Accepting the Republican presidential nomination late on Thursday, Donald Trump promised Americans a return to a safer United States with more job opportunities, called for a change in how things are run, attacked rival Hillary Clinton and said he would defeat the “barbarianism” of the Islamic State.
Between defining chants of “U-S-A” and “Trump, Trump, Trump” the real estate mogul-turned-TV-star-turned-politico cast himself as the “law and order candidate” and vowed to champion “people who work hard but no longer have a voice”.
“I am your voice,” he declared pointing into the cameras, promising a return to more secure times with “millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth”.
While he “humbly and gratefully” accepted the nomination before 2,000 raucous Republican Party activists in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump’s acceptance speech was strikingly populist that offered a dark view of the American condition.
Tapping into public angst over recent racially-tinged shootings and seemingly indiscriminate terror attacks, Trump offered a tough-on-crime message that was reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s election-winning strategy in 1968.
The “crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end,” he said.
“Beginning on January 20, of 2017, safety will be restored.”
He repeated many of the controversial themes of his bruising primary campaign – banning foreigners from countries linked to terrorism, building a wall on the Mexican border and renegotiating unfavorable trade deals with China.
Speaking at the close of the four-day Republican National Convention, this was Trump’s first major primetime address to the nation and the opening salvo of the November general election.
Take on Clinton
The 70-year-old presidential nominee accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of a legacy of “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness” as US secretary of state and vowed to be tough on crime.
Trump said policies pursued by Clinton in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria had made a bad situation worse. He blamed her for the rise of Islamic State militants and blasted her willingness to accept thousands of Syrian refugees.
“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,” Trump said.
As the crowd chanted “Lock her up” for her handling of US foreign policy, Trump waved them off and said, “Let’s defeat her in November,” to roaring approval.
“My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now... I’m with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you.”
Trump’s campaign has defied political norms – fueling ethnic tensions, offending key voting blocs, eschewing big-spending ad buys and an elaborate campaign organization, relying instead on heavy media.
“Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he said. “The American people will come first once again.”
On Thursday, he presented a bleak view of America under siege from illegal immigrants, threatened by Islamic State militants, hindered by crumbling infrastructure and weakened by unfair trade deals.
Vowing to build a “great border wall”, he said illegal immigrants were taking away jobs from American citizens and in some cases committing crimes. “We will stop it,” he said.
As president, Trump said he would avoid multinational trade deals but instead pursue agreements with individual countries. He would penalize companies that outsource jobs and then export their foreign-made products back into the United States.
“We will never sign bad trade deals,” Trump thundered. “America first!”
The New York businessman, who has never held an elected office, filled his speech with some of the bravado he used to win the Republican nomination over 16 rivals, punctuating his rhetorical points by waving an index finger.
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
Despite the loud, fist-thumping delivery, Trump’s speech underscored his struggle to heal fissures in the Republican Party over his anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric and concerns about his temperament. The event was boycotted by many big-name establishment Republicans, such as 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and members of the Bush family that gave the party its last two presidents.
A series of distractions largely thwarted a bid by the Trump campaign to show him as a caring father and magnanimous business leader who would bring greater prosperity and safety to the US.
But in the end, many of these points were made when his daughter, Ivanka Trump, introduced him.
“My father is colour blind and gender neutral. One of the reasons why he is a successful entrepreneur is because he listens to everyone. My father turns vision into reality,” she said.
“I have seen him fight for his family. I have seen him fight for his employees. I have seen him fight for his company and now I am seeing him fight for our country,” she added.
Trump’s text of his speech, released by his campaign, included extensive footnotes to show where the material originated.
That was perhaps in reaction to the speech given on Monday night by hi wife Melania, who was accused of plagiarism when she repeated lines from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama, the current First Lady.
A staff writer for the Trump Organisation later took responsibility for this.