President Donald Trump urged Americans to return him to office for a second term, championing his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic while attacking his Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s record on trade and China, as he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for re-election.
Against a national backdrop of racial justice protests and unrest in Wisconsin following the latest shooting of a black man by a police officer, Mr Trump vowed to defend law and order against a “radical left” bent on dismantling America’s way of life.
“This election will decide whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny,” he said on Thursday in a speech that brought the four-day Republican National Convention to a close.
“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.”
The end of the party national conventions set the stage for November’s election, which has shaped up to be a referendum on Mr Trump and his time in office, and in particular his handling of the Covid-19 crisis and anti-racism protests.
He spoke for over an hour in front of 1,500 largely maskless supporters seated close together in front of the White House, in line with his effort to portray, in his speech, America as being well past the worst of the virus crisis.
Vowing that the US would have a safe and effective vaccine this year, he blamed China for letting the coronavirus spread around the globe, saying: “They could have stopped it but they allowed it to come out.”
The President made no mention that the US had more than a quarter of the world’s coronavirus cases and deaths, focusing instead on America’s national mobilisation efforts and low case fatality rates compared with elsewhere.
But experts have said the ratio of known Covid-19 cases to deaths may not accurately reflect a country’s success at countering the virus, and that the US is doing badly by one obvious count: its high death toll, which crossed the 180,000 mark this week.
Defending his administration’s push to reopen the economy, he said the shutdown which Mr Biden wanted would cause more drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks and economic devastation.
“Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but, rather, it’s a surrender to the virus,” said Mr Trump.
At times, he cast himself as an outsider, recounting how Washington insiders asked him “not to stand up to China”, while castigating Mr Biden’s record on international trade and tying him to China’s rise and the hollowing out of American manufacturing.
“Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime,” said Mr Trump.
“He supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time… As vice-president, he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would have been a death sentence for the US auto industry.”
Mr Trump added that he would roll out tax credits to bring jobs out of China and back to the US, and impose tariffs on companies that leave America to produce jobs overseas.
He briefly alluded to the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid protests over the shooting of a 29-year-old black man, Mr Jacob Blake, by a police officer on Sunday.
But he did not mention 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter who was charged with homicide in the fatal shooting of two protesters.
Mr Trump broadened his comments into an attack on Democrat-run cities, accusing them of not condemning more forcefully the violence that has broken out in some protests, although Mr Biden had in fact done so earlier on Thursday.
Mr Trump said: “Joe Biden is weak. He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage.
“There’s violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America.
“If the Democratic Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag burners, that is up to them.”
Responding on Twitter, Mr Biden said: “Remember: every example of violence Donald Trump decries has happened on his watch. Under his leadership. During his presidency.”