Donald Trump’s Acceptance Speech Paints Apocalyptic Vision From a B-Movie

Donald Trump's Acceptance Speech Paints Apocalyptic
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A critique frequently lobbed at Hollywood tentpole films is that their last acts are usually punishingly long. Leave it to Donald Trump to make an entire speech an endless, tedious final battle, complete with every possible apocalyptic reference short of the Illuminati. In his acceptance speech at the closing night of the Republican National Convention, Trump dispensed almost completely with anything that wasn’t bombastic.

His daughter Ivanka, who introduced him, had tried to soften her father’s image with references to daycare and lunch-bucket workers. Whether or not anything Ivanka said was true (and there was a lot in both speeches that was not backed up by credible evidence), her attempts to take the edges off his fear-mongering worldview evaporated very quickly.

Once her father took the stage, it was all strongman code. “America first,” he said, to loud cheers. “Build the wall” was a chant heard over and over again. All Hillary Clinton had brought to the world was “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,” a theme he hammered relentlessly.

“I am the law-and-order candidate,” Trump said. He repeated variations of that phrase more than Dick Wolf probably has all year, as many snarked on Twitter. “We are going to start winning again.”

“Winning,” according to Trump, would come very quickly if voters put him in office. Very soon after being sworn in as President, he told the crowd, he would fix all the bad trade deals, change the tax laws and energy policies, and create jobs. He made it all sound easy, as if making America great again would take him a couple of months, maybe a year. If it was all so simple, how come no one has done it? They hadn’t had the guts, because they weren’t Donald Trump. 

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It was a night marked by cognitive dissonance, putting a wrench into the logic gears of the human brain. The band played “Here Comes the Sun,” but Trump painted a picture of a nation beset by an epidemic of lawlessness, of citizens living in fear of almost every kind of threat, from Chinese currency to thousands of criminally inclined refugees. Never mind that studies show immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. Never mind that crime statistics are down over time, according to the FBI.

The cognitive dissonance began with Peter Thiel, who talked about being a proud gay man and the useless distraction of “fake culture wars,” not understanding that those who fought for LGBT rights were derided and mocked for decades for prioritizing that particular cultural battle. He acknowledged not agreeing with all of the party’s positions, but failed to mention that the RNC platform advocates conversion therapy and opposes marriage equality.

Ivanka talked about how female-friendly her father’s company was, but like Melania Trump on Monday, she offered very little in specifics. He sounded like someone she had once sat next to on a cross-country flight, not someone she’d spent her life with.

But Thiel, who rushed through his remarks, and Ivanka, who was glacially composed through her anodyne speech, were no match for Trump, who held the crowd’s attention simply by shouting his way through his record-long 76-minute diatribe.

His only stumble was over the acronym “LGBTQ,” tentatively sounding it out in a reference to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Miami. But he didn’t dwell on that awful day or the hate that motivated it for long. “No good,” he said, before moving on to the next travesty destroying America and repeating “law and order” a dozen more times.

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What linked Trump’s speech to the majority of other speakers this week is a pathological obsession with Clinton. According to Trump, she is both a puppet of her elitist paymasters and an all-powerful, shadowy entity capable of committing almost every evil act imaginable. 

But the point of this speech was never about logic; appealing to reason was never the big idea. The point was to stoke fear, to wear the audience down, to break down their defenses so that the terrifying end-times clash-of-cultures messages got through.

“I am your voice,” Trump said. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

As a commentator on PBS’ “NewsHour” coverage of the speech noted, Trump frequently sounds like someone at the center of a cult of personality. Trump painted Clinton as a spectral villain, but in the end, he’s the one who sounded like a messianic narcissist. 

The biggest disjunction of all came around the midpoint of his speech, when he said “Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome and never will be.” Fine, stirring words, but Trump, like most B-movie villains, couldn’t see how hypocritical that sentence was. He’d spent the better part of an hour whipping up racist tendencies and describing a xenophobic America that, according to him, views much of the rest of the world with fear, if not outright disgust.

Much of his message was coded (“inner cities,” “America first,” “violence spilling across our borders”), but it wasn’t difficult to understand what kind of beliefs Trump was espousing. At the end of a long week, it was hard not to construct a mental wall to stem the flow of Trump’s fear-mongering, but enough got through. Viewers heard him, and his peroration got the convention attendees on their feet, cheering and clapping.

But it wasn’t for them, apparently, even though Trump often paused to soak in the love of the crowd.

“He’s going to speak to the nation, not to the Republican Party,” his campaign advisor Paul Manafort said earlier that evening, before Trump came to the stage. “Now he’s focused on the broader message to America.”

If it was meant to be broad, it felt awfully narrow.

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  1. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    Obviously Dump never watched the TWILIGHT ZONE episode, MONSTERS ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET.

  2. pdmyers says:

    you Variety putzes aren’t journalists. you’re neo-liberal (read Fascist) mouthpieces whore-ing your New World Order propaganda to the entertainment industry.

    • Sal U. Lloyd says:

      pdMyers, you ignorant hickkk. Take a Political Science class and LEARN ABOUT WHAT FASCISM REALLY IS. NEWS FLASH: IT’S ON YOUR SIDE OF THE POLITICAL AISLE.

    • bsandell says:

      Do you even know what Fascism is? And, out of curiosity, how does one ‘whore’ propaganda?

      • Sal U. Lloyd says:

        He DOESN’T know.

      • Chitown Mimi says:

        “Whore-ing your New World Order propaganda”? You do know she’s a world renown journalist, with an impeccable background and was hired to write, right? She doesn’t have to whore anything, sir.

  3. Joe Medina says:

    The convention was icing on the cake for Mr. Trump. Too bad so much money was spent on an event that, in the future, will show little meaning. I could of used some of that Republican convention money myself in paying bills that Mr. Trump never has to worry about. A man who tells you how it should be is a man who has walked the walk and truly believes in making life better for those he serves. Mr. Trump has done neither. Calling him a messianic narcissist is being too kind.

    Joe Medina

  4. Jim Wilke says:

    Please post your review of Hillary’s speech; I’m sure it is written already.

  5. Alex says:

    Good to see Ms Ryan got the DNC talking points

  6. JOSEPH GOMEZ says:

    Trump acceptance speech had a strange ending: “god bless you. Thank you.”
    It seem that no one heard him carefully at the end of the speech. What ever happened to the classic “God bless you and GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

    • cadavra says:

      God has apparently decided that any country that would put a gorilla like Trump up for President is beyond salvation and is turning His attention to other countries that haven’t driven off the cliff yet.

  7. Bill B. says:

    What a nightmare of a speech.

  8. Lane says:

    Trump is mentally unfit. He has zero control over his fragile emotions and can’t control what comes out of his ignorant hateful mouth. He is a national embarrassment!

  9. kska says:

    Trump seemed drunk or on pills. Sweaty, squinting eyes, red faced, puffy and delusional. He was slow and just didn’t care about going over the time. It was too long, too negative and he proved once again that he is completely unfit to be President.

  10. When comment is made about Donald Trump, results of the George W. Bush administration springs to mind. Dick Cheyney used Bush’s presidency to further his company’s ambitions.

    On the other hand, Hilary Clinton’s only real chance of defeating Trump is to make Bill Clinton her vice-president. (Yes, “vice” and other play on words.) Like Cheyney, Bill is a risk…like the risk Hilary took by not divorcing him.

    All politics is not local…but always personal.

  11. Jacques Strappe says:

    The “Make America Hate Again” speech.

  12. Jacques Strappe says:

    “I, Alone Will Fix It” (Translation: I Am Your GOD and Savior.”) This would all be very funny if it were not reality. The only words missing from his speech were, “cleansing” and “purging.”

  13. evilavatar says:

    I suggest you stick with reviewing TV shows, because you obviously have no clue about politics.

  14. Trump, AKA The Velveeta Raccoon, cant string together a coherent sentence about any aspect of the federal government, governance or the Constitution. He is clueless about defense,. He is clueless about statecraft. He is clueless about economics. The only subject that he has any expertise is bankruptcy. He doesn’t have the temperament nor the intellect to be president.
    Eventually, tomorrow, next week ,next month or during the debates ( Hillary will crucify him)Trump will say something so egregious or so stupid , or both, that his Teflon coating will fail and end any chance of his election.

  15. Ken says:

    The only thing missing last night was a rousing refrain or two of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”.

  16. Ed says:

    Trump has just buried the Republican Party under 7 feet of extremist nonsense. I’m voting Gary Johnson. It’s the only acceptable alternative to Hillary.

  17. Kevin says:

    He’s only saying what America is feeling everyone says he racist but can’t show anything he’s ever said. The media (you) twist things and cut things to fit your liberal biasedness . What’s wrong with stopping ILLEGAL immigration? You act as though evil can’t infiltrate the so called refugees. Why don’t you report on how Clinton just got away with committing a crime Trey Gowdys interview with fib proves that…so that’s my 2 cents and I want America great again that’s why I’m voting TRUMP

    • Chitown Mimi says:

      Kevin, the man said (I quote) “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” This isn’t a racist comment? Would you say something like this in front of a Latino friend, mother, child? Is this how we want to raise our kids to think about immigrants?

    • Trump doesn’t give a toss about you or anyone else. He only cares about himself. He doesn’t have the capacity for anything else. If, God forbid, he wins, he’ll let the VP do his work and he will take the credit.

  18. Sheri says:

    This was the best part: “Winning,” according to Trump, would come very quickly if voters put him in office. Very soon after being sworn in as President, he told the crowd, he would fix all the bad trade deals, change the tax laws and energy policies, and create jobs. He made it all sound easy, as if making America great again would take him a couple of months, maybe a year. If it was all so simple, how come no one has done it? They hadn’t had the guts, because they weren’t Donald Trump.

    Oh My God! WHY oh WHY are some people stupid enough to believe this lying hypocrite?

  19. Geo says:

    If he puts that finger up one more time I wanna cut it off

    • pdmyers says:

      there’s something else you should cut off

    • Maureen, I couldn’t bring myself to watch any of it, because i’m so tired of Donald Trump’s reasoning that if he says it louder, It’ll make more sense. Did Trump come up with any proposals on how he would handle the economy, to bring down the deficit or how to handle the war on terror, or any plan to deport millions of Muslims that won’t cost the tax payers billions of dollars, first to find them, process them and put them on ships to well, where? Did he say anything about bringing his own overseas jobs back to America? Of convincing others to do so? Did he say when he would turnover his tax returns, or was it just four days of Clinton bashing ending with trying to convince the delegates that if he’s not elected we can expect the apocalypse?

  20. Geo says:

    Geez he is such a scary ogre, and such a simple minded fool.
    Maureen is right, he is much more a cool aid cult narcissistic pig.

  21. Ceti says:

    Liberal Ryan is cryin’. Must of been a good speech.

  22. AnnLily says:

    Tax-dodger Trump evidenced all the elements of the “sound and fury signifying nothing” but egomaniac bluster. The real truth of the Donny is in his tax records.

    • Ken says:

      Absolutely. The dude refuses to release his tax records, which is a clear sign that there is something unethical about them. This GOP candidate has not been properly vetted. Why there isn’t more of an outcry about this confounds me.

  23. Lynn Polizzi says:

    Bluster, yes. Narcissism, yes. But you are a fool to think that Hillary is the better candidate. I would vote for a dead frog before I vote for her. And that means yes, I’ll vote for Trump. Netflix has done a wonderful job portraying the Clintons in “House of Cards” and yes, like a house of cards, it will blow over and topple, if she is elected. Trump is a bit of a loud mouth, but he will protect this country. I sooooooo tired of the limousine liberal regime. It’s so old. I went to college with many you trust fund babies. I fought for workfare and welfare reform to stop this cycle of dependence. I was raised lower Middle-class and understand pulling myself up by my boot straps. Not cracking open a trust fund. So blah blah blah and waw waw waw. You don’t like him because he challenges all the issues of poverty, dependence, the over used political correctness and the paralysis it causes. Tough shit. Now go home and cry on your silk pillow cases.

    • As I stated in a previous comment, Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Clinton may not be perfect but she is, IMO, more qualified to be President. One need only look at the endorsements that Trump has gotten since he announced his candidacy. KKK, and other Neo-Nazis. Christian Conservatives. “Bit of a loud mouth”? There is no connect between his brain and his mouth. Just a reminder, President Clinton signed into law welfare reform and DOMA. Can’t get anymore GOP than that.

    • Ed says:

      As long as people keep on choosing the “lesser of two evils” every damn time, things will never change. I’m done thinking this way. This time I side with Gary Johnson.

  24. Burro b says:

    Ah the liberal response. Good luck!!! Every politician is the same. At least trump is different. But hey , you got Clinton. A certified caught liar who will no doubt say the same things about trump and his past. Stick to your tv reviews.

  25. BillUSA says:

    That’s some reach there Maureen. You’d make a great boxer.

    What is it with Variety and its uhhh…(clears throat) writers and the high-school level banter about that side of the political spectrum they fear to tread? Grow up already. Stop pretending to be so high-minded because it only makes you seem so petty and snarky.

    You look at Trump’s bluster and you can thank the leftist Administration of the last two Presidential terms for it. Sure, there is room for progression, but we don’t need Marxism in America. If you cannot see it for what it is, count yourself among those who will be the first to bitch about it when it bites you in the ass after Hillary is elected by the millions of fools who voted the last guy in because he had the right skin color.

  26. eddie willers says:

    You’re clueless, Maureen, but I’ll keep reading you.

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