The Gettysburg Address it wasn’t.
With little more than two weeks remaining for him to seal the deal with voters still skeptical of his candidacy, Republican Donald Trump journeyed to an iconic spot in American political history to deliver what was billed as a broad and sweeping vision for his first 100 days in office.
“It is my privilege to be here in Gettysburg, hallowed ground where so many lives were given in service to freedom ---- amazing place,” Trump said Saturday. “President Lincoln served in a time of division like we’ve never seen before. It is my hope that we can look at his example to heal the divisions we are living through right now. We are a very divided nation.”
And then he promptly stepped on his own message.
In a rambling, nearly 15-minute-long preamble, Trump unleashed blistering attacks on his critics and the “corrupt” media he accused of collaborating with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
He complained of unspecific and unproven voter fraud in a “rigged” system intended to rob him, and by extension, the voters, of a victory on Nov. 8.
He argued Clinton wasn’t fit for the presidency. And on cue, his supporters chanted “Lock her up! Lock her up.” In a truly classy move, he vowed to sue the 11 women who have come forward to accuse him of improper advances that crossed over into likely sexual assault.
And because he’s Donald Trump, he promptly whined the next day that the corrupt press was ignoring his meaty policy agenda to focus on the superficial aspects of his speech ---- as if someone had held him down and forced him to unleash his venomous and offensive tirade.
But imagine for a moment if Trump had skipped his opening primal scream and cut right to the issues. To his eternal surprise, he might have found that quite a few voters agree that Washington is a swamp in need of draining.
Among other things, he proposed a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress; a lifetime ban on lobbying by former White House officials on behalf of foreign governments; a 5-year ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and ex-White House officials and a total ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for domestic elections.
They might have liked his familiar, and well-parsed plan, to reform and simplify the tax code, perhaps handing a “35 percent tax reduction” to the average, middle-class family (never mind that its underlying math has repeatedly been found wanting).
Voters might even have been receptive to his emphasis on school choice and his pledges to level the playing field on international trade and to revive the manufacturing and energy sectors.
And they might even have found something to like in his vow to rebuild the military and appoint conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Instead of running six points behind Clinton nationally, and by wider margins in such key battleground states as Pennsylvania, Americans might have been treated to an entirely different kind of presidential campaign.
Instead, they got Trump. And, evoking the true spirit of Lincoln, perhaps the most voters can hope for is that “the world will little note nor long remember” what the Republican nominee said in Gettysburg over the weekend.
The problem for Republicans, of course, is that Trumpism will outlast Trump.
And if they lose the White House and U.S. Senate on Election Day and see their majorities in the U.S. House eroded, they’ll be looking at entirely different part of Honest Abe’s speech.
That’s the one where they fret about making sure that the Grand Old Party, as they currently know it, does “not perish from the earth.”
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org