CLEVELAND — Donald John Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination here Thursday, completing a stunning rise from billionaire sideshow to standard bearer of a major American party.
Standing in front of a row of American flags, “TRUMP” emblazoned behind in white letters on a gold background, Trump said he “humbly and gratefully” accepted the GOP nomination. He joined with sign-shaking delegates on the Republican National Convention floor in chanting “USA!”
In reaching the Quicken Loans Arena stage Thursday, Trump drew ire from both sides of the political aisle and swaths of U.S. racial minority groups. His rhetoric on Muslims, immigrants and women disgusted many but emboldened others who felt overwhelmed by so-called “political correctness.”
With the bluster and lofty promises that marked the year since he launched his unlikely bid, Trump, 70, painted himself as an outsider uniquely capable of fixing the failings of Washington insiders. The bombastic businessman stirred concerns about terrorism, refugees and American jobs lost to trade deals, contending his likely Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton would put Americans in more harm.
Clinton’s campaign tweeted Thursday amid the speech, saying “we are better than this.” Bernie Sanders also criticized Trump’s rhetoric.
Trump positioned himself Thursday as a “voice” for ordinary Americans, equipped to rip down a “rigged system” embodied by Clinton.
“Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over every single thing she does,” Trump contended.
“She is their puppet, and they pull the strings. That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that thing have to change — and they have to change now.”
Trump stressed that he would put “America first,” a message that has empowered nationalists and those who feel betrayed by a perceived push toward globalism under President Barack Obama.
As Trump described Thursday what he deemed the failings of the Obama administration, attendees from the delegate floor to the highest sections of the arena chanted “build the wall!” That references his divisive pledge to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and force Mexico to pay for it.
Trump’s unlikely ascent sparked rebellion from GOP officials and delegates, some of whom tried to stop his nomination as recently as this week. He ran afoul of some traditional Republicans, leaving both former presidents Bush and the GOP’s last two nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain avoiding his coronation.
Doubts about experience, temperament and policy consistency have tracked Trump since he entered the race. His remarks here capped a week of heavy police presence, intense media scrutiny and largely peaceful protests.
Even Trump’s convention proved unconventional. Revered party figures were few, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was booed off the stage Wednesday after he chose not to endorse Trump.
On Thursday, Trump tried to assure Americans he would fix what he deemed the mistakes of the Obama administration. He framed Clinton as incapable of improving conditions in the U.S. and making America more respected around the globe, citing her tenure as secretary of state.
Trump claimed Clinton left a legacy of “death” and “destruction,” but said “that does not have to be our legacy.” He ripped some of his other favorite campaign trails targets: China, business regulations and people critical of police.
He called to temporarily suspend immigration from nations that have “been compromised by terrorism,” a watered down version of his constitutionally questionable call to suspend Muslim entry into the U.S. Many delegates on the convention floor stood in applause after the remark.
Trump bashed trade deals, a hallmark of his campaign, citing a loss of manufacturing jobs that may not be a result of those deals. He highlighted Clinton’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, once again courting spurned supporters of trade deal opponent Bernie Sanders.
Trump also also pledged to “do everything in (his) power to protect our LGBTQ citizens,” to applause from the Quicken Loans Arena crowd. It came after venture capitalist Peter Thiel earlier received applause when he said he was proud to be gay.
“As a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering what I just said,” Trump said.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is Trump’s running mate and has received backlash in the past for a state law perceived as anti-gay.
Trump told a pro-gun crowd that Clinton wanted to “essentially abolish” the Second Amendment without offering evidence. He highlighted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
Trump wrapped up the hour and 15 minute speech with another pledge to “make America great again.” His wife Melania and his children then joined him onstage.
Confetti and red, white and blue balloons rained from the ceiling, floating down to the delegates. The Trump family posed and as a fireworks animation played on the arena’s video screen.
As delegates popped balloons and the crowd began to filter out, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played through the arena’s speakers.