Roger’s Rules

Last Night Was the Turning Point in Trump's Campaign

Last Night Was the Turning Point in Trump's Campaign
Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Donald Trump cleared up one thing in his speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, last night: he is running to win.

Throughout this very odd election cycle, some pundits have periodically suggested that Trump wasn’t serious in his run for the presidency. First, it was said that he got into the race simply to garner publicity, to burnish his “brand.” He himself, it was said, was surprised that he did so well in the primaries.

When it became clear that he was poised to win the nomination, the story changed slightly. Now, he was said to be playing the buffoon because he didn’t really want the job. The same line was repeated and amplified post-convention whenever Trump went off-message or waved The National Enquirer about. Anything having to do with Ted Cruz really seemed to set him off. And off he went, as his plummeting poll numbers showed.

But these last couple of weeks have shown the world a new, more disciplined Donald Trump.

His speeches on the economy, on foreign policy, on policing and race relations, and — just last night — his brilliant speech that touched on everything from national security to race relations, free trade, immigration, and Obamacare, have shown that he is deadly earnest about winning this election.

To employ a phrase that Trump himself favors: Believe me, he’s in it to win.

Last night’s speech was significant for  several reasons. Substantively, it hammered home a truth that is as uncomfortable as it necessary to acknowledge: the dreadful plight of black Americans is largely the creation of Democrats.

Aside: in a rare obeisance to political correctness, Trump consistently referred to “African-Americans.”  Perhaps that is politically expedient — but I believe it is patronizing.

As Teddy Roosevelt observed, “hyphenated-Americans” are a threat to the integrity of the country. We are not Irish-Americans or German-American or African-Americans (a term that is especially bizarre because it is applied indiscriminately to certain dark-skinned people: Jamaica, for example, is not part of Africa). We are simply Americans whose ancestors happen to be from Ireland, Germany, Kenya, or wherever.

But back to that perhaps startling claim — to the media and Democrats, anyway — about Democrats being largely responsible for the plight of black Americans. Donald Trump is quite correct:

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have taken African-American votes totally for granted.

Until now, anyway, the black vote has run according to the Democratic script. What is that script? Lyndon Johnson articulated it in its purest — as well as its crassest — form when in 1964 he remarked to two like-minded Democratic governors that, with his Great Society programs:

I’ll have those n*****s voting Democratic for the next 200 years.

It hasn’t been 200 years yet. But for the last 50? As patronizing Democratic programs stifled freedom and individual initiative, and erected an increasingly burdensome (and expensive) governmental cocoon around their minority charges?

The black vote has been largely in the pocket of its new plantation owners.

The “Great Society” did not abolish poverty. That was never the intention. It institutionalized poverty.

Along the way, it created an engorging bureaucracy that was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

As Trump pointed out in his speech in Milwaukee earlier this week, all of the nation’s failed cities — Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland, Memphis, Milwaukee itself — have been under Democratic control for decades.

Milwaukee, for example, has been Democratic since 1908. Do you suppose that there is a connection between the disasters — the poverty, the crime, the corruption — that have engulfed these cities, and the political complexion of their leadership? Or is it merely fortuitous?

To ask the question is to answer it.

Regular readers know that I have found find a lot to criticize about Donald Trump. I stand by those criticisms. But I also acknowledge a new note in Trump’s campaign.

His speeches of the last two weeks have outlined with clarity and conviction that he is serious about bringing about significant change. Not just the word “change”: the country has staggered under that ruse for nearly eight years now. No, Trump is promising to bring real change to all Americans, but especially to American cities and the materially disenfranchised denizens who have spent the last several decades suffering from the hypocritical benevolence of the corrupt Democratic bureaucracy.

Some polls crow that Trump has “zero percent” support among blacks. After his speech in Milwaukee, that changed, with at least one poll reporting a 10-point jump.

I suspect that after his speech in North Carolina, we’ll see much more movement in the polls — and not just among minorities.

Last night’s speech was notable for its focus, its discipline, and its hard-hitting criticism of Hillary Clinton. It was also notable for its humanity. There are some who say that the “J.” in Donald Trump’s name is for “Jester.” Certainly, crass braggadocio has shadowed him throughout his public career.

In a few brief sentences last night, Trump acknowledged … and apologized(!) for that:

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 I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.

I suspect that a future historian, commenting on the surprising Trump victory in the election of 2016, will settle on the quartet of speeches Trump delivered in the middle of August 2016 as the turning point in a campaign the media had already written off as moribund.

And if pressed, I suspect that a future historian will point to last night’s speech, to Trump’s candid appeal for black votes and to black self-interest, as the pivotal moment.

Beyond that, I’ll wager that our future scribe will put his finger on Trump’s admission of error and expression of regret as the humanizing moment when people said:

Well, all right then, let’s give him another look.

Doubtless, Hillary Clinton and her surrogates are even now plotting to bait him, to lure him off target and to trick him into flailing against some irrelevant charge. If he is canny, he will ignore all these distractions and concentrate like a laser beam on his main issues: the economy, immigration, national security, and social comity.

His target is not a Constitution-waving Democratic shill, but Hillary Clinton. Her ostentatious corruption and incompetence, and the failed policies she has inherited and which she has pledged to continue and exacerbate.

Trump said early on in his speech:

Our campaign is about representing the great majority of Americans — Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives and Liberals — who read the newspaper, or turn on the TV, and don’t hear anyone speaking for them. All they hear are insiders fighting for insiders.

That’s what the mainstream media hears, too, but since they are themselves on the inside, it is a song whose melody they like. If Trump continues on the tack he has taken these last couple of weeks, there is a good chance he will win.

He needs to do two things. On the positive side, he needs to stay on message, repeating his ideas for tax reform, economic revitalization, control of our borders, defeating Islamic terrorism, replacing Obamacare, and enhancing America’s position in the world.

On the polemical side, he needs to be relentless in calling attention to the prosperity-killing and freedom-blighting program that is the Democratic platform (read it: it makes the Port Huron Statement seem sane).

He also needs to call attention to Hillary’s decades-long career of pay-to-play corruption and her callous incompetence as secretary of State.

Two weeks ago, it looked as if Donald Trump’s campaign was on life support. At the moment it looks as if the patient has made a miraculous recovery.

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