CLEVELAND—And so it came to pass, in the year 2016, on a sunny day in America’s heartland, in a hall smelling of sweat and popcorn and filled with a seething, roaring crowd, that Donald Trump—builder, shocker, demagogue, smasher of certainties, destroyer of the Republican Party, winner—accepted his party’s nomination, with a vow to restore order.
“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” Trump proclaimed, his hand slicing the air, his pompadour gleaming with the reflection of hundreds of lights. “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon—and I mean very soon—come to an end,” he added.
Yet Trump had just finished presiding over a convention that was anything but orderly. Many party stalwarts, including four of the five living former Republican presidents or nominees, refused to attend. Trump’s campaign released the speaker lineup at the last minute, then lied about who was on it. It picked a public fight with the popular sitting Republican governor of the swing state hosting the convention, who boycotted the proceedings.
A restive faction of delegates created a spectacle of dissent before being crushed on the floor. The potential first lady’s speech turned out to be partially plagiarized. The lights and television monitors in the hall periodically failed. More than 700 delegates voted against the nominee, the most in four decades. The candidate interrupted his own testimonials with televised interviews, gave a hair-raising description of his foreign-policy ideas, and, most shockingly, was rebuked from the convention stage itself by a primary opponent who conspicuously declined to endorse him, was booed off the stage, and subsequently still refused to fall in line.