President Donald Trump painted a grim picture of life in the United States if his rival, Joe Biden, were to win the November presidential election, promising that there would be insecurity economic decline, and an end to basic rights such as free speech and gun ownership.
“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” Trump said, as he accepted his party’s nomination to run for a second and final term as president on the last night of the Republican National Convention.
The threat dovetailed with a law-and-order message that seems set to dominate the Republican campaign, as just over two months are left before polling day.
The speech, which lasted nearly 70 minutes – by far the longest at either party’s convention – included outlandish claims, such as that Trump is the greatest president for African Americans since Abraham Lincoln, who freed slaves.
Trump, 74, held the speech on the South Lawn of the White House, a controversial move with limited parallel in United States history, as generally such conventions are held in arenas away from government property.
Members of Biden’s Democratic Party have criticised the move.
Moreover, the pandemic notwithstanding, Trump gathered a crowd of many hundreds who sat closely crowded, mostly without masks, some shaking hands as they greeted one another.
The president used the speech to hail his own handling of the coronavirus pandemic, insisting he had moved swiftly and saved lives.
“We will defeat the virus and the pandemic and emerge stronger than ever before,” Trump said, without laying out a specific plan.
He said a vaccine could be ready before the end of the year.
Some 180,000 people have died in the country from the coronavirus, the worst absolute number of fatalities in any nation and one of the worst figures on a per capita basis.
Democrats have long accused Trump of bungling the response to the pandemic.
While the Republicans promised a positive convention, and often strove to present average citizens who praised the president’s policies on trade, housing and criminal justice, Trump’s speech tapped into darker premonitions.
“Joe Biden is not a saviour of America’s soul, he is a destroyer of America’s jobs, and, if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness,” Trump said.
“Joe Biden’s agenda is ‘made in China.’ My agenda is ‘made in the USA,’” Trump added to cheers from a crowd. Trump promised to pull supply chains from China.
“We are bringing it home,” he continued.
Trump drummed up fear of a Biden presidency where guns are confiscated from households, liberal orthodoxies are imposed by force while free speech is stifled, and socialism becomes the dominant economic ideology.
Biden, who is 77, has spent nearly five decades in the public eye as a moderate, and during the Democratic primary he had to fend off a number of challengers from the left.
Trump attacked the globalized trade policies of his predecessors, as well as the foreign wars that the country has repeatedly entered, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and which the president noted “never end.”
He pointed to Biden’s vote in the Senate in favour of the Iraq war.
The president also referenced ongoing unrest over the summer that stemmed from protests against police brutality and racial injustice following the deaths of black citizens at the hands of law enforcement officers.
Over the past weekend, a black man was shot seven times in the back by police in Wisconsin, leading to fresh outbreaks of social justice demonstrations and some instances of violence on the streets.
“He’s rooting for more violence, not less,” Biden said of Trump in an interview on broadcaster MSNBC.
He added, “He’s pouring more gasoline on the fire.”
Trump has sought to capitalise on the fact that much of the recent unrest has been in cities run by Democrats.
Biden noted that all the violence is taking place while Trump is president, and questioned how a second term would lead to a different result.
As on each night of the convention, the president had members of his family speak to praise him.
On the final night it was his daughter Ivanka, who also works in the White House as an adviser.
She tried to soften up the public image of her father, describing him as a loving father and grandfather who behind the scenes frets about the United States working class and is willing to stand up against Washington’s elite.
Featured speakers on the final night included public housing beneficiaries, business owners and a widow of former police officer who killed by looters this summer.
However, many of their stories seemed likely to be drowned out by the president’s lengthy speech and grim imagery.