I have something to confess.
Last night — wow, this is really tough to say — I think Donald Trump gave the best speech he’s given this entire campaign.
Other #NeverTrump’ers may accuse me of heresy, but for perhaps the first time in the general election, his speech in Charlotte made me think he could be President some day.
As a committed #NeverTrump’er, one of my biggest issues with The Donald is his ill-tempered, vulgar persona — and he even apologized for that, in his own way! In an uncharacteristically magnanimous moment, Trump said:
“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”
Although that is the line the media has been primarily reporting today, there were other good moments, too. His speech was focused on his policy proposals, and he remained on-message by savaging Hillary Clinton. It was dark, but no darker than his RNC acceptance speech, which definitely resonated with a large group of voters
One of the best paragraphs from the speech:
“Please remember this: I will never put personal profit before national security. I will never leave our border open to appease donors and special interests. I will never support a trade deal that kills American jobs. I will never put the special interests before the national interest. I will never put a donor before a voter, or a lobbyist before a citizen. Instead, I will be a champion for the people.”
Trump is on the money here. Hillary Clinton is an embodiment of everything wrong with American politics today. The Clintons have spent their entire careers accumulating wealth and power at the expense of ‘we, the people’, and then they proceeded to abuse their positions as public servants for personal enrichment. They make base appeals to identity politics, and seemingly get away with every scandal, with no small help from a sympathetic media.
Hillary Clinton is exactly the kind of politician that the Founding Fathers warned us about. Her party’s brand of corrupt, lethargic, bureaucratic tyranny is why the Founders designed a system of extensive checks and balances. The President’s role is to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution against those who would do violence to it.
And, dare I say, based on that metric, Trump sounded almost presidential last night.
Trump keyed in on the economy, immigration, and terrorism in a way that is sure to resonate with certain segments of the American people. He stoked in them a hope that maybe, just maybe, this vulgar New York reality TV star could have the answers they have been searching for.
Trump followed up his speech with a visit to the Louisiana flooding disaster — something the sitting President has postponed until after his vacation in ritzy Martha’s Vineyard.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “I found the crown of France just lying in a gutter, so I picked it up with my sword.” Similarly, Donald Trump saw that President Obama let the honor of his office wash away in the floodwaters, and he flew down to Louisiana to see if he could claim it for himself.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time Trump has seemingly pivoted. He once claimed to be more presidential than anyone but Abraham Lincoln. He’s given speeches throughout the summer Republican operatives have hailed as the “Great Pivot.” None of that, however, stuck.
Whether or not the campaign shake-ups going on at Trump Tower will be enough to change things remains to be seen. But, if Trump keeps moving forward on the path he set out on last night and this morning, he may even win over this extremely skeptical #NeverTrump’er.
Michael Lucchese works at the American Principles Project.