in the hall without any security. By Thursday morning, everyone was talking about the junior Texas senator. Some were declaring his political career over because of his refusal to sign off on Trump for the good of the party while others found that they were suddenly experiencing unanticipated respect for the man who had the guts to appear at Trump-tacular 2016 and not back the Donald.
Considering all the controversy by the time Ivanka Trump, the candidate's oldest daughter and the one reportedly closest to him started speaking to introduce her father, the odds seemed high that somebody would come after Cruz, or take some swat at him before the night was over.
Ivanka kept things on the high road during her speech. "For more than a year," she said of his run for the presidency, "Donald Trump has been the people's champion." She acknowledged that she isn't really a Republican or a Democrat, stating that someone outside the political system is exactly what the United States needs right now. "Real change is only going to come from outside of the system," she said, speaking of her father's candidacy.
Then Trump himself made his entrance. Right off the bat he accepted the party's nomination. His tone was full of doom, all about the problems the country currently faces. “Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” an ominous-sounding Mr. Trump said, standing against a backdrop of American flags. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.”
He spoke for well over an hour chronicling a litany of challenges and problems the United States is currently dealing with. Most of the time he was practically shouting and came across as angry about, well, everything.
Trump wasn't entirely the standard GOP candidate during his speech, reportedly the longest one since 1972. He decried 15 years of war in the Middle East, he didn't speak about abortion issues at all and he actually spoke up about gay rights. It was one of the only times he veered off script when he vowed "to do everything in my power to protect our L.G.B.T.Q. citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.’’ People in the convention hall applauded and Trump, for just a moment, dropped his angry speechifying voice and remarked in normal tones that he was hearing this kind of response for gay rights at a Republican convention.
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But that was about as interesting as the show got all night. Those who tuned in expecting Trump to be unable to resist the temptation to throw in some kind of a dig against Cruz were sorely disappointed. Trump was too busy sticking to his prepared speech and painting a picture of a version of the United States at its darkest hour.
Instead of taking any pokes at Cruz, presumptive Democractic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was the focus of Trump's ire. “This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness,” he told the audience, and he continued a blistering critique of the former Secretary of State throughout his speech.
As the speech went on and on, it was strange because it kept occurring to us that the whole performance would have been so much more interesting if Cruz had been the one accepting the nod. Compared to the fire and controversy— even to the attempts Cruz made to argue that it was time for the party to unite — Trump yelled a lot and he was, well, boring to listen to, a one-trick pony who just kept doing that same trick while the audience applauded. By the time he was done, it was hard to really think about what exactly he'd really said, if anything. His family looked nice on stage though, so there's that.
On the upside next week is the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Fingers crossed that Clinton shows us she's become a much more interesting speaker by then, otherwise the presidential debates this fall are going to be an absolute snooze.