US ELECTIONS

At Ohio Convention the Republican Party seeks to reinvent itself in Trump’s image

Setting long-standing concerns aside, leadership rallies round presidential candidate

Donald Trump's three children celebrate their father's nomination.
Donald Trump's three children celebrate their father's nomination.JOE RAEDLE / AFP

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At exactly 7.16pm local time in Cleveland, Ohio, the state of New York gave Donald Trump the 1,238 delegates the property magnate needed to win the Republican Party’s nomination in November’s presidential elections.

While the conference center where the Republican Party’s convention played Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, the party celebrated its latest incarnation, discreetly forgetting, for the moment, the party it used to be. Delegates in Cleveland, united around a leadership that has resigned itself to change, threw their support behind Trump as the man to stop Hillary Clinton.

When he formally accepts the nomination on Thursday and makes his closing speech, Trump will embark on the final stage of a race he hopes will end in the White House

The ritual of announcing each state’s nomination count one by one, prompting applause from their respective delegation, confirmed what everybody already knew: Trump had the majority of delegates. And when he formally accepts the nomination on Thursday and makes his closing speech, he will embark on the final stage of a race he hopes will end in the White House.

Carried out live, the count, in which each state’s contribution is announced in alphabetical order, confirmed Trump’s supremacy over a reborn Republican Party. At the same time, it also highlighted the pockets of resistance that deposited votes for senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, or Ohio governor John Kasich.

Trump garnered 1,725 delegates, Cruz 475, Kasich 120, Rubio 114, with Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul taking just seven, three and two respectively.

The Republican Party is divided over economic and foreign policy, and there are still voices questioning whether Trump is really going to be able to stop Clinton. But the property magnate has proved an unstoppable force.

The key speakers on Tuesday were House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, considered the party’s moral authority, and Mitch McConnel, leader of the Republican majority in the Senate. A year ago, these two men dismissed Trump as a flash in the pan, but have since been unable to do anything to stop his ascent.

Even when it became clear that Trump was going to win the nomination, Ryan still refused to give him his formal support. McConnell was a little quicker to back Trump. The fact that both of them traveled to Cleveland to speak on his behalf is equivalent to a blessing. In the end, pragmatism and the pressing need to defeat Clinton and dismantle Obama’s legacy has won out over the fear that President Trump initially inspired in the upper echelons of the Republican Party. This is a man who, after all, has switched loyalties in the past, has no experience in office, and whose clumsily expressed ideas do not reflect mainstream Republican dogma.

No questions asked

Charles Bruckendorff, a delegate from Connecticut reflected the largely unquestioning attitude of most Republicans attending the convention.

Asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s protectionism and the Republican Party’s traditional support for free trade, the businessman and Vietnam War veteran replied: “You’re probably better informed than I am.”

And what about Trump’s isolationism, which again jars with the Republican Party’s interventionist approach of recent decades? Trump says he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq launched by President George W. Bush. “I don’t really have enough knowledge to answer that question,” was the best Bruckendorff could offer. In short, Trump is a Republican and he isn’t a Republican.

Nothing looks more like a Republican Party convention than another Republican Party convention: the delegates seated in rows, the staging, the balloons, the boaters and t-shirts… Even the speakers’ inflammatory speeches – the first session was one address after another criminalizing immigrants and insulting Clinton – were just an updated version of the fodder normally trotted out for the party’s right wing.

In many ways, Trump simply represents the shift rightwards of a Republican Party that has become little more than a machine whose sole goal in recent years is to block Obama

In many ways, Trump simply represents the shift rightwards of a Republican Party that has become little more than a machine whose sole goal in recent years is to block President Obama.

At the same time, it now finds itself adrift from the principles that have governed it over recent decades: global reach through military intervention, welfare cuts, free trade, and acceptance that immigration is good for the economy.

There have been a number of notable absences at the convention. Despite being held in his home state, Ohio governor John Kasich has stayed away, as has state senator Rob Portman. Had the presidential nominee been anybody other than Trump, both would surely have been here as hosts. They are not alone in refusing to attend. It may well be that some Republicans doubt the ability of their party’s nominee to win the race, and are distancing themselves in readiness.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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