Cleveland, Day Four
America is a disastrous hellhole teeming with criminal non-citizens who steal jobs when they aren’t killing innocent young girls, but on 20 January 2017 it will transmogrify into a tranquil, terror and alien-free manufacturing dynamo, with assault rifles available to all, upon the inauguration of President Trump: that was the simple message delivered at great length on Thursday night. Trump confirmed that for all the cartoonish sideshows attending his campaign, he’s essentially a one-issue candidate, and that issue is immigration. ‘Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,’ he said, and you expected him to list every one. The crowd chanted ‘Build a wall!’ Ancillary issues were touched on — the murder of police, shabby schools, crumbling roads, taxes in need of cutting, even African-American youth unemployment and Latino poverty — but they all fed back somehow to an evil trinity of globalism, defined as mass immigration of criminals riding on the wings of terror and bad trade deals. ‘Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,’ he said, promising to repudiate something that all other national leaders of recent memory have treated as an inexorable and desirable force of history.
‘One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders,’ Trump said, briefly touching on someone other than Hillary Clinton and her legacy of ‘death, destruction and weakness’. He was talking about Sarah Root, a 21-year-old Nebraskan who died the day after she graduated from college. In Trump’s phrasing the ‘border-crosser’ who ‘ended the life of an innocent young girl’ might have been a cold-blooded killer and perhaps a rapist. In fact, a drunk driver from Honduras called Eswin Mejia crashed into Root’s car, went to jail, got out on bail and skipped town. Root’s parents, who support Trump, are pushing for a law that would prevent the undocumented from being released from custody when they’re charged with a crime that results in death or serious injury. It’s a sad story, disingenuously presented, but it’s a pure distillation of what got Trump to Cleveland.
Among the Republicans on hand there seem to be three responses to their nominee’s hyperbolic dystopia. First, there are the enthusiasts. I spent some time talking to Al Baldasaro, the New Hampshire state representative and veterans affairs adviser to Trump who made headlines when he told a radio interviewer that he thought Hillary Clinton was guilty of treason and that the punishment for that is death by firing squad. Baldasaro was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, served in the Marines for decades and in the late 1990s moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire to be with his wife, Judy. Baldasaro showed me pictures on his phone of Judy shooting an AR-15 assault rifle in the woods while wearing high heels. Most of my conversation with Al came down to his notion that liberals say what's in their hearts because the liberal media distorts things and you have to have a military mind and think with your head. He blames Clinton for the rise of Islamic State. He thinks the Iraq War was a mistake but that the Obama administration mishandled the exit in a way a Republican administration wouldn’t have. I pointed out that political executions were a hallmark of Soviet and Nazi regimes. ‘That's just how I feel,' he said. I said he had just said liberals were too enthralled by their feelings, and he moved on to his preference for firing squads over lethal injections, which are less humane than they are made to sound. He supports needle exchange programmes in New Hampshire to combat the heroin epidemic, for which he blames a lack of border control and Mexican drug dealers based in Massachusetts. ‘We need to build a wall,’ he said. ‘That’s why I’m for Trump.’ His ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’ hat was of the camouflage variety.
Others dismiss Trump’s demagoguery as an effective political tactic and little more. I spoke to a lawyer specialising in intellectual property who said that Trump had won the game and that was that. Ted Cruz, whom he’d known for a long time, was a sore loser and his withholding of a Trump endorsement was a typical attention grab. What matters is putting a GOP economic regime in place because Republicans are better than Democrats at encouraging innovation. His take sounded a lot like the message delivered by Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, who told the crowd, ‘Fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.’ Thiel also told the crowd that he was proud to be a gay Republican, an RNC first. It got him a healthy ovation but not at the volume of those you get for saying you’ll kill terrorists or deport Mexicans. I was disappointed that Thiel didn’t bring up his enthusiasm for space exploration or his opposition to the ideology that death is inevitable. Maybe it won’t be inevitable with another eight years of innovation under a Republican economic regime. What if all the Republicans in Cleveland lived for ever and colonised another planet?
The third response was despair and disbelief. In the afternoon, when Trump’s speech had already leaked, Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, whose adorable campaign to stop Trump has been going for months, bummed a cigarette off me. I told him I was heading to the Q after I'd read the speech. ‘I’ve read it,’ he said. ‘It’s like the plot of Batman.’