Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention was only 8% specific policy promises. On the other hand, by my word-for-word calculation, 20% of it was criticism of Trump’s opponents, 21% was fearmongering, and the rest was mostly vague generalities and cheerleading.
Based on this speech, you really can’t identify what you’ll be getting if this guy gets elected — but you certainly know what to be afraid of it he doesn’t.
Let me break it down for you.
I used the Washington Post’s version of the planned text of the speech. Then I marked it up in different colors to represent different elements: vague promises, passive promises that something will magically happen, overarching proclamations, criticism of opponents and elites — and the few actual promises. You can see my analysis in the color-coded graphic at the end of this post, and you can see the color-coded text in my Google Document of the speech.
All the substance in Trump’s speech
Like the whole convention, Trump’s speech is thin on policy. His specific policy promises are just 304 words in a 4390-word speech. The first one appears about halfway into the speech. Here’s the complete list of specifics (and yes, some aren’t all that specific).
[W]e must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.
We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.
By ending catch-and-release on the border, we will stop the cycle of human smuggling and violence.
[A] new, fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat.
I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom and independence. Instead, I will make individual deals with individual countries. No longer will we enter into these massive deals, with many countries, that are thousands of pages long – and which no one from our country even reads or understands.
We are going to enforce all trade violations, including through the use of taxes and tariffs, against any country that cheats. This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation. Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated. That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America – and we’ll walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want.
I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate who has declared for the presidential race this year – Democrat or Republican.
We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy.
We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare.
And we will fix TSA at the airports! We will completely rebuild our depleted military . . .
We are going to ask every Department Head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days.
The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles.
An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans.
Vague and passive promises swamp the specifics
“Yuuuge” promises are the bread and butter of this speech. There are a lot of them, and you can’t count on any of them, because you can’t nail them down. Here are some examples:
Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.
My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.
The first task for our new Administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens their communities.
We are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS.
I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America – and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.
The promises you can depend on least are the ones in passive voice — since they don’t explain who’s going to fix things. Trump speaks in an active and direct way, for the most part, but here are a few of his passive promises that will somehow magically happen:
Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.
Illegal border crossings will go down. Peace will be restored.
Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated.
[T]axes will be simplified for everyone.
The other key element here is sloganeering. There’s a lot of it.
But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.
Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.
[W]hen I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.
Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end it.
Criticism peppers the speech
As you can see from the magenta text in the graphic below, Trump doesn’t let up on his opponents. I counted 882 words — one word out of five — that were about his opponents, not about what he will do.
America is far less safe – and the world is far less stable – than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy. I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets. Her bad instincts and her bad judgment – something pointed out by Bernie Sanders – are what caused the disasters unfolding today.
That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit. Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings. That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change.
And when a Secretary of State illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence – I know that corruption has reached a level like never before.
My opponent has called for a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country under President Obama. She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.
My opponent, on the other hand,wants to put the great miners and steel workers of our country out of work . . .
Plus, of course, a shout-out to the media elites and others who he thinks have ruined America.
Remember: all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.
This speech is made of fear
Look at all the red in the graphic below. Red represents fear-mongering. This speech dedicates 934 words to fear; 21% of the whole speech is intended to scare you.
Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60% in nearby Baltimore. In the President’s hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 have been the victims of shootings this year alone. And more than 3,600 have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office.
Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another. We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint. This was just prior to the signing of the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us nothing – it will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever made.
After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West. After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.
Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings. That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now.
A graphical view of Trump’s speech
Here’s the whole thing, color-coded. Remember, only the yellow is substantive promises. Can you spot it?