Well, friends, here we are. We’ve reached the end. The finale. The terminus.
Also, on a related note, the 2016 Republican National Convention ended yesterday.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a long, rousing and very factually thorny acceptance speech, which we'll get to in a minute. But first, let's take one last visit to America's real-life AOL chatroom, also known as Public Square.
There were several small marches throughout the day, including one from the city’s west side across the Lorain Bridge and others at Cleveland’s Public Square. Some of the latter included tense moments between police, a communist-leaning group called the Industrial Workers of the World and a small group carrying signs saying “capitalism cures poverty,” some of whom may have had man buns. Via Twitter, protester Gunner Thorderson said that the pro-capitalist protesters were associated with pro-market group Turning Point USA.
IWOW members also engaged other fans of capitalism, including one libertarian gentleman in a cowboy hat and American flag dress shirt. Their conversation was actually remarkably civil until police broke it up. Highlight quote: “You hate the state?” IWOW protester Pat Mahoney asked the Libertarian protester. “I hate the state too!” Only at the RNC.
Police separated the groups with their bicycles, a go-to tactic this week. IWOW eventually took to the streets, with the libertarians marching among them and continuing their high-minded economic debate. At many points, the hundreds of bicycle cops and reporters outnumbered protesters ten fold. Again, only at the RNC.
Later, police and media crowded around the Revolutionary Communist Party, another group of far-left protesters. The expectation was that the group would burn another flag, as they had the day before, and many camera wielding press members seemed disappointed when they didn’t.
• Also at Public Square: Bikers for Trump, a group that has been engaging in some pro-Trump demonstration of their own. The folks from the group I talked to were cooling out today, however, simply standing around and talking to media types. I spoke to Jeff from Lorain, Ohio, who told me he’s keen on Trump because he’ll protect us from terrorists and because he’s going to bring jobs back.
Later in the evening, protesters lit up Public Square with bright, multi-colored signs decrying Trump, as he spoke inside.
• The lineup of speakers was sparser on this last night, and the house band played a lot more songs to fill up the time. Among these: The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah,” which seems problematic for several reasons.
One particularly surprising and audience-pleasing moment came when billionaire former Facebook investor Peter Thiel spoke, touting Trump’s economic policy while also publicly coming out as gay during his speech to big applause from delegates and attendees. That’s something you wouldn’t have seen at past RNC events, and seems to be part of a larger push to reach out to the LGBT community by the Trump campaign. The Donald himself mentioned the Orlando shootings, explicitly citing the tragedy’s impact on LGBT citizens. Ironically, however, Thiel also turned around and called debates over transgender use of public restrooms a distraction to the very party that was pushing that debate.
Thiel has more in common with Trump than his cash. Both are fairly unfriendly to the free press. Thiel had previously been outed by controversial blog Gawker, and later bankrolled a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan against the site, which published a sex tape made by the ex-wrestler. That lawsuit looks as if it will bankrupt the site.
During his speech, Thiel highlighted his time growing up in Cleveland, where his father went to Case Western Reserve. The tech billionaire said Trump would bring back opportunity to places like Cleveland.
• After a number of other videos, speakers and musical intermissions, it was time for the main event. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, introduced The Donald.
“Come January 20, all things will be possible again,” she promised attendees, looking forward to the inauguration date of the next president.
Trump promised a number of things, but most of all he promised safety and security in a world his supporters find more and more frightening.
“We will lead our country back to safety, prosperity and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth,” Trump said. “But we’ll also be a country of law and order.” The former line got little applause; the latter, roars from the crowd.
Terrorism, protests and animosity “threaten our very way of life,” Trump said, underlining the key theme of his campaign. “Many have witnessed this violence personally. Some have even been victims. The crime and violence that now afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end.
“Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored."
Trump claimed that murders have risen at a higher rate than at any time in the last 25 years. He cited statistics saying that homicides have doubled in Washington, D.C., increased 60 percent in Baltimore and risen just as much in other cities. But the numbers in each city are small, and a few murders tips the scales. In fact, of 63 large cities reporting statistics, 32 saw murders decrease, a statistic Trump does not mention. What’s more, overall crime rates are still incredibly low compared to their all-time highs in the early 1990s, the last time a self-professed “law and order” candidate was in office.
“The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen 50 percent in the last year,” he intoned. Later in his speech, he cited the deaths of five officers in Dallas and three in Louisiana. “An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans,” he said.
However, according to stats from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a non-partisan, police-positive organization, 67 officers have died up to July 21. Last year, 62 officers had. That’s an 8 percent rise. Since Obama’s tenure started in 2008, officer fatalities have actually gone down. That year, 149 officers were killed in the line of duty. The year before, 192 died. In 2015, the last year full data is available, 123 died.
The factually shaky statements continued. Illegal immigrants “are roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,” Trump said, promising over and over again that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico. He listed off horror stories about murders and other crimes committed by immigrants, even though data suggests immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes and the numbers of people apprehended at the border are much lower than they were at their high points in the early 2000s. Apprehensions at the border are actually down from 2012, 2013 and 2014 levels. While Trump claimed that there are 180,000 immigrants with criminal records “threatening peaceful citizens,” the vast majority of those records involve non-violent crimes, with many tied to their immigrant status.
Trump claimed that unemployment among African American youth was 58 percent. It’s actually 31 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released last month.
Trump blamed these problems squarely on President Barack Obama. He also claimed that Obama had almost doubled the country’s national debt, though that debt has actually decreased. He blamed Obama for crumbling infrastructure, even though the GOP-dominated Congress is responsible for funding infrastructure improvements and has passed on doing so.
Each line got huge applause. Each line was also factually inaccurate, if not wholly false. But the crowd loved it.
“America is back — bigger, and better, and stronger than before,” Trump said, gesticulating wildly as the crowd boomed “USA! USA!”