WASHINGTON — President Trump delivered a lengthy speech defending his record and railing against his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, on the final night of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
Trump spoke from the South Lawn of the White House, in a departure from longstanding tradition — and, potentially, in violation of ethics rules that bar the use of the president’s official residence for political events. He began by presenting an optimistic vision for the country under a second term of his leadership.
“We will reach for new heights of national achievement. We will rekindle new faith in our values, new pride in our history, and a new spirit of unity that can only be realized through love for our great country,” Trump said as he formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination. “We understand that America is not a land cloaked in darkness. America is the torch that enlightens the entire world.”
He repeatedly argued that Democrats are focused on “tearing down” the country by focusing on racial and economic injustices. Describing November’s election as a contest between two starkly different “agendas,” he argued that, on the contrary, the country is a beacon of success and is likely to stay that way as long as Biden is not elected.
“Despite all of our greatness as a nation, everything that we have achieved is now in danger. This is the most important election in the history of our country,” Trump said, adding, “This election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny.”
Trump then turned to a dominant theme at his party’s convention this week: the idea that Democratic support for protests over racial issues is tantamount to supporting the rioting that has taken place alongside demonstrations.
“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchist agitators and criminals who threaten our cities,” he said. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we will allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”
While Trump conceded that “wrongdoers” involved in “police misconduct” should be held “fully and completely accountable,” he went on to say that the protests that began over high-profile police killings of Black Americans have gone too far.
“We can never have a situation where things are going on as they are today,” he said. “We must never allow mob rule. We can never allow mob rule.”
Elements of Trump’s speech were wildly contradictory and sometimes misleading. He suggested that anyone who criticizes the country is unpatriotic, just before going on to say that the streets of U.S. cities harbor dangerous criminals who could topple society. He warned citizens that they will have to live in fear under Biden, while implying they have much to fear right now.
In his critiques of the recent protests, which have sometimes turned violent and even deadly, the president was implicitly decrying the state of the country under his own presidency.
Protests were raging a few blocks from the White House as the president spoke, and reporters said noise from the demonstrations was audible on the South Lawn.
Trump also offered dire warnings about how Biden would handle the pandemic, noting that the former vice president has said he would consider shutting down the country again if scientists deemed it necessary.
“Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm,” Trump said. “The cost of the Biden shutdown would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation, job loss and much more.”
Biden has said he would follow expert recommendations in determining whether a new lockdown would be necessary, but Trump claimed that his approach is not “following the science.”
In the six months since the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus around the virus. The final night of the convention offered a vivid example of this disregard. He spoke before a packed crowd, very few of whom were wearing masks, in defiance of his own administration’s guidelines.
The president also took liberals to task for political correctness and what he described as “repressive mandates” calling for the use of “approved words and phrases.” As his poll numbers have dropped in recent months, Trump has started to focus on what he sees as the conformity of thought demanded by the left.
“The goal of ‘cancel culture’ is to make decent Americans live in fear of being fired, expelled, shamed, humiliated and driven from society as we know it,” he said.
Declaring that Biden and other Democrats are in league with dangerous radicals, Trump vowed that he would not give in.
“If the Democrat Party wants to stand with agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners, that is up to them,” he said. “I, as your president, will not be part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe and salute the American flag.”
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