On social networks, Donald Trump’s fearmongering address in Cleveland won over nativists, but alienated many others.
Updated | 12:28 p.m.
As Donald Trump shouted for 76 minutes on Thursday night about how horrible everything is in the dystopian fiction he’s confused for America, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan found himself nodding along in agreement.
So the white supremacist David Duke, who was nearly elected governor of Louisiana in 1991 by channeling white resentment, posted a rave review of the address on Twitter.
Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn't have said it better!— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) July 22, 2016
A few hours later, as Duke announced that he was joining the race for an open Senate seat in Louisiana, he added: “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump, and most Americans, embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years. My slogan remains, ‘America First.’”
Trump’s fearmongering speech — which featured a chilling distillation of his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the line, “We don’t want them in our country!” — was also praised by Geert Wilders, a Dutch nationalist politician who was in the hall.
In an interview on Wednesday, Wilders pledged to “close the Dutch borders for immigrants from Islamic countries immediately” if he becomes prime minister of the Netherlands next year.
And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who foreshadowed Trump’s tone in his own address Monday night, also had high praise.
Trump’s long, error-riddled address — which began with the boast that he’d won 14 million votes (or 2.8 million less than Hillary Clinton) — went down less well with critics of the candidate, including members of his own party like Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and Stuart Stevens, who ran Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012.
He is summoning primal forces of anger/fear, displaying leadership without moral guardrails, religious principles or civic responsibility.— Michael Gerson (@MJGerson) July 22, 2016
The speech, which in tone and content was reminiscent of the opening salvo of his campaign last year — when he hyped fears about Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals — was also panned from the other side of the political spectrum, by Sen. Bernie Sanders, watching at home, and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, a protester who interrupted Trump’s speech by unfurling a banner that said “build bridges not walls” — and was dragged from the hall.
Those negative reviews were amplified by an array of Trump critics, including the rapper Chuck D, Russian dissident Garry Kasparov, and satirist Jon Stewart, who borrowed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show desk to deliver some analysis.
I’ve heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn’t sound any better in Russian.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) July 22, 2016
If Leni Riefenstahl were alive, Trump would hire her to film this speech. Then not pay her.— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) July 22, 2016
The question isn't how the speech sounded in the hall, but to Americans locked in their panic rooms and bomb shelters.— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) July 22, 2016
A system in which a charismatic figure says only he can fix things, restore order and expel unwanted groups. There should be a name for that— Doug Saunders (@DougSaunders) July 22, 2016
All was not lost for the candidate, however, since the night did win him at least one well-known supporter: the former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, who was charged with securities fraud last year.
Trump has my unmitigated endorsement. It was hard won and I was skeptical. The entire Trump family convinced me.— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) July 22, 2016