The Republican Party officially nominated Donald Trump for president on Tuesday night in Cleveland, capping a whirlwind political rise from a businessman outsider to the GOP’s presidential nominee. Given his utter dominance in the primaries, it’s difficult to go back and remember just how improbable his bid seemed from the start.
Few pundits took him seriously, and even fewer had the foresight to predict that he could emerge from a field of 16 talented candidates, ranging from successful governors, senators, businesswomen and neurosurgeons. It was a murderers row, and yet poll after poll, state after state, showed that Trump was not just a serious candidate, he was tapping into a political zeitgeist that had never been seen before. Which is not to say that it hasn’t existed for a long time.
Trump, if anything, has been more successful than any politician at giving a voice to millions of Americans who feel as though they’ve been left behind by the economic recovery. These Middle American working- and middle-class voters feel as though Washington has simply stopped listening to their concerns, instead simply casting them off as hapless rubes who have no place in modern society. Donald Trump became their champion, fighting for their economic wellbeing even when it deviated from conservative policy orthodoxy.
He could do that because he was the consummate outsider, someone who spoke his mind rather than read a teleprompter, someone who build a business rather than a donor base, and someone who followed his heart and watched the polls follow rather than focus group every decision point to make sure it was okay. He was authentic and strong. Two qualities that Americans gravitate to in this anachronistic world where we’ve demanded that our candidates sand away their rough edges even as the world becomes harsher, meaner and more threatening.
Fittingly, it was the candidate’s home state of New York that cast the votes to put him over the 1,237 delegate threshold needed to formally claim the nomination.
“It is my honor to be able to throw Donald Trump over the top in the delegate count tonight with 89 delegates,” Donald Trump Jr. said, casting the votes for the New York delegation. “Congratulations dad, we love you.”
The rest of the evening was devoted to the theme of getting America back to work again and it was headlined by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who made clear the choice voters face in 2016.
“The Obama years are almost over,” Ryan argued. “The Clinton years are way over. 2016 is the year America moves on.”
And yet Democrats seemed to miss the memo.
“Here we are, at a time when men and women in both parties so clearly, so undeniably want a big change in direction for America. A clean break from a failed system. And what does the Democratic establishment offer? What is their idea of a clean break? They are offering you a third Obama term delivered by a another Clinton,” Ryan said.
But the choice goes well beyond outsider versus insider, businessman versus politician, and even Republican versus Democrat. It ultimately comes down to good ideas versus bad ideas, something that should give Republicans hope. As Ryan argued:
Progressives deliver everything except progress. Yet we know better than most than to think that Republicans can win solely on the failure of Democrats. It still comes down to a contest of ideas, which is really good news ladies and gentlemen because when its about ideas the advantage goes to us. Against the backdrop of pointless mandates, reckless borrowing, willful retreat from the world and all that progressives have in store for us the the Republican Party stands as the great alternative party.
The alternatives are clear. Democrats want more government control, more taxes, more debt, more rules and regulations, while Republicans want more freedom, more families, more jobs, and more opportunity. The goal is a society where your only limitations are your aspirations and effort and your starting point is not your destiny. We’re not there yet. Not even close. Our economy is stagnant and doesn’t offer Americans the chance of mobility that previously served as its signature achievement.
We can fix that. But to do that, as Ryan concluded, we have to “Take our fight to our opponents with better ideas. . . What we have begun here, let’s see it through. Let’s show America our best and nothing less.”