Media outlets and figures slammed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s speech in which he formally accepted the nomination, writing that it was “intended to instill fear and terrify people,” that it painted the U.S. as a “dystopia” and a “land of horrors,” and that it “offered no solutions beyond his messianic portrayal of himself.”
Trump Accepts Republican Nomination, Vowing To “Restore Law And Order”
Trump Tells Voters He “Alone Can Fix” The Country. In his acceptance speech during the final night of the Republican National Convention, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump pledged to end the “crime and violence that today afflicts our nation” and to be a voice for working class citizens. Trump claimed the U.S. is in a “moment of crisis,” and the problems the country faces “threaten our very way of life”:
Accepting the Republican nomination in Cleveland, the billionaire twice pledged to be a "voice" for working Americans, restore law and order and to confound elites and doubters by winning the White House in November.
"Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it," Trump said. "My message is that things have to change -- and they have to change right now."
Trump, whose unpredictable campaign has broken every rule of politics, portrayed America as a broken nation that only he can fix.
"I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end," he said. "Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored."
Trump's lengthy address — clocking in at one hour and 15 minutes — was the most crucial moment yet in his transformation from a brash tycoon and reality star with a sometimes vulgar tongue to a politician on the cusp of the presidency with an expansive vision of disruptive change.
Trump took the opportunity to attempt to soothe divisions in both the country as a whole and his party, where tensions were exposed Wednesday by Ted Cruz's refusal to endorse Trump. [CNN.com, 7/22/16]
Media Criticize Trump’s “Dark, Fearful” Message In Speech
CNN’s Carl Bernstein: Trump’s Speech “ Intended To Instill Fear And Terrify People And Create A Vision Of America … That Simply Is At Odds With Fact.” CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein called Trump’s speech “a terrifying speech” and “a dark vision of America” that “does not really exist” and “isn’t borne out by … facts.” From the July 22 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): What were your impressions, Carl, last night of Donald Trump's speech?
CARL BERNSTEIN: I think both the speech and the convention were probably very effective for Donald Trump. It was a terrifying speech, a dark vision of America, and what we have seen in this convention and that speech is a mythical America that does not really exist --
BERNSTEIN: Let me just say and a mythical Donald Trump who does not really exist. The master builder, very much at odds with the pictures we've seen of Trump as somebody who fleeces people in Trump University, et cetera. So the Democrats and Hillary Clinton now have a terrible task at dismantling this mythology that this convention and speech have created. And she's a weak messenger.
CAMEROTA: But in terms of the vision that you say of America that doesn’t exist, it's not as bleak?
BERNSTEIN: Not as bleak, it's not existentially correct. It's not borne out by either facts. We are not a nation in which thousands and thousands of citizens are murdering each other daily. We are not under siege from terrorists at home every other day on a scale as implied in this speech. This was a speech intended to instill fear and terrify people and create a vision of America such as Rudy Giuliani did in his speech that simply is at odds with fact and at the same time plays into the real fears. One of the things Trump has done so effectively is to identify why and which institutions in this country are not working and that the elites indeed have not served the people of this country. It all fits together well as a package. [CNN, New Day, 7/22/16]
LA Times Editorial Board: Donald Trump “Play[ed] The Fear Card” During Acceptance Speech. The LA Times editorial board called Trump’s acceptance speech “frightening in more ways than one,” writing that “Trump’s overarching intention was to sow fear in America’s voters.” The board pointed out that “Trump managed to make an extreme agenda sound not only plausible but necessary.” From the July 21 editorial:
Donald J. Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday evening with a speech that was frightening in more ways than one.
Trump’s overarching intention was to sow fear in America’s voters: Fear of uncontrolled crime and terrorism that “threaten our very way of life.” Fear of immigrants, including refugees from the civil war in Syria. Fear of Muslims, although instead of the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” he proposed last year, Trump said he would suspend immigration from countries that have been “compromised by terrorism.” Fear of foreign trading partners that, thanks to “disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton,” have destroyed American manufacturing.
Finally, Trump warned that Americans should fear Hillary Clinton, whom he described as a corrupt politician whose legacy as secretary of State amounted to “death, destruction and weakness.”
But Trump’s speech was frightening in a second sense: By softening his strident rhetoric, by (selectively) citing statistics, by couching cruel policies in the language of compassion, Trump managed to make an extreme agenda sound not only plausible but necessary. [LA Times, 7/21/16]
Newsday Editorial Board: Trump “Adopt[ed] The Despot’s Tactic Of Inflating Fears” And Portrayed The US “As A Land Of Horrors.” The Newsday editorial board criticized Trump’s speech, writing that the U.S. has “a Republican nominee using fear and anger” to win the presidency. The board called the speech “manipulative and dark” and said he was “wrong to portray this wonderful country as a land of horrors.” From the July 22 editorial:
After eight years of a president who touted hope and change, we now have a Republican nominee using fear and anger in his attempt to win the nation’s highest office.
Coming into the 2016 Republican National Convention, Donald Trump needed to convince the party and the nation that the concept of him as president is possible, and desirable.
Now he leaves Cleveland with the challenge of holding on to his base while attracting the broader electorate. And Trump’s plan is to somehow make that broader electorate as terrified as his often angry and fearful base, and to argue that only he can save it.
The vision Trump shared Thursday night was of an unrecognizable America living in terror, a broken land only he can heal.
According to Trump, we crouch trembling in fear of crime and terrorism, are besieged by poverty and violent foreigners, and are bamboozled by timid, corrupt leaders.
“I have a message for all of you,” Trump said, “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end.”
But Trump is wrong to adopt the despot’s tactic of inflating fears to present himself as the deliverer from those fears.
He’s wrong to portray this wonderful country as a land of horrors. And he’s wrong in his inflated estimates of immigrant crime, and in his inaccurate assertions about the timeline of terrorism and warnings that Democrats are plotting to confiscate every gun.[Newsday, 7/22/16]
Huff. Post’s Jonathan Cohn: Trump’s Message To Voters Was To “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” Huffington Post’s Jonathan Cohn wrote that Trump hit all the fearful themes of his campaign in his speech, warning Americans that “their livelihoods were under siege.” Cohn noted that “Trump gave almost no attention to other issues” and that even when he “was trying to appeal to idealism, he did so by portraying stories of people or communities under assault.” From the July 22 article:
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
That was the essential message of the Republican National Convention this week and it was the same essential message that Donald Trump conveyed to the American people on Thursday evening, when he formally accepted his party’s nomination for president.
Maybe it isn’t surprising. From the day Trump announced his candidacy, warning about mythical rapists that Mexico was sending across the border, the real estate mogul has been telling people that they and their livelihoods were under siege ― from undocumented immigrants, global corporations, Muslim terrorists, elitist liberals, and criminals shooting cops.
He hit all of those themes in his speech Thursday and he hit them hard ― so hard, in fact, that he barely had time for anything else. The speech was long, even by convention speech standards. According to C-Span, it was the longest since 1972, eclipsing even Bill Clinton’s marathon in 1996.
Despite all that time, Trump gave almost no attention to other issues. [Huffington Post, 7/22/16]
Salon’s Simon Maloy: Trump Described A “Dark, Fearful Vision.” Salon political writer Simon Maloy -- who has previously worked for Media Matters -- wrote that Trump’s convention speech was “an explicit appeal to fear,” tied to “the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations.” Maloy also criticized Trump for “demonizing immigrants” and “train[ing] his fire on refugees,” pointing out that “the statistics he cites to claim that the country is a crime-ridden hellhole are wildly misleading and that he’s lying when he says crime is on the rise.” From the July 22 article:
Early on in Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, he made an explicit promise to end violence in the United States of America. Per Trump, all violence, in all of America, will be done once he is installed as our 45th president. “I have a message for all of you,” he said, “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon – and I mean very soon – come to an end. Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored.”
Again, I’m not sure what one can even say in response to rhetoric like this coming from a major-party presidential nominee. I could point out that the statistics he cites to claim that the country is a crime-ridden hellhole are wildly misleading and that he’s lying when he says crime is on the rise. I could point out that the population of undocumented immigrants in the country is actually declining. I could also note that the rate at which Syrian refugees have been admitted to the country has been very slow, and that there is an intensive, multi-layered vetting process in place for those refugees.
But Trumpism exists in direct defiance of facts. The speech the Republican Party’s nominee delivered while accepting his nomination was an explicit appeal to fear. And it tied that fear to some of the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations. He had the temerity to accuse the sitting president of “divid[ing] us by race and color” while also conjuring menacing visions of murderous immigrants and refugees. And, of course, Trump is going to “immediately suspend immigration from any country that has been compromised by terrorism,” which is his newly bowdlerized phraseology for describing his plan to ban Muslims from entering the country.
We’ve been hearing similar versions of this dark and fearful vision of the country for over a year now as Trump has come to dominate the GOP, but Thursday night’s speech was the moment that that vision officially became the governing agenda for the Republican Party. And while we can take some comfort in the high likelihood that Trump will lose in November, the political dysfunction that lifted him this high will endure beyond 2016. [Salon, 7/22/16]
Wash. Post Editorial Board: Donald Trump Is An “Apocalyptic” Candidate. The Washington Post editorial board wrote that Trump, in his speech, “sought to enhance his political prospects the only way he knows how: by inflaming public angst, so as to exploit it.” The board explained that Trump “took real challenges and recast them in terms that were not only exaggerated but also apocalyptic” and that Trump’s prescriptions would “fail as actual policies.” From the July 21 editorial:
For many, of course, a cause of concern is Donald Trump, who accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday evening. Belligerent and erratic, Mr. Trump nevertheless has a serious chance to win in November. In his acceptance speech, he sought to enhance his political prospects the only way he knows how: by inflaming public angst, so as to exploit it.
Mr. Trump took real challenges and recast them in terms that were not only exaggerated but also apocalyptic. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” he claimed. Though he addressed issues ranging from public safety, to immigration, to trade, Mr. Trump’s proposed solutions all shared a common premise: the way to overcome difficulty is through force. To American companies that exercise their right to move production abroad, the Trump administration will administer unspecified “consequences.” A giant wall will block migrants and drug traffickers along the Mexico border. And “law and order” — an old trope of Richard Nixon and George Wallace that Mr. Trump brought out of retirement — will be restored.
Mr. Trump began his speech by presenting himself as the bearer of painful but necessary truth. And no doubt, for many of his listeners, his words expressed a deeply felt emotional reality. There is real fear in the land; real pain. But it will take real leadership, not the wishful, demagogic brand Mr. Trump embodied Thursday night, to address this. [Washington Post, 7/21/16]
The New York Times: Trump Advanced “A Dark Vision Of America.” The New York Times editorial board wrote, ”Trump made clear that he intends … to terrify voters into supporting him” by painting the U.S. as a “dystopia” while offering “no solutions beyond his messianic portrayal of himself.” The board concluded that Trump has “sought advantage by playing to disaffected people’s worst instincts” and by “inventing scapegoats and conspiracy theories.” From the July 22 editorial:
Given a chance to replace the empty sloganeering and self-aggrandizement of his primary campaign with solid proposals worthy of Americans’ trust, Mr. Trump made clear that he instead intends to terrify voters into supporting him, who will protect them from violence, a word that occurs over and over in his remarks.
Asserting that his nomination comes at a moment of national crisis, of “poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad,” Mr. Trump offered no solutions beyond his messianic portrayal of himself. “Every day I wake up determined to deliver a better life for the people all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned,” he says in advance excerpts from his speech.
The dark vision of America advanced by Mr. Trump is one in which immigrants, including immigrant families, are prime sources of “violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities.” Abroad, America is a disrespected, humiliated nation.
This is not only factually false, it’s a wildly distorted view of all the nation stands for. One would think that if Mr. Trump believed this dystopia existed, he would have a clear and detailed plan for change. But, as always, he has only his empty sales pitch to offer — “I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you,” he says.
The consequences for the Republican Party still lie ahead. Mr. Trump emerged as a political force with the racist claim that President Obama was not born in the United States. He has since sought advantage by playing to disaffected people’s worst instincts, inventing scapegoats and conspiracy theories, waging and inciting vicious attacks on those who disagree with him. He is a poisonous messenger for a legitimate demand: that an ossified party dedicate itself to improving working people’s lives, instead of serving the elite. [The New York Times, 7/22/16]