Throughout the campaign season so far, Democrats have complained that Donald Trump has spoken in generalities and platitudes. In fact, during Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night, Democrats who were watching the speech together said just one word after each of the candidate’s promised actions. That word was, “how?”
In case you missed it, here is the entire video of Trump’s 2016 acceptance speech from last night, in Cleveland. Warning, you’ll need to set aside over an hour to watch it in full. It was the longest major party speech in 44 years.
And here are some of Trump’s acceptance speech promises (full text here):
. . . we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order. . . the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. . .
The American People will come first once again. . .safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. . . add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America. . . restore law and order our country. . .
. . .all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. . . defeat the barbarians of ISIS. . . build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration. . . We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone. . . make our country rich again. . .
. . .bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America – and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences. . . largest tax reduction of any candidate. . .
. . .improve the quality of life for all Americans. . .build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. . .create millions more jobs. . .rescue kids from failing schools. . . completely rebuild our depleted military. . .
We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And We Will Make America Great Again. . .
There were a few places where Trump explained how he would get to a result, but only generally, and those were few and far between. So the question is, is it enough to say what you plan to do, or does a candidate have to explain how he will do it?
A historical example of this was in the 1968 election, in which Richard Nixon said that he had a “secret plan” to end the unpopular Vietnam War. Democrats claimed that there was no plan, and if one existed, he should tell the public what they were voting for. Nixon did win, but many people were angry that his “secret plan” included expansion of the war, with secret carpet bombing in Cambodia and Laos. Of course, others were pleased with the “Vietnamization” of the war, and other aspects, but people had no idea what he had planned.
Do people care? Lack of specifics served Trump well in the primaries.
For months, Republican insiders have watched Donald Trump’s rise with mounting horror. . .On question after question, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio offered specifics, while Trump served up vague generalities and promised to make better deals. . .
Kasich stressed his optimism; Rubio, his fluency with policy; and Cruz, his willingness to fight for conservative principles. And on issue after issue, they showed a mastery of specifics that Trump simply couldn’t match.
Pressed to explain why Common Core, a set of educational standards developed, and voluntarily adopted, by states constituted a federal takeover of local schools, Trump floundered, blaming “the bureaucrats in Washington.” Kasich stepped in to offer a detailed defense of a policy he’s championed, while Cruz served up the standard conservative response that Trump couldn’t muster: The Feds, he claimed, had coerced the states into compliance.
Well, we see what offering details did for the other Republican prospects. And he is not the only one making promises.
The Herald-Whig says Trump is not alone in making wild, unsupported promises.
Presidential candidates this year are rewriting the record books for the most outlandish campaign promises.
This isn’t simply a case of voters not knowing whom to believe. This year it seems there’s no major candidate who hasn’t overstated, fabricated or hallucinated about something wild that they will do if elected.
Bernie Sanders is going to offer tuition-free college. He has yet to explain how the nation will cover the costs.
Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico. He said Mexico would pay for it.
Hillary Clinton told people in Michigan that she would remove lead pipes throughout the United States within five years.
She told people in Ohio she would create a manufacturing Renaissance in the Rust Belt. No details were shared about how those things might be accomplished or how much it would all cost.
Ted Cruz promised to pass a flat tax and abolish the IRS. He didn’t say how he would accomplish that when Congress opposes those things.
Voters may agree with or truly want some of the things they’re being offered, but they shouldn’t believe over-the-top promises.
Again, do people care? And is it such a bad idea to tell people what candidates intend to do? After all, if you don’t have a goal, how can you get there? If one candidate vaguely promises to do something you want, and another vaguely promises to do something you don’t want, don’t you at least get a sense of direction?
In a recent interview, two Black women said they were Donald Trump fans. When asked why, they said that they heard that Trump promised to “work for the Blacks.” They said no one else ever says that, certainly not Barack Obama. It was enough for them to hear that someone said their concerns would be addressed. (They don’t feel that they received the promised “hope and change.”)
That’s going to be the problem for Hillary Clinton. People want a vision. They want to hear that there are goals. They want to think that things will get better, even if they don’t know how the candidate plans to do it, or if he even has a plan. So far, the gist of Hillary’s campaign has been “I’m not Donald.” To many, that means, “I’m not even going to try to make things better for you.”