He’s been an entrepreneur and an entertainer, a provocateur and, most recently, a politician.
Now comes Donald J. Trump, angry savior. In wrapping up a convention that was unmistakably his, delivering an extra-long speech very much in his own staccato, Trump combined elements of all of his former careers to try the role of a lifetime -- ready to fix a country he believes to be deeply broken, and that he believes he is uniquely suited to mend.
“Nobody knows the system better than me -- which is why I alone can fix it,” Trump said in his acceptance speech.
Trump, with the help of his daughter on Thursday, may or may not have saved his own convention, after the campaign’s self-imposed distractions and a hostile takeover attempt by a scorned rival. That media-ready candy replaced the meager policy vegetables offered up by speakers earlier in the week -– sideshows that were novel yet somehow predictable at Trump convention.
But whether Trump succeeds more broadly in the election will depend on grim calculations: that voters see the country as broken and beaten, and that they will reject Trump’s rival as corrupt, criminal, or worse.
Those twin themes are apparent in the way Trump has rewritten a Hillary Clinton campaign slogan -– “I’m with her” -– for his own purposes.
“My pledge reads: ‘I’m with you – the American people,’” Trump said.
Trump’s speech was a gloomy exclamation point on a run-on sentence of a convention. After the first three days meandered through major themes, Trump on Thursday marched through a parade of horribles: poverty, crime, terrorism, illegal immigration, trade, unemployment, war and Hillary Clinton.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness,” he said.
Trump’s answer includes, prominently, a promise of “law and order.” At one point, when the crowd starting chanting, “Lock her up,” Trump responded with what counts as restraint for him: “Let's defeat her in November.”
Trump used his family to offer the uplift that his speech, and much of his convention, lacked. Ivanka Trump offered powerful personal testimony to her father, humanizing him while connecting biography to policy –- just not the policies that Trump is best known for endorsing.
“He will fight for equal pay for equal work and I will fight for this too, right alongside of him,” she said. “Politicians ask to be judged by their promises, not their results. I ask you to judge my father by his results.”
Like her father, Ivanka Trump underscored qualifications she views as making him unique.
“In ways no one expected, this moment in the life of our country has defined a mission, and given it to an extraordinary man,” she said.
Her dad wouldn’t disagree. Eight years ago, the next president was ushered into office on the strength of “yes we can.” After a year of campaigning and winning, Trump is replacing that with the first person singular.
“People who work hard but no longer have a voice –- I am your voice,” he said.
Trump is making a calculation, but it’s not a blind one. Trump’s voice has gotten louder because of what he senses in the country he’s traveled.
Inside the broad of statements Trump made -- “Safety will be restored,” “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” “I am the law and order candidate” -- is a deep sense of anxiety that Trump is recognizing and amplifying during his remarkable campaign for the White House.
“America is back,” Trump thundered, well more than an hour into his speech. “History is watching us now. We don’t have much time, but history is watching.”
The balloons fell, the Trumps were joined by the Pences, and the campaign music blared the Rolling Stones: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”