Republicans officially christened Donald J. Trump their new king and leader yesterday evening, casting somewhat joyless votes in a half-empty stadium in Cleveland, as the Trump children looked on with equally dour approval. After a first day filled with bombast and subterfuge, day two of the Republican National Convention was a slog through conservative rhetoric and Clinton-bashing, and almost resembled a convention of yore, if not for the appearance of Trump himself on the Humongotron, reminding Republicans, live from New York, that they had indeed decided to select him, Donald J. Trump, as their presidential nominee.
“I’m so proud to be your nominee,” Trump bellowed to the tiny delegates below the giant half-court screen. “This is going to be a leadership that puts the American people first, brings back our jobs, rebuilds our depleted military, and takes care of our veterans. We’re going to have strong borders, and we’re going to get rid of ISIS!”
On a night dubbed “Make America Work Again,” speakers rarely focused on the supposed acumen of Trump as a businessman or his specific plans to make America work again, instead offering either apocalyptic visions of a gun-soaked wasteland, or laying out the case for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment.
“I’ve lived a great life, but I’m not going to be around forever and neither will you be,” declared Brooklyn businessman Andy Wist, in an endorsement speech that sounded more like a national suicide pact. “This year, we get to decide what world we leave behind.”
House speaker Paul Ryan, equally morose, attempted to unite the party behind its nominee, offering a vision that encompassed a resurgent Republican party and not one newly centered on Donald Trump. Earlier in the day, his counterpart in the senate, Mitch McConnell, was lustily booed by the crowd, dispelling the notion that this was anything but a nomination of a supreme leader who would unilaterally chart a new course for the party, one which may be successful in November, but narrow its focus to revel in unbridled misogyny, xenophobia, and nativism.
The moment New York put Trump over the top. This is great. This won't end badly. Everything will be great again. pic.twitter.com/vyqeWEH8PS
— Max RN (@MaxRivlinNadler) July 19, 2016
“We need wholesale change in this country, and Trump is the man to do it,” delegate Bob Bouchard of Vermont told Gothamist outside the convention center. Bouchard’s four children had all supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, and even younger Republican delegates showed some limited apprehension at the man their overwhelmingly older fellow delegates had just made the face of the party.
“I would have bet you $10,000 that no way Trump would have been the nominee a year ago,” Kyle Kilgore, a 22-year-old delegate from Virginia said on the convention floor. “I don’t know why or how, but he just connects with people. He wasn’t my guy, but I hope the party rallies around him.”
Alex Joyner, a 19-year-old delegate from Tennessee, pink-cheeked and wearing a green bowtie that fit snugly around a thick neck, was concerned not only by the party’s decision, but by the backlash against the Republican party for going along with Trump. “This is a great opportunity to get some new voters, but I’m worried about our party and the negativity that’s being unleashed on the party,” Joyner told Gothamist. “Still, we need to embrace this movement and beat HIllary.”
Another young Trump supporter—the candidate's daughter, Tiffany Trump—extolled the virtues of her father, as her siblings looked on from the family box, sullen and vampiric.
“My father’s desire for excellence is contagious," the youngest Trump mechanically announced to the convention, inadvertently revealing the source of the gut-churning norovirus that’s been making its way around the convention center.
I asked 18-year-old Sam Barke, who was dressed in an American flag suit, matched with red Trump-emblazoned Chuck Taylors, whether he had a sinking feeling when Trump won the nomination. “Yeah, my stomach was turning—it was so exciting to see all the hard work pay off.” Obviously not the answer this reporter was looking for.
The night continued after Tiffany’s bold and vivacious debut with Chris Christie launching into a fifteen minute diatribe against Hillary Clinton, as middle-aged women screamed “jail her, jail her!” at the peripatetic governor from New Jersey. Donald Trump Jr. followed him, giving off serious American Psycho vibes as he tried to square his gilded upbringing with the impoverished and aggrieved whites who propelled his father to the nomination.
“We didn't learn from MBAs. We learned from people who had doctorates in common sense,” Trump Jr. told a milling and disinterested convention center. “Guys like Vinny who taught us how to drive heavy equipment and operate tractors and chainsaws, who worked his way through the ranks to become an entrusted father. It's why we're the only children of billionaires as comfortable in a Caterpillar as we are in our own cars.”
Not a soul in the arena bought that line, but there wasn’t too much buyer’s remorse in general. Republicans seemed united and determined about their choice, even if that meant a purge within the party of more mainstream and human-resembling figures. Dissent was confined to the sole Code Pink protester who had gotten into the arena, unfurling a banner in the bleachers that said “No Racism, No Hate.” Her sign was quickly covered by a man with a flag, who blocked her from cameras down below. America would be great again.
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 20, 2016