At roughly this point eight years ago, when Democrats were desperate to reclaim the White House after two terms of a Republican president, then-Sen. Barack Obama accepted the party’s nomination and delivered a speech that emphasized unity. “In America, our destiny is inextricably linked,” he said, “that together our dreams can be one.”
The speech used the word “we” constantly. “America, we cannot turn back,” Obama said. “We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.”
The campaign’s slogan, of course, was “Yes we can.”
It was therefore a little jarring last night to hear one of the more memorable lines from Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” He added, “I will restore law and order to our country.”
Trump concluded, “I am your voice.”
The language was a little jarring, as The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum explained very well.
[Trump] did not appeal to prayer, or to God. He did not ask Americans to measure him against their values, or to hold him responsible for living up to them. He did not ask for their help. He asked them to place their faith in him.He broke with two centuries of American political tradition, in which candidates for office – and above all, for the nation’s highest office – acknowledge their fallibility and limitations, asking for the help of their fellow Americans, and of God, to accomplish what they cannot do on their own.
To be sure, the Republicans in attendance didn’t seem to mind. The more Trump positioned himself as the nation’s savior, the more the crowd cheered.
But as a rule, when a man with authoritarian instincts condemns the political system and declares, “I alone can fix it,” he sounds less like a president and more like a cult leader.