There was no shortage of “scary stuff” in the convention’s opening night. The evening resembled an album medley—the Beatles’ second side of Abbey Road, say—as speakers seamlessly segued from one threat to another: ISIS, homegrown Islamic radicals, undocumented immigrants, street criminals, and African Americans protesting police behavior all blended into a panoramic assault on safety and order.
“The world outside of our borders is a dark place, a scary place,” insisted former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, whose experiences in Afghanistan were recorded in the book and film Lone Survivor. “A vote for Hillary is putting all of our children’s lives at risk,” said Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son was killed in a car accident with an undocumented immigrant. In the defense of freedom, “this is the last stand on earth,” declared retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
Trump, who has taken to labeling himself the candidate of “law and order,” also joined the chorus Monday when he called into Bill O’Reilly’s program on Fox News Channel. Trump accused the Black Lives Matter movement of fomenting violence against police. While Trump lately has expressed some concern about police shootings of African Americans—and even Giuliani nodded toward concern about unjustified shootings in his heated remarks Monday night—Trump suggested to O’Reilly that if elected he would direct the attorney general to investigate the BLM movement. “I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police,” Trump said. “And I think we’re going to have to look into that.”
Those remarks came after Trump last week tweeted: “This election is a choice between law, order & safety—or chaos, crime & violence.”
Trump advisers say their polling and focus groups show that Americans have been deeply shaken by the concatenation of recent horrific mass-casualty attacks, from terrorism in Orlando and Nice, to the shootings of police in Baton Rouge and Dallas.
The Trump team believes that promoting security and branding him as the candidate of “law and order” will help him not only with the blue-collar whites who have provided his staunchest support, but also with white-collar whites (including college-educated white women) and even minorities (such as Hispanic men) who have been much more resistant toward him. “We have a great deal of suburban angst right now in the country, and it’s not just worries about ISIS,” Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the campaign, said at an Atlantic forum in Cleveland on Tuesday morning. “It’s a combination of opioid use, private drugs, random violence, the idea that you can be standing in the wrong coffee line … you can live a good life, you can do everything—play by the rules, be a productive citizen, be a good person—and you just can’t control the outcome. It’s … just a … feeling that we don’t have control.”