CLEVELAND - “What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America.”
So said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani during his Monday night speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The opening night of the convention up until Giuliani’s speech had been an at times disturbing affair, beginning with a long line of heartbreaking stories of Americans killed in Benghazi, at the border, and in American cities, drenching sorrow into partisan politics. Additionally, the Trump campaign found a few prominent black Americans willing to say All Lives Matter in front of the cheering largely white crowd.
Melania Trump was the headliner, but Giuliani gave her a run for her money in eliciting enthusiasm from the arena, delegates from states thousands of miles from New York chanting his name as comfortably as if they were marching down Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day.
Putting aside the fact that many of the delegates and guests at the convention hall were supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz this spring when he sneered at “New York values,” their support of Giuliani makes sense because they do want Donald Trump to do what Giuliani says he did for New York: Make it safer.
Yet the reality is more complicated. Giuliani says that as mayor he oversaw a reduction in crime through what we now know as broken-windows policing. Yet, the increased number of police officers assigned to city streets who put it into action were hired by his predecessor. Also, overall major crime had begun to decrease by the time he came to City Hall in 1994. Many still debate the causes of NYC’s significant (and continued) overall decline in crime.
And in a time of heightened racial tension, it’s worth asking whether Giuliani made New York a closer-knit city. He struggled through his two terms as mayor to alleviate police-community tensions, including after Amadou Diallo’s shooting death at the hands of police in 1999.
Giuliani does not appear to have moved beyond that old, divisive mentality. After the deaths of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the killings of five police officers in Dallas, Giuliani called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist.”
So, will the party of Trump act in Giuliani’s image? There is another way, as Newt Gingrich demonstrated Monday. The former speaker doubled down on his earlier comments that white Americans have a hard time understanding the difficulties black Americans face. That’s a modern understanding of some of the tensions in America in 2016.
It doesn’t seem likely that Trump will move in that direction, however. He’s still stuck with Giuliani in old New York.