Zak Hasanin was walking along a downtown sidewalk Thursday afternoon when he said, “Did you hear that? ‘America Was Never Great’?” He was quoting a slogan shouted by left-wing protesters near the Republican National Convention here. “Those people need to go to Africa. They don’t know how good they’ve got it.”
Hasanin’s family immigrated to America from Sudan when he was a child, and the 23-year-old recent graduate of North Carolina State University was angered at the anti-American protest slogan.
“How is this not great?” Hasanin said, gesturing at the scene on Euclid Avenue, where vendors were hawking Donald Trump T-shirts outside shops and restaurants crowded with delegates. “This is Cleveland. Anywhere in Africa, this would be the greatest city in the country.”
The hope of renewing American greatness was what brought Hasanin and thousands of other Republicans to Cleveland, and Thursday night Trump delivered what was without doubt the strongest speech of his campaign to date.
“America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics,” Trump said near the end of his hour-plus address to an enthusiastic crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. “Remember, all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”
Indeed, in the past year, Trump success has confounded the cynics and critics who at first did not take his campaign seriously. The same doubters, including many conservative pundits, subsequently panicked when Trump’s populist campaign caught fire with primary voters who ignored the pundits and voted for the billionaire businessman who promised to put a stop to illegal immigration. Trump took special aim at “elites in media” who he said are “lining up behind the campaign of my opponent.”
Indeed, liberals reacted with alarm to Trump’s speech. Former MSNBC personality Melissa Harris-Perry walked out 10 minutes into his speech, declaring “I left early because I was afraid.” CNN personality Sally Kohn seemed traumatized, moaning on Twitter: “The problem is, this speech seems believable and convincing, especially in a vacuum. I’m scared.” On NBC, former Bush aide Nicolle Wallace announced, “The Republican Party that I worked for for two decades died in this room tonight.”
Of course, the GOP couldn’t beat Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012, and none of the regular Republican candidates could beat Trump for the nomination this year, so what were the chances that a Nicolle Wallace-approved Republican could have defeated Hillary Clinton this year? Tired of predictable losers, GOP primary voters this year gambled on Trump who doesn’t like to lose – and he’s tired of seeing America lose.
This was Trump’s indictment of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State: “ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West. After 15 years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before. This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness.”
Translation: “She’s a loser.”
Trump’s plan? “Let’s defeat her in November.”
This plan has the virtue of simplicity, as does Trump’s immigration policy. After recounting cases of Americans killed by illegal immigrants, Trump promised, “We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.… My plan is the exact opposite of the radical and dangerous immigration policy of Hillary Clinton. Americans want relief from uncontrolled immigration.… Yet Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness.”
Of course, Trump’s blunt talk was anathema to liberals. “Donald Trump’s Angry, Dark Speech Caps Off a Disaster RNC” was the headline on Joan Walsh’s Nation column. Claiming that this week’s convention was a “disaster” may reassure liberals worried about the appeal of Trump’s populist message, but Thursday’s speech may have marked a turning point, as the candidate had a chance to speak directly to the American people for more than an hour.
“I am your voice,” Trump told the viewers. “So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m with you, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
This was not a dark and angry message. This was a great message, and it might very well be a winning message in November.