“In this country,” President Trump said Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, “we don’t look to career politicians for salvation. In America, we don’t turn to government to restore our souls. We put our faith in almighty God.” After a long applause break, he continued: Democratic nominee “Joe Biden is not a savior of America’s soul. He is a destroyer of American jobs, and, if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness.”
Trump’s phrasing and themes here are reminiscent of two memorable lines which bookended his 2016 campaign — lines which suggest Trump has no problem with a politician playing savior, so long as the politician is him.
“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” Trump said in his announcement speech at Trump Tower in the summer of 2015. In fact, it was the first promise he made after officially declaring his candidacy. A year later, at the 2016 convention, Trump accepted the GOP nomination. “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves,” he said. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” Where past Republican presidents told Americans to rely on God and each other, Trump invited us to rely solely on him.
These lines point to mainstays of Trump’s political style: his self-aggrandizement (“I am the chosen one”), intense demands of personal loyalty, fixation on personal and national greatness, and heavy-handed use of American civil religion to give himself a messianic sheen. In his comments Thursday, then, notice Trump’s use of “career,” an adjective that isn’t necessary if the point is about devotion to God.
So “we don’t look to career politicians for salvation,” but what about “the greatest jobs president that God ever created” who entered politics because he “alone” can defend the defenseless? Trump may be willing to leave souls to God, but he’d undoubtedly welcome the title of savior of American jobs and greatness. Bonnie Kristian