Elections

It’s Trump’s Republican Party now

Corey Cook: Polarization, vitriol and ability to govern

Corey Cook, dean of Boise State’s School of Public Service, is reporting on what he sees and hears in at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, with a special eye on what might be of particular interest to Idaho. He says one of
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Corey Cook, dean of Boise State’s School of Public Service, is reporting on what he sees and hears in at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week, with a special eye on what might be of particular interest to Idaho. He says one of

Boise State political scientist Corey Cook attended the GOP convention in Cleveland and shared his observations and videos with Statesman readers. See them all at IdahoStatesman.com. Replay his Thursday Facebook Live chat at the Statesman’s Facebook page.

To conclude a tumultuous and sometimes contentious convention, Donald Trump gave the political speech of his life.

He strode to the podium following a powerful introduction by his daughter Ivanka, who gave perhaps the most positive and humanizing speech of the convention. Trump offered a lengthy to do list: Unite the Republican Party, offer a coherent message about the urgency of his candidacy, begin to address particular policy issues, and most importantly, appear presidential. Oh, and stay on script.

Every time Trump started a sentence with “Believe me,” the gentleman seated in front of me shouted “I believe you!”

It was a long list, and a long speech.

At 75 minutes, I understand it’s the longest acceptance speech in at least a generation. It failed to provide soaring oratory or “morning in America” imagery, choosing instead to emphasize threats to the nation and Trump’s distinctive populist appeal that “I am your voice” and “I alone can fix it. But it was still the best speech I’ve seen Trump give — and one unlike any other in recent history.

It’s impossible to discern the effect it will have on undecided voters. But Trump’s speech was about as much as the party could have hoped for coming out of a deeply contested primary process. Trump directly challenged Republican orthodoxy on free trade and foreign policy — to substantial applause. Certainly the delegates were more energized by his language about terrorism and unauthorized immigration, but he received sustained applause during his critique of NAFTA (which was negotiated by George H.W. Bush) and interventionist foreign policies (often associated with past Republican presidencies). He was cheered for his pledge to invest in public infrastructure and support child care for working mothers. In a break from past nominees, Trump declined to address social issues, aside from promising a Antonin Scalia-inspired Supreme Court nominee.

Every time Trump started a sentence with “Believe me,” the gentleman seated in front of me shouted “I believe you!”

This is my sixth balloon drop. From my seat, this was the most energy in a party nominating convention I’ve seen.

In short, as campaign chairman Paul Manafort said in Cleveland, it’s Donald Trump’s Republican Party now. He’s positioned himself, as he did to great effect in the primaries, as the only candidate willing to challenge the status quo and address the everyday concerns of Americans.

This is my sixth balloon drop. From my seat, this was the most energy in a party nominating convention I’ve seen. The convention itself wasn’t particularly well organized, with numerous speakers deviating from their scripts with long riffs that threw the schedule out of whack. And there were some notable controversies (the first day conflict over the rules, Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement speech, etc). But ultimately the convention was successful in energizing the base and presenting Trump in a positive light.

It’s a long way to November. Democrats hold their convention next week. The three presidential debates will probably be the most watched in history. And both candidates have a penchant for saying things off the cuff that can make great fodder for political attack ads.

But it’s clear the general election is on. Trump is betting that his populist appeals to disaffected Republicans this spring will transcend party lines and carry him to victory.

Cook is the dean of Boise State’s School of Public Service.

‘Back on track’

Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates praised Donald Trump’s acceptance speech.

“Donald Trump delivered a powerful message outlining his plan for our country. He spoke on law and order, foreign policy, and job growth. In everything he said, Mr. Trump showed how he can, and will, make America great again,” Yates said in a statement. “The Trump candidacy is no longer just a campaign for president, it is a movement that has swept across our nation to restore America’s strength. Together, we can take back the White House and put our country back on track.”

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