Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump appears onstage to introduce his wife Melania at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CLEVELAND – Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president on Thursday night, capping a historic and unlikely run to become the party’s standard-bearer.
But at the close of the fourday convention here in Ohio, the candidate failed to meaningfully unite the GOP, with his chief rival from the primary campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, refusing to endorse him and encouraging Republicans to “vote their conscience.”
In a rare protest on the event floor on Monday, delegates called for a roll call vote on the convention rules. The sitting Republican governor of the state hosting the convention, John Kasich, was a no-show.
And efforts to present Trump’s family members as his character witnesses were mired by revelations that a section of his wife’s speech contained plagiarized material.
While Trump was successful in systematizing his campaign message – the Republican National Committee adopted his isolationist positions in its official party platform – he is unlikely to benefit from the optics of the week, which highlighted seething fissures in the party’s ranks during a phase of the campaign when nominees typically enjoy a bump in the polls.
“Don’t stay home in November,” Cruz told the convention hall on Wednesday night, with Trump present. “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.”
The Texas senator received loud boos from pro-Trump delegates, and the seeds of discord were watered by Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who promptly took to Twitter to echo Cruz’s message.
Cruz clarified on Thursday that he would not be voting for Clinton.
In conversations with The Jerusalem Post, party delegates across the GOP spectrum seem to have rallied behind the institution of the Republican Party, alongside Reince Priebus, its chairman, and Rep. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The rules are the rules, and we respected them,” said one delegate, Toni Anne Dashiell, who serves as a national committeewoman for Texas.
But intra-party quarrels undoubtedly put a damper on the convention throughout the week. The tone was less enthusiastic than it was conflicted, although Trump certainly had his supporters: “Make America Great Again!” became a rallying cry in the hall, and Republican loyalists were equally motivated to prevent another Clinton presidency as they are to elect him, if not more so.
Trump doubled down on defining his campaign by another slogan, “America First,” in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, despite concerns within the Jewish community over its historical connotations.
The slogan is not meant to evoke an isolationist movement from the 1940s of the same name, he said. The America First Committee, founded by Charles Lindbergh, campaigned to keep the US out of World War II.
Lindbergh accused US Jews at the time of conspiring to lead the country into war.
“To me, ‘America First’ is a brand-new, modern term,” Trump said. “I never related it to the past.”
That theme is a stunning departure from Republican foreign policy orthodoxy of the past four decades, which defined American leadership in the world as muscular engagement furthering liberal democratic values.
Trump made no apologies for the dramatic shift, however.
He questioned the worth of stationing American troops abroad and threatened not to meet America’s defense commitments to its partners in NATO, an alliance he has previously disparaged.
“We are going to take care of this country first, before we worry about everyone else in the world,” he told the Times.