The 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was a resounding success not only for Donald Trump and the GOP but also for Reince Priebus.
I never expected to be lauding Reince Priebus, but from the moment he walked onto the stage on Day 1, he was stellar: smiling, confident and efficient at presiding over one of the most memorable and controversial GOP conventions in party history.
The Republicans finally moved from a staid, tired setting in 2012 to a dynamic, state of the art venue in 2016. I watched live coverage on Right Side Broadcasting, which, without any narration, gave viewers the impression that they were there. Right Side got their feed from the RNC, so we saw a lot of panning of delegates — all ages, races, creeds and traditions — before the proceedings began every day. The GE Smith band were outstanding. They played at the 2012 RNC, but their music selection was much better this year: less twang, more jazz and brilliant cover versions (e.g. Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and ‘Domino’). Delegates of all ages were dancing in the aisles in the evening sessions.
The speeches also reflected a changing Republican Party. Thank goodness. Finally. At long last. Since 2012, Reince Priebus has come up with various initiatives to transform the party and bring it into the 21st century. Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012 flagged up gaps: not enough outreach to Millennials, women and Hispanics. Priebus came up with the Growth and Opportunity Project designed to reach out to disaffected Democrats. After that completed in 2014, he intensified GOP voter outreach efforts both in local communities as well as through data management and predictive analytics.
As a result, we saw fewer died-in-the-wool conservatives on stage. Instead, there were more working women and more entrepreneurs, all from varying backgrounds. As Trump has said at least twice:
This is called the Republican Party, it’s not called the Conservative Party.
On July 21 — the last day of the convention — Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Silicon Valley mogul, spoke. He announced, ‘It’s time to rebuild America’ and went on to describe the changes from the first moon landing on July 20, 1969, which he and his family — German immigrants living in Cleveland — saw on television and were filled with hope for the future. He deplored America’s subsequent decline into ‘culture wars’ as well as real wars. He called for a stop to both and asked instead for a focus on rebuilding the nation.
Thiel ended by saying what would have been unthinkable only four years ago: he is ‘proud to be gay and a Republican’ but most of all ‘proud to be an American’. He received huge cheers from the delegates.
He supports Trump because:
… fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.
And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.
That final evening of speeches featured a dazzling variety of perspectives and people. The Revd Jerry Falwell Jr called Trump ‘the blue collar billionaire’, a fitting turn of phrase. Pastor Mark Burns, one of the group of pro-Trump black clergy, made clear his opposition to ‘race baiting’ because ‘all lives matter’. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee reminded the audience that Trump can:
get the job done … under budget … built to last.
Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin followed Blackburn, asking:
Are you ready for change? Me too!
Fallin described her impoverished childhood. Despite hardship, she said that optimism, hard work and faith enabled not only her mother to become the mayor of their hometown but spurred Fallin to become the first female governor of Oklahoma. She reminded the anti-Trump delegates of Ronald Reagan’s words:
Anyone who agrees with you 80% of the time is an ally.
Dr Lisa Shin spoke next. She heads the Korean Americans for Trump group and is a delegate from New Mexico. She spoke of her family’s story. Her parents were immigrants who became American citizens. She discussed the ‘beauty of the American dream’ and warned that Hillary Clinton is a direct threat to that way of life. Appropriately, a film on the Republican Leadership Initiative followed which emphasised that it was open to all Americans.
Another inspiring film, ‘Built to Win’, described recent GOP victories and featured Priebus. Afterwards, he gave his speech, beginning by thanking Cleveland for a great convention and his family for their support. He then went on to say that Republicans must stop Hillary Clinton, that Americans have had enough and that Donald Trump ‘is the man to lead that charge’. It was brilliantly worded and delivered. I wrote in my notes:
Reince comes into his own with this speech.
By then, the arena was nearly full. Peter Thiel spoke next, then there was a marvellous film about the Trump family with great background music. In it, Donald Trump Jr said:
America has given my father everything.
Tom Barrack of Colony Capital spoke next. He has known Trump for over 40 years. He began nicely by saying:
I have nothing negative to say about Hillary, only amazing things to say about Donald Trump!
This son of a grocer in Culver City, California, founded and heads an international real estate investment firm. Consequently, he sees quite a bit of Trump, who is:
really better than the billing you see.
He told moving anecdotes about the GOP candidate, during which you could hear a pin drop in the arena. He concluded with words to the effect that it was time to break up globalism, polish the jewel that is America and put the beautiful necklace of a nation back together again.
By then, the hall was packed. Everyone was waiting for the final two speakers, Ivanka Trump and her father.
Ivanka spoke of her father’s ‘strong ethical compass’ and pointed out that he has helped many people we will never know about. He reads the paper and cuts out articles about people who are in genuine trouble through little fault of their own. He contacts them, sends them money, gives them a job, a car or a house. She also discussed the dilemma of working women juggling jobs and children. She received a standing ovation, saying that America needs:
a new set of thinkers
we can hope and dream again.
Trump walked onto the stage to a standing ovation and massive cheers. He has been criticised by the media for the length of his acceptance speech which approached 75 minutes. The media liken it to the length of a dictator’s speech. Trump wisely tweeted that twenty-four minutes — 33% — of that time was applause.
Politico has the full transcript. I took notes on the first half. These were notable soundbites:
We are a team.
We will be a country of law and order.
On January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.
We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.
We will honour the American people with the truth and nothing else.
He then gave a set of useful and revealing statistics. Four in ten black children live in poverty. An increasing number of Hispanics also live in poverty. The average household income in America is $4,000 less per annum than in 2000. Forty-three million Americans receive food stamps. He then touched on Hillary Clinton, saying it was a big mistake when Obama put her in charge of foreign policy. He noted that the resulting ‘chaos’ in the Middle East left a legacy of:
death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.
The closing minutes of the convention were amazing. Click on the 360° link to watch the balloons coming down, some reaching the stage where the Trump family and Pences stood. Hits from the Rolling Stones were played. I can’t help but wonder if he does reach the White House whether he would ask if they could play at the Inaugural Ball. If Ivanka asked them, I bet they would.
Speaking of which, at the beginning of the evening session on Day 1, the music was suppressed from the Right Side Broadcasting feed. Their man, Adam Paxon, explained they did not have permission to reproduce it. He then asked why mostly British music has been played throughout Trump’s campaign.
Okay, enough with the convention speeches and tunes. I realise that OoL readers will want to know about the delegate controversies on Days 1 and 2 as well as Ted Cruz’s speech.
The afternoon session of Day 1 — Monday, July 18 — had an odd hour of polite conflict. After the formalities of opening the convention were finished, the head of the Utah delegation — #NeverTrump — proposed a roll call vote be done regarding unbound delegates from 11 states. The response from the stage was that there were insufficient delegates to substantiate such a vote. This took nearly an hour to resolve. Officials on stage had shut down Utah’s microphone periodically while the delegate was speaking. Meanwhile, the Donald’s delegates began walking around parading large ‘Trump’ flags. Then the GOP officials actually left the stage for several minutes. They eventually returned to say that convention rules would be approved by voice vote, meaning no roll call would be held. What #NeverTrump didn’t know was that Manafort and his team had been working previously behind the scenes to keep that count beneath the 7-state level requiring a roll call vote. #NeverTrump were unaware of what had been going on.
Voting for the nominee took place on Day 2. What happened then was also out of the ordinary. The votes went in alphabetical order by state as usual. Michigan ‘passed’ on giving its vote. So did Pennsylvania. What was going on? It turns out they wanted to give the New York delegation — of which Donald J Trump Jr was the spokesman — the honour of putting his father over the top, thereby receiving the nomination. Trump Jr duly did so. Michigan and Pennsylvania’s votes were requested — and given — at the end.
Then the presiding official asked if any state disagreed with the voting. The Alaskan delegation piped up. They objected to the secretary having called all their votes for Trump when clearly 12 were for Cruz. This also took a long time to resolve. However, at the end, the secretary explained that he had allocated Alaska’s votes correctly because, at the time of the convention, Trump was the only candidate remaining. The Alaskans were satisfied and said they had only wanted to ensure they represented the delegates’ votes accurately and fairly.
In the end, Donald John Trump received the most delegate votes in the history of the Republican Party. Wait until you see who is at the bottom of the list:
Now onto Ted Cruz, who spoke on Day 3. The plan was that, after he had given his non-committal ‘vote your conscience’ speech, the full transcript of which is at Reason, the Texan and other #NeverTrump delegates would leave the arena. Cruz attempted to take the high moral ground. He was drowned out at one point by the rotors of Trump’s helicopter landing outside. Once indoors, Trump joined his family to listen. He and Manafort had received advanced copies.
Cruz was only allotted a 10-minute slot. In the end, he extended that by 13 minutes. To no avail. Cruz was met with resounding boos from the crowd. There was no walkout. When the crowd realised Trump was in the arena, they began cheering loudly. Trump was there to hear his son Eric speak next.
Veteran pundit Charles Krauthammer called Cruz’s speech
the longest suicide note in US political history.
Trump also distanced himself from his former and most bitter rival:
Somebody got booed the hell out of a place by thousands and thousands of people … Honestly, he may have ruined his political career … I don’t want his endorsement. I don’t want his endorsement. Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself.
What was supposed to have worked like a charm among his Texan delegation backfired miserably. Geraldine Sam, former mayor of La Marque, said at a meeting between the delegates and Cruz the morning of July 21:
“You lied to me. You lied and said you were going to support the party nominee and you won’t. Then you lied to me. And I’m very upset at this time. When you walked on, I turned my back. Why? Because you lied to me. And don’t take my vote for granted because you lied to me.”
“I came to this convention as a Cruz delegate and I’m leaving supporting Donald Trump as the party nominee,” she concluded.
So, the RNC convention might have brought us not only the end of #NeverTrump but also the end of Ted Cruz’s political career.
All’s well that ends well.