After a whirlwind week in Cleveland for this year’s GOP convention, Donald J. Trump has officially accepted the Republican nomination for president. It wasn’t just a triumph for the political outsider—it was also Trump’s first opportunity to lay out a coherent political vision for the country beyond his long-held platitude of “Make America Great Again.” Which he did. And then some. In fact, Trump’s 75-minute address was the longest of its kind since 1972.
So how did he do?
For starters, it’s clear that Trump’s vision for the country involves stuff that's at the heart of what many Americans fear: the continuing breakdown of cultural norms and the fact that the country has become a place where it’s gospel to believe the police are always wrong, where it’s possible to downplay extremism in the name of a certain religion (after all, our president can't utter the words “radical jihadism”), and where it’s also possible to believe we’ve had a lousy economy for the past eight years simply because President Obama was stuck with a post-financial crisis mess, regardless of the fact his policies made it worse.
Last night Trump offered specifics for how he would address all of those issues. It wasn't exactly a policy-heavy speech you’d heard at a think tank, but if you give the text a closer look, you’ll find that there was enough meat on the bone to give confidence that Trump has thought about how to handle all those issues.
He spoke amazingly strong on immigration, an issue that the Left are using to brand him as a racist. If he sticks to last night’s talking points, he’ll make that task much more difficult. Trump explained why a “wall” (which is, at the very least, a metaphor for tougher border enforcement) is so necessary: a nation has every right—even a responsibility—to control its borders. Bad people get in when we don't do that, and Trump provided some dramatic and sad cases as examples of what happens when they do.
He also revealed an economic rationale for limiting immigration. You can't have open borders and a welfare state (a term made famous by the great free-market economist Milton Friedman), because the social safety net for the economically displaced becomes more untenable and expensive for everyone. Moreover, we have lots of poor people in this country who need those increasingly few low-skill jobs massive influxes of immigration are taking up.
His speech wasn’t without some misses. For example: his remarks on trade were absurd. He suggested that companies will be penalized if they chose to build factories overseas. Lets get real: companies do that out of economic survival, not just for cheap labor (the corporate taxes here are insanely high so moving factories to Ireland is part of what we call “Capitalism.”) Trump should know that and he would have been better served making the point that companies aren't evil when they move jobs over seas, they're just doing stuff they need to do to survive because domestic tax policy is so warped.
He said Nafta—the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada—was an albatross around the US economy because it was so poorly negotiated. Mexico, in particular, gets all the benefits of free trade (i.e. factories where goods are allegedly made and shipped to the U.S.), while we get hosed. There’s a major problem with that belief: Most mainstream economic analysis of Nafta shows its really a net positive for the U.S. worker because businesses here build stuff that's shipped to Mexico. If that weren't the case, border states like Texas would have lousy economies. We know the opposite is true.
Trump touched on the crippling affect of high taxes and regulations that President Obama has pushed through particularly in his first term when his party controlled Congress, but not enough for my taste. This is part of Trump's economic agenda that is actually very sound. He wants to lower rates and to close loopholes, and has detailed plan available for anyone to peruse on his website. He understands that regulations are crippling business and he wants to fix Obamacare, which he did mention during the speech.
But I would have loved to have heard testimonials from small business people who are being crippled by Obamacare mandates or wacky environmental laws. His speech was long—the longest one of its kind since 1972, so he could have spent just a few more minutes on his economic agenda.
The Potentially Crazy
Net-net, The Donald did good Thursday showing signs that he can run a modern campaign with a detail-oriented agenda (even if some of it doesn't make sense), which means he can win particularly against an opponent like Hillary Clinton, who just escaped a federal indictment over her misuse of classified information on a private email sever.
Of course, The Donald may say something crazy. He might attack a judge over his heritage or tell The New York Times that NATO—which has kept Europe safe from Russia since the days of the Cold War—isn't such a great thing. (Wait, he did that already.)
But so could his opponent, which is why I'm off the Philly for the Democratic Convention. So stay tuned on that! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few miscellaneous reflections on my week in Cleveland.
-It’s obvious Trump has a great family: women and men who are poised and smart and don't buckle under pressure and all gave great speeches.
-The GOP isn't the fractious mess that most of the media is portraying. Sure there are fissures, as Ted Cruz demonstrated in his now much derided non-endorsement of Trump, but even rank-and-file Republicans who voted against Trump during the harsh primary season are pretty much in agreement that Hillary Clinton needs to be defeated because her presidency represents at least four more years of Obama-oriented Liberalism.
-And with some more refinements, Donald Trump, might, just might, be our next president. It will be an uphill battle, mostly because of the man's innate narcissism and his penchant not to listen to often sound advice. But if he does these refinements, he will give the country what it seems to want: something other than the status quo, which is Clinton and her husband writ large.
Charles Gasparino is a Senior Correspondent at Fox Business Network and a columnist for Men's Fitness. Follow him on Twitter.